I started this story many years ago, which I think is obvious, due to its naïveté and predictability. But I’ve always wanted to finish it some day, so I recently resurrected the file and decided to knock it out, as is—if nothing else, just for fun.
And I do think it’s a fun little story….
“This is a nice one.”
The salesman plucked the shining piece from inside the glass case and laid it on top, the silver and pearl glinting under the fluorescent lighting.
As he did so, I wondered if he was Ron, or if he just worked here.
“That’s genuine pearl,” he said, squinting through the column of smoke that drizzled up from the cigarette hanging from his lips.
We both stared at it with admiration, and he waited patiently.
I liked it, but it wasn’t “the one.” I just didn’t think something so small would do…after all, this was my wife we were talking about—it was her birthday, and this year she said she wanted something special, something that would make her stop feeling like she was getting older.
I sighed heavily. I’d been there awhile now, and looked at several items already—but none of them seemed like the right one. And there were so many to choose from! I had no idea the process of elimination would be so difficult…
“I like it—really, it’s beautiful—but I think I’m looking for something a little bigger.”
“I see,” he said. “Something with a little more flash?” He obviously knew the buzz words.
I nodded in agreement. I decided he probably was Ron, not just a clerk.
Because he knew.
He moved down a bit, fumbled with some keys, then snapped the back of the display case open.
“This one is very popular.”
As he reached into the back of the display case, a dead ash floated down from his cigarette and exploded into a dime-sized black mess on the old, scratched glass countertop. As if in response, he sucked the cigarette back to life with a glow, a cloud of blue-grey smoke bursting from his nose and floated to the ceiling.
“It’s bigger, but not too big…might be just what you’re looking for. And the brushed finish gives it a unique look…sort of high-tech.” The glowing end of the cigarette danced with his words, a bouncing ball along the bottom of the screen in a sing-along.
He lay it expertly on the glass for me to admire, so much silver flashing under the lights. I had to agree—it was awesome. Even with all the smoke dimming the lighting, it glistened, like new. It was beautiful.
The man finally plucked the cigarette from his lips and held it to his side, behind the counter. “Waddya think?” He beamed, excited. He obviously loved his job.
Had to be Ron.
“I like it,” I said, gently picking it up. It felt heavy. I liked that—felt quality—didn’t feel cheap.
“Can’t go wrong with this one.” He took another drag, then crossed his arms, the cigarette casting a smoke trail to the ceiling above him.
Again, he quietly waited, smiling.
Such a pro.
I wanted to get something big, but not too big; something to show her that I was serious.
This one could do the trick.
“If you like it, we can do the paperwork right here.” He turned, opened a file cabinet, yanked out a folder, and slapped it on the counter.
I was taken a little aback; this was something I hadn’t expected.
Not at Ron’s Pawns, anyway.
I gingerly placed it back onto the glass, the sliver gleaming under the lights.
“Yes, I like it. Actually, I love it. But….”
He waited. No attitude, no expression. Just waiting, listening, ready to try to change my mind. Ready to do whatever it took to make the sale.
I looked around. At the moment, there was nobody else in the pawn shop. Just me and ol’ Ron. Me, with my expensive pleated slacks and sleek black designer button-up, boasting a Rolex on my wrist and an expensive Blackberry on my belt…..and Ron, with his short-sleeved plaid shirt, faded blue jeans, coke-bottle glasses and black steel-toed boots. And, of course, the ever-present cigarette, smoldering by his side.
Leaning forward, I lowered my voice to a near-whisper: “You got anything with less…” I frowned, looking down at the counter, searching for the right word, then back at him. “You know…paperwork? I mean…that can’t be traced to…well, that shows I got it here?”
With this, we locked eyes—and he caught my meaning.
Again, he knew.
“I can pay cash,” I added, hoping to sway him. “I’ve been saving up for this.”
He glanced nervously around the shop. Seeing nobody but us, he relaxed a little.
“I close at eight”, he said rather gruffly. “Come back then. Anything comes in, you can take a look before it’s processed.” He yanked the shining piece off the counter, bent, placed it back into the case, closed and locked the door, then stood up.
“It’ll cost you, though. I don’t like buyin ‘n sellin under the table—I get enough harassment as it is, nature of the beast—but right now I need the business. Thing’s’ve been tight, economy like it is.”
“Money isn’t an issue,” I said. “Like I said, I’ve been saving. How much should I bring?”
Ron glanced around the room again, then back at me. He stared at me, and, without looking down, deftly crunched his cigarette out in the ashtray to his right.
“All of it.”
• • •
And that’s exactly what I did. Retrieved my entire stash of cash from my home safe (it was her monthly euchre night, with her friends from the office, so she wouldn’t be home until late), and returned to Ron’s Pawns, arriving just after eight. He met me at the front door, opening it just far enough to talk to me as I stood on the sidewalk in the darkness.
“You’re in luck,” he said quietly. “Something came in about an hour ago, I think you’ll like it.” He twitched his head to the right. “Meet me around back.”
Without another word, he closed and locked the door.
I drove around to the back alley behind the pawn shop, which was almost completely dark, just one lamppost on the far end of the building casting just enough dim florescent light to see, barely. Ron opened the thick, windowless steel door, and waved me over.
Leaving the car running, I got out, left the car door hanging open, and approached the tiny concrete porch, where Ron stood waiting like a ghost in the dark doorway.
He showed me the new arrival, and sure enough, it was the one. It was perfect. We did the deal right there. I handed over a thick roll of hundred dollar bills. He didn’t even bother counting it, just stuffed it into his pocket. Turning inside to a table by the door, he put it in a small white box, closed the lid, then turned and handed it over.
He started to close the door, and I turned to walk back to my car, but he opened it back up and stuck his head out.
“And remember—you didn’t get it here. Anyone asks, I know nothin about it.”
I nodded in agreement. “Absolutely. And thanks!”
He slammed the door shut, and I heard him lock it from within.
Returning to my car, I drove down to the back corner of the building, and stopped under that one dim lamppost. I wanted to get a better look at my new purchase. After all, it was for my wife, and I wanted to make sure I got the right one. Something big, but not too big; something to show her that I was serious. After all, it was her birthday, and she said this year she wanted something special, something that would make her stop feeling like she was getting older.
I slowly opened the box, and smiled ear to ear. This was definitely the one.
The silver and gold glinted slightly, even in the dim light cast down from the lamppost; the silver from the polished stainless-steel .38 Special revolver, the gold from the six brass shells Ron had included in the box, unbeknownst to me.
A nice little bonus!
Still smiling, I slapped opened the cylinder, and began sliding the shells into the chambers, one by one.