He was playing with a pink pocketknife when I first saw him. I didn’t think anything of it, returning to my morning paper.
A local sheriff needs a quiet morning every now and again.
“Morning, Mr. Lewis.” He greeted the shopkeeper with a cheerful smile and pleasant tone.
I sat up at that.
Smart young men don’t pick this side of town on a whim. Most of them don’t know Ken’s name.
It was here that The Usual group hung out three or four misfits that couldn’t hang out anywhere else, because they’d raise a ruckus.
I made it my unofficial business to keep tabs on them when I could.
“Mornin’ Jonas. Knife sharpened?” Ken Lewis extended a weathered hand, seemingly used to the exchange.
The pink knife was handed over with a bob of his blonde head. “Thank you.” Drab gray eyes swept over the store’s interior with a polite smile and nod when they passed over me. “Business good?”
“Could be better.” Ken grunted. “This cold weather’s gettin’ to me, but Rhonda likes it here, so I won’t be movin’ to Floridy ‘less we r’tire.”
Jonas grinned, the grin changing to a polite smile when the others joined him at the counter.
I automatically rose from the table and headed for the little coffee pot at the end of the counter. Over the years I’ve learned that the easiest way to handle trouble is to be the closest to it.
Nick Rainey was the first one to speak. “New here?” His polite smile was a little fake for my tastes, but I waited to see what this Jonas would do about it.
“Sort of, actually.” He smiled back. “I’m in town for the revival rallies they’re holding on West Main.”
“A religious groupie, eh?” Jerry Davis’ pushed his way forward. “You’re at the wrong store then.”
Mike Krendel picked up next. “This one doesn’t sell the bibles you need.”
I sighed inwardly, setting the cup on the counter and preparing for the first punch that would, no doubt, connect with Mike’s jaw.
Instead, Jonas half-smiled, tilting his head to the side. “Really? I wonder if they have a limited edition NKJV in the blue and pink pepsi aluminum case.”
Mike’s jaw dropped open and Jerry scowled. “That isn’t funny.” He took a step closer. “And isn’t your girlie knife, pink enough?”
That got a reaction, I noted. Jonas straightened, appearing taller in his shagged overcoat, and his eyes grew sad.
“My mother gave it to me-” He began.
“Aw, isn’t that cute?” Nick taunted.
“Before she died of breast cancer.” Jonas finished, he drew several bills from his pocket and handed them over as Ken returned the sharpened knife.
I inched closer, waiting for Mike’s reaction. He’d lost his little sister to the same thing, afterwards, he’d become a regular with ‘The Usual’.
Jonas fingered it for a moment. “I carry it with me when I miss her. She died happy though. She’s the main reason I’m here.”
“You’re attending her funeral?” Mike frowned, confused.
“Just her memory.” Jonas held out the knife. “Want to see it? It’s all right once you’re past the pink.”
Mike hesitated then reached over to pick it up, nearly dropping it. “Nice weight.” He flicked the blade open and closed. “Nice blade.” He turned it over. “What’s two Cor, four, eighteen?”
Jonas grinned. “So we don’t look at the troubles we have right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. Second Corinthians, chapter four, verse eighteen. Mom said it always reminded her that there was hope. ”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mike handed it over, conveniently stepping on Nick’s foot as he did.
Nick shut his mouth with a scowl.
Jonas smiled. “Why don’t we have a seat…and I’ll try and tell you about it?”
I stood, watching as he chose a table and the others seated themselves around him, some trying not to show interest and Mike struggling to keep his face expressionless.
Ken chuckled and wheezed from the counter. I looked at him, questions written on my face that I wouldn’t ask outright.
He wheezed with laughter. “That’s Susan’s boy. He comes back every year. I’d say he got another one there.”
I looked at Jonas and his newly captivated audience. There was an empty chair near the wall.
I headed for it.
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