Pete's Blog

Encounter in a Mall

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Small, dark, and well-dressed, she spoke to me as I walked past her in the corridors of the Kitsap Mall. I could not understand what she said. Her thick accent sounded Israeli to my ears. I kept walking. She planted herself in my way and spoke again. "I'm sorry," I replied, "I can't understand you," then made to move around her. She shifted as quickly as any NBA guard and put out her hand for me to shake. The other hand held an open jar. "Do you know Dead Sea?" she asked. What answer could I make? To say "No" would be absurd. To turn and walk quickly in the other direction would be rude. And she would not let me pass. Her hand was still out, moving up and down in an unmistakeable shaking motion. "Do you know Dead Sea?" she asked again, admitting no escape. God help me, I took her hand. Instead of introducing herself or saying "How do you do?" at this point, she instead grasped my hand in a grip of iron and pulled me toward a small kiosk, speaking again a mostly incomprehensible spiel of which I caught, from time to time, phrases like, "Dead Sea salt" and "Give me five minutes." Abandoning myself to fate, I allowed her to rub a large-grained paste into my right hand while she repeated, perhaps four times in all, "Don't use on face, okay?" Finished, she rinsed off my hand in a small basin and said, with great pride, "How do you feel?" I wanted to say, "greasy," which was, in fact, the way my hand felt. But for the first time in several minutes she had relinquished physical possession of me, and I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity for escape. I said, in as formally final a way as I could, "Thank you very much." She gave me a look, more easily understood than any of the words she had spoken so far, which told me that if she had had a knife at that moment I would be a dead man.

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