Jolene answers the door in cut-offs with the baby on her hip and a genuine smile on her face. “Aisha, hi! Come on in.”
Aisha smiles back but keeps her feet on the welcome mat. “I was actually looking for Pooch, is he around?”
“No, he went out grocery shopping. Is something wrong?”
“Oh, no,” Aisha waves a hand. “Just a car question. I can send him a text, it's no big deal. I just figured I was in the area, I might as well ask him to take a look at it.”
“What's the question?” Jolene shifts baby Will to her other hip.
Aisha mouth-shrugs and tells her. “I noticed blue smoke in the exhaust from my car so I checked the oil, and the level wasn't bad but it was kind of gritty? Which probably means I need to get it changed, but I hoped Pooch could let me know if there's any more to it than that.”
Jolene nods. “Were there metal bits in the oil?”
“I don't think so. It was just black and it left a smear on my fingers like charcoal.” Aisha rubs her fingers together to demonstrate.
“Sounds like a bit of dirt from wear. Should be nothing to worry about.”
“I should take it to a garage, then?”
“If you want to, sure.” Jolene shrugs. “Or I can do it right now.”
“Of course! Just pull her into the driveway while I get Will's playpen set up in the yard. I'll show you how it's done.”
Aisha waits awkwardly by her car while Jolene wrestles a portable bassinet with mesh sides out her front door with one arm and makes sure Will is comfortable in it before heading into the garage, more than half the size of their tiny house, to gather supplies.
“Come and give me a hand with the jack stands,” Jolene says with a beckoning wave, and Aisha follows her into the garage. She hands Aisha a pair of orange stands with ratcheting arms and shrugs on a stained and oversized workshirt from a peg by the door. “Pans and rags are on that shelf, there.”
“Thank you, Jolene, for helping me out with this,” Aisha says as they position the jack.
“No problem. You know, I'm a bit surprised that you've never done this before. I mean, with all the fancy bad-ass spy stuff you get up to, I'd expect car maintenance to be easy-peasy.”
“Yeah, well,” Aisha sighs. “Most of the time when I've had auto troubles it's been easier to just ditch the car and find another.”
“Well, keep hanging with me and Pooch and you'll be an expert in no time.” Jolene grins at Aisha, then at Will, who's happily chattering alphabet soup to a drool-stained stuffed giraffe in his playpen. “Isn't that right, Sweetpea?”
Will giggles and blows a raspberry, which Jolene lovingly reciprocates.
Aisha laughs warmly. “Thanks again, seriously,” she says. “I'm just wondering what I can do to pay you back.”
“Don't worry about it,” Jolene says, and leans on the car to test the stability of the jack stands. “Grab me a drain pan, would you?”
“Let me do something,” Aisha says as she hands over the pan, thinking about fair exchanges. “I could teach you how to fire a gun.”
“Thanks, but I already know how,” Jolene says as she rolls out a dirty blanket on the cement under the car and crouches down. “Pooch took me to the range on our second date and after that I kept up with it every month until my third trimester. That reminds me, actually; I should get back into that.”
“Alright then,” Aisha smiles, impressed dispite herself. “I can teach you how to throw a knife.”
“I know how to do that, too, although I'm out of practice.” Jolene laughs and shows Aisha the drain plug. “Also how to blow a smoke ring, how to pick a lock, how to gut a fish, how to juggle, and how to do a handstand.”
“Seriously?” Aisha says, looking at Jolene with surprised admiration. “What about how to crack a bullwhip?”
Jolene's eyes light up eagerly as she wipes her oily hands on a rag. “I do not know how to crack a bullwhip.” She reaches up, accepting Aisha's help to stand.
“Well then,” Aisha says with a grin as she follows her into the garage to find a compatible oil filter, “we shall have to do something to correct that.”