Continued from Part 1 ...
(Recap of conversation)
"If you're going to be my assistant, I will need to get you a costume."
"Oh. Costume. You're serious."
To be continued ...
"Don't you have someone already?"
"I did. I fired him." She rolled her R on “fired.”
"Oh," I wasn't entirely sure this was a good thing. "Uh ... Why?"
"He did not do what I asked." She leaned in, facing me, touching her left shoulder against my right one. This time, I did not imagine it. I caught the scent of her perfume, floral and musk. "Would you do what I ask?"
Why was this question so unnerving? Were we still talking about magic shows or something else? I began to think she really was a siren that would charm me to death while leaving me shipwrecked. "Nearly ... nearly anything ... you know, that didn't involve setting myself on fire. I like entertainment, but I have my limits." Why did my voice sound like it had reached a Vienna Choir Boy pitch?
"I can see you would be a good assistant.” Zarelda touched my forearm.
The magician was casting a spell on me. What was I thinking for even a moment that I could be her magician's assistant? The next few lines from the cowboy ballad came to mind, “Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina, wicked and evil while casting a spell ...”
“I can't travel the world with you as your assistant.” I pointed my thumb at Jack. “I'm his assistant. Without me, his right arm falls off.”
“Truer words have never been spoken,” said Jack, giving me a couple of thumps on the shoulder nearest him.
“Oh, I don't do much travel,” said Zarelda. Just like a confident saleswoman convinced she could close the deal, she brought out a planner app on her cell phone. “I own my own theater in Newark, and I do regular shows there as well as book other performers. Try one show and see how it suits you. Have an adventure.” Her eyes flashed as she said the last word, and then looking down at her planner and tapping her fingers on the screen. “When can we schedule a run-through?”
And, of course, I agreed, me … Andy Westin, who doesn't like costumes or performing or generally making a spectacle of myself. Some minutes earlier, I might have hoped for a date, hopelessly hoped, since she was obviously light years out of my league, and now I was agreeing to dress up in who knows what sort of get-up and allow myself to be sawed at and vanished and levitated and other indignities to my person.
Some time later, after our arrival in Newark, after Jack and I had claimed our luggage and headed to our cab, Jack shook his head at me. “Your female friend … she's trouble, that one.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know.”
It seems to me, at times, that Jack knows everything there is to know about everything, but this was a very unsatisfying answer, like a parent telling a child, “Because I told you so.” Jack's cowboy hat exaggerated his height so that I felt comparatively vertically challenged in spite of my average height. I felt like Baba Looey to his Quick Draw McGraw. Jack looked like a cowboy caricature, one that belonged in a theme park hugging children and having his photo taken. “You could be wrong,” I said.
“I'm usually right,” said Jack.
“You're right … 99.9 percent of the time, but there's always that .1 percent.”
The next day, Jack and I found ourselves at our favorite spot for lunch, the Salvador Deli. Our usual waitress and barista girl, Janie Duveau, came to our table. “What are you having today? We have a special, the Manet's Luncheon on the Grass bread, cheese and fruit plate.”
She had to be kidding me. “Bread, cheese and fruit plate? Do I look like a mouse to you?”
“Do you have to set me up like this?” asked Janie, swatting me with her order pad. She tilted her head to one side, her brunette ponytail flopping. “You look like something in the rodent family, not a mouse exactly … more like a weasel.”
“Well, if I'm a weasel, you're a weaselier weasel.”
“A weaselier weasel? That's the best you can do?”
“I haven't warmed up yet. I've been away. I'm out of practice.”
“Well, while he's contemplating his repartee, what will you have, Jack?”
“I'll go with the Mona Lisa Italian sub.”
“And since I'm feeling adventurous, the Jackson Pollock coffee, whatever that is. I'm curious.”
Janie turned to me.
“I'm a carnivore. I need something with meat.”
“How about the Warhol burger?”
“I'm afraid to ask. Does it come on a purple roll?”
Janie pointed her pen in my direction. “A very good guess. It comes on a hot pink roll … with speckled butterhead lettuce, blue Kool-Aid pickles, purple onion, heirloom yellow tomato, sage and port wine Derby cheeses …”
I stared at her, unblinking. “Please tell me the meat is meat-colored.”
“Fine then, the Warhol burger.”
When Jack and I were alone at the table, I brought up Zarelda. I shouldn't have, but I couldn't seem to stop myself. I had transferred my treasures from the plane to a new outfit, so I pulled out her business card from my shirt pocket. “Zarelda,” I said. “She's quite a woman. It's not often a woman like that pays attention to me.”
Jack leaned his face in his hand and smiled at me in a way that I imagined Christopher Robin would look at Winnie the Pooh just before he said, “Silly old bear.”
“Did I say 'not often?' What I really mean is not ever.” I even told Jack about the mystery of the phantom leg touching me in the plane and the blue feather that manifested out of nowhere, just like you'd expect with a magician. I pulled the feather from a pocket too and showed it to Jack. “Do you suppose it came from her garter? Do women even wear garters anymore or is that just something they do at weddings?” I shouldn't have asked Jack. The man is as pure as an Appalachian spring. I doubted he spent much time thinking about women's garters.
“You're asking me?” Jack took the feather from me and stared at it. He began to smile, and after some moments, began to laugh.
“Are you making fun of me?”
“It's just so painfully obvious.”
“That I'm ridiculous?”
Jack turned to look at me, “Your lovely lady friend is an animal smuggler.”
To be continued ...
To be continued ...