J o n   S i n d e l l

 

 

Jolly 


 

The new young guy on the block seemed all right at first—not because he was white, but because I could talk to him in English, like when everyone around here was Irish or Italian. Plus he had a wife and kid, which was nice, and he put in a little garden in front, which was also nice, since the Chinese paved over all their gardens for parking. Well, we’re out on the street, and I point out this wrinkly old crone with two big plastic bags full of bottles and cans hanging from a stick on her shoulders, poking her nose in someone’s recycling can. 

 

“Oh, that’s Jolly,” says the young guy. And I say, “What?” because there’s nothing jolly about bums ruining our neighborhood. And he laughs and says her name is Jia Lei, and spells it out like I’m an idiot—which of course I am, because I work with sheet metal, not computers. “How the hell you know that?” I say. “I asked her,” he says.  “You mean she speaks English?” “Not really,” he says. I give him a hard look for encouraging these human rodents, and then he starts avoiding me—turning his head on the street and everything. 

 

And then he decides to get my goat. This ... Jol–Lee or whatever is poking her nose in his bin and drops a plastic bottle on the sidewalk ... and the damn fool picks it up for her! Like she’s the Queen of England. She shows him all her big crooked teeth and starts bowing and cooing like some dumb old cartoon—those were racist, I’ll tell you that much. Then the sumbitch turns and smiles at me like he’s so good and I’m so awful.

 

This town’s going south, and I’m glad I’m getting old. The only place I feel at home now is the Forty Niner Club, or deer hunting up in Mendo. I was deer hunting when I got my idea. Two ideas, actually. The first was to put a deer head in the can for ol’ Jolly to find, like in The Godfather. But I didn’t. What I did do, I took all the shell casings from a deer hunt and set them in a tomato sauce can on top of the bin, just to give her and all the other buggers something to think about. So I’m watching through the blinds, and ol’ Jolly comes waddling up and sees the can. First she looks at the casings with her head cocked like a dog, then her face lights up and she fills her ratty old jacket with them—like treasure! Then she steals the rest of my junk.

 

Here’s the payoff. A week later, the old fool’s wearing a necklace ... made from my casings!  

 

Now, what are you gonna do with people like that?