“What do you get the guy who’s got everything?” Jonah said aloud to himself, his recently adopted mantra. His older brother, Robert’s birthday was tomorrow, and Jonah had been fretting for weeks over the gift. He had to get Robert the perfect gift, this was all Jonah knew. He beat his brains out to present the present that best defined his brother’s interests in baseball, chess and bingo.
‘I could get him tickets to a Yankee game. No, he’s got season tickets,’ Jonah was going over ideas he’d already explored. He was completely lost.
“What do you get the guy who’s got everything?”
‘Nothing. You get him nothing. It’s the one thing he doesn’t have.’
Finally, a breakthrough. Jonah went online to see if there was a store that sold nothing. This being New York City, there was. Were, there were two of them. One in the North Bronx, the other in Chinatown.
Jonah got out at the Canal Street subway stop, and followed the directions he’d downloaded onto a piece of paper.
He spotted it, a sign of white characters painted on a black backdrop, one word: NOTHING.
Jonah walked towards the something that marketed itself as nothing hoping it had the nothing he was in the market for.
The anti-salesman, a white man, appeared from behind a black curtain. “You’ve already bought it. Leave before you have to pay for it.”
Jonah ignored the anti-salesman, marching straight for him. The store was a narrow black box, void of anything, even a shelf. The only decoration was the black curtain.
“I’m looking to buy nothing. Your website said you sell nothing.”
The anti-salesman glared at Jonah. “You are the problem.”
“Excuse me?” Jonah felt like he was about to be insulted, without realizing the insult had already passed.
“Nothing. Welcome to the Nothing Store. Now get out.”
“Get out? But I haven’t gotten anything, yet.”
“Exactly. Good bye.”
“But, I can’t just show up with nothing tomorrow. Rob’s going to think I’m cheap, or worse, poor.”
“Better to think you’re frivolous.”
“Excuse me. Don’t you want to make a sale?”
“No,” said the anti-salesman.
“Then why are you in business?”
“This is a none of your business kind of business.”
Jonah scratched his nose, though, it wasn’t itchy. He didn’t know what to say to this man who worked in a store that hoped not to make sales.
“Maybe you’re the problem,” Jonah said back defensively. He was not comfortable in this fight, for, he didn’t know what he was fighting for. He just felt he should be putting up a fight.
“You’re singing ‘Silent Night’ Christmas Eve World War One. You’re playing soccer with the enemy, you don’t know what you’re fighting for.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means how can I help you?”
“I’m looking to buy nothing.”
“Of course you are. How much nothing are you looking to buy?”
“About two hundred dollar’s worth.”
“We only accept cash.”
“Here,” Jonah handed four fifty dollar bills to the anti-salesman.
“Why are you still here? Thank you for shopping the Nothing Store, now get the hell out.”
“But, you haven’t given me anything.”
“Exactly. Good bye!”
“But, what, am I supposed to show up at the party saying I spent two hundred dollars on nothing? Can’t I at least get a receipt to show?”
“No, receipts are something. This is the Nothing Store. And I have nothing more to say.” The anti-salesman turned and returned behind the curtain from which he had appeared.
Jonah’s gift was a hit. He saved the story for dinner. He told it beautifully, milking the absurdity for every laugh. He exaggerated little; his only lie came naming the price of the nothing to be $1000. His brother was tickled by the story, and touched by his little brother’s generosity.
Jonah wondered how he could top this next year. He had 364 days to come up with something that was more than nothing, cause this year, his gift of nothing had really been something.