Sûrah XXVIII
THE STORY
"Fear not! Thou hast escaped from the wrongdoing folk."

28
TALL TALE

JOLEENA

As you may or may not remember, Auntie DJ, my job's hard; us Social Workers deal with the underprivileged long, long hours. I'm not complainin', mind; it's the Good Lord's work, to serve the poor and needy. But San Francisco's cost o' livin' dwarfs the pittance I get paid.

DAISY JANE

Hm, hm; I hear you.

JOLEENA

Calls for what is known pragmatically as "supplemental income"—meanin' "something on the side"—to keep that big bad wolf named Want from pantin' roun' my door.

DAISY JANE

I hear that, too; hm, hm.

JOLEENA

So Bruce—you know, my business partner (?)—Bruce an' me 'augment,' which means we do some import / export; tryin' to make ends meet. Import mostly. Coffee, tea, some curios now an' then; we buy direct from countries o' origin then sell to folks downtown. You get my drift?

DAISY JANE

I do. I'm listenin'

JOLEENA

Well, my friend here, Ahmed, is one of our suppliers. Just flew in from the Middle East, but sort o' by-passed, in that process, some union-run freight forwarders—who're none-too-pleased, an' claimed we owe 'em, sent some fellas roun' to shake us down for fees (which they inflated, natch, to serve their rank-and-file skullduggery). You still with me?

It is doubtful Auntie's nod can be construed as giving credence to a narrative Ahmed's vacant stare suggests he grasps not well—though both appear content to let Joleena narrate.

JOLEENA

Next part's nasty. First thing Ahmed does is figure it's a hold-up. Draws his gun. I know; to own a gun's un-Christian and to use one trumps the sin, but you have to bear in mind these thugs were armed-to-the-teeth themselves. You don't defend yourself, you're sportin' holes Jehovah never made you. Case in point, this six-inch 'dimple' newly carved in your nephew's cheek.

So we had this standoff, three o' them versus two of us. siz arms to four, when I got grabbed and held as hostage, big ol' switchblade in my face; then flick; I'm cut

DAISY JANE

Land sakes!

JOLEENA

He shoots.

DAISY JANE

He don't!

JOLEENA

He do. POP! Down goes one. Decked me the other one; drove my heel through the mutha...hugger's loafer. That's two down, number three still standin'. Ahmed cool, me spoutin' gore, an' Mister Union Boss sweatin' BBs 'spectin' Ahmed's 'bout to off 'im.

DAISY JANE

Tell, do tell.

JOLEENA

So we hightail it, rush on outta there, drive to Gen'ral, wait and wait—I tell a whopper 'bout this pi'ture window slicin' me like a melon. Stitched me up, they did, on the inside and the outside, got discharged, then, with no place safe to go, we boogied on over here.

DAISY JANE

My word; some story!

JOLEENA

Gospel truth. May I be struck...

DAISY JANE

Don't tempt the Lord, Joey.

JOLEENA

No, ma'am; sorry.

DAISY JANE

This friend of yours stuck by you?

JOLEENA

Like a bear protects its cub.

Regarding Ahmed, from her rocking chair, Daisy Jane revises her initial condemnation to account for Joey's yarn. If not the truth and nothing but the truth (embroidery irrespective), it sounds plausible enough to reassess the foreigner (not that noble actions ever can redeem un-baptized souls). She sets her jaw, resumes the to and fro that functions as accompaniment for the hymn she hums, then sings—the lyrics speaking for themselves.

DAISY JANE

♫Rock of Ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee♫