SPOTLIGHT: Selected Stories 1990-2022 by g. emil reutter

Pawn Shop

               The white paint was peeling from the brick building. Faded gold signs hung in the window, with large red lettering. She entered and looked into the counters along the wall.

                “Can I help you Miss?” She handed him the ring.

                “What will you give me for it?”

                “What do you want for it?”

                She thought for a few moments, hesitated, “Twenty five hundred.” He put an eyeglass on and examined the ring. He looked her over, figured she was about six months pregnant.

                “You’re old man run off on you?”

                “No, it’s not like that.”

                “It’s a nice ring, I figured he ran off or when he gets home he is going to be pissed.”

                “I’ll get it back by that time.”

                “Yeah, that’s what everyone tells me when they bring stuff in here.”

                “I’m not here to talk about me, what will you give me for the ring?”

                She watched him put the eyeglass on again. He was scrawny, and his arms were heavily tattooed.  He was wearing jeans and a worn T-shirt. “I’ll give you five hundred bucks for the ring.”

                “No, two thousand, that’s what I want.”

                “Listen lady, it doesn’t work that way. I am not going to pay you full price for something you are hocking.”

                “I’m asking a fair price, we paid seven grand for the ring, and I figured that in when asking my price.”

                “Really, seven grand, that’s impressive. I’ll give you a grand for it.”

                “Not a penny less than fifteen hundred.”

                “So where is that old man of yours?”

                “He’s in Afghanistan, now are you going to meet my price?”

                “Well you are a pretty thing even with that little baby bump.”

                “Listen buddy, are you going to give me the fifteen hundred or not?”

                “Yeah, I’ll give it to you, pregnant and all with a hubby overseas. It’s my patriotic duty. I’ll need your driver’s license to fill out the paper work.”

                She handed him her license, watched as he filled out a pawn slip. He walked back to the counter and pulled a wad of cash from his pocket counting out the money. When he was finished he handed her the cash and her license.

                “I’ll be back in a week or so and get the ring back.”

                “You know, there’s more cash if you want to stop back and get acquainted with me.”

                “You’re a pig.”

                He laughed, watched her walk out the door and climb into a Mini-Cooper. She was a good- looking girl, not the type to leave behind to fight the government’s war. He checked out her address on the pawn slip, nice neighborhood.


               She pulled into the driveway of her home. They had it built three years ago when his contracting business took off. Paul, her neighbor was in the yard pruning bushes. She thought how kind he was to look after the yard while Mike was serving. The telephone was ringing when she entered the house, it was her mother.

                Nancy told her mother she had to pawn her diamond and setting to make the mortgage payment. She asked if her mother could send her a check, and when Mike came home next week she would begin to make payments. Nancy waited for the usual lecture and it came. Mike should never have enlisted in the National Guard and what were they thinking getting pregnant the last time he came home.  She listened and waited. Her Mom would send the check right away. Nancy thought of Mike, how she missed him and how difficult it had become to get by on the small government checks they received. She had depleted their savings to keep up with the bills.

                There was a knock on the door, Nancy opened it and Paul was standing there with a bag of groceries. Paul carried them into the kitchen and Nancy put the teakettle on the stove.

                “You look a little shook up Nancy, is everything all right?”

                “I’m getting by; I don’t know what I would do without you and Marge. You have been so kind.”

                “It’s a difficult time for everyone, especially service folks; it’s an honor to help out”

                They shared a cup of tea and Tasty Kakes.

                “There is one thing you may be able to help me with.”

                “Anything, what do you need?”

                “I have a small leak under the bathroom sink, could you take a look at it?”

                Paul left the house and returned in five minutes with his toolbox. Nancy showed him the upstairs bathroom and Paul went to work. Paul was up in the bathroom for over an hour. He came down smiling.

                “It was just a small leak but while I was up there I cleaned up the bathroom, a girl in your condition shouldn’t be cleaning bathrooms.”

                “Oh Paul, you’re such a sweetheart, you shouldn’t have.”

                Paul gave her a kiss on the forehead and left. “You take care of yourself now.”

                Nancy went upstairs, filled the tub with hot water, climbed in and for the first time this day, relaxed.


                                The week passed quickly for Nancy as she prepared for Mike to come home. She drove to the bank, cashed her mother’s check and withdrew another three hundred to go food-shopping with. Mike deserved to have a fully stocked kitchen when he came home.

                Harry McHugh smiled as he saw the Mini-Copper pull up outside the pawn shop. He thought she had to be a looker when not pregnant if she looked this good now. Nancy walked in the shop and asked for her ring.

                “Hey good looking, how are you doing?”

                “Don’t act like you care, just give me my ring back.”

                Nancy pulled fifteen hundred dollars from her purse and handed it to Harry. He smiled as Nancy noticed his teeth were jagged and yellow.

                “What the hell happened to your mouth?”

                “I had a bar fight over the weekend, got hit pretty good. You like tough guys don’t you?”

                “You’ve got the money; just give me the ring back.”

                “Honey, you owe me another two hundred for interest.”

                “You didn’t tell me that!”

                “Sure did, the interest rate is on the pawn slip. If you would like to work out another arrangement I am all ears.”

                Nancy took out two hundred dollars from her purse and handed Harry the cash. He handed her the ring.

                “A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be in that big house all alone.”

                “You’re a pig!”

                Harry watched her walk out the door again, there was something about her, pregnant and all that just took a hold of him. He laughed when she burnt rubber pulling out of the parking spot.

                It was early evening and Mike would be at the airport around nine. They hadn’t told the neighbors or family this time, they just wanted time by themselves with no fanfare. Nancy decided to make the two-hour drive early. She arrived at the terminal, grabbed a book and anxiously awaited Mike’s arrival. At nine o’clock Mike and a hundred or so other guardsmen walked into the terminal. Nancy jumped up and waited for him to come out of the pack. They embraced. The two of them talked up a storm on the way home.


               He couldn’t figure out where she was. The last time he watched the house he noted a large truck in the garage, when she was home she had to park in the driveway. His field glasses were broke so he would have to depend on his own eyesight. He put the air conditioning on and waited.

                Paul had seen the white van once before, parked just at the intersection of their block and the main road. He walked down the street, crossed over and wrote down the license plate number of the van. Paul knocked on the passenger’s side window, “You need any help there?”

                Harry was so focused on Nancy’s house he didn’t see Paul. Harry leaned toward the door, smiled, “Thanks buddy, I’m waiting for a friend to jump my battery.” Paul noted the tattooed arms, broken teeth, greasy hair and how thin the man was.

                “I’ll check back on you in a bit”. Harry didn’t like this guy,

                “What the fuck are you, Town Watch?”  Paul walked away.

Harry watched the Mini-Cooper fly by his van. He just might visit the lady tonight he thought.

                The car pulled into the driveway, Harry watched Nancy get out of the car and a second later observed a six foot tall stocky guy in fatigues get out the passenger’s side.  Paul was walking by their house when they pulled up. “Mike! Welcome home!” he yelled as he walked up the driveway.

                They talked for a few minutes, and then Paul pointed to the van down the street. Harry started the van, did a U-Turn fleeing the area.

                “What did you say he looked like?” asked Nancy

                Paul described the guy in the van. Nancy told Mike it sounded like the pig who worked at the Pawn Shop. Paul said his goodbyes as Nancy and Mike went into their home.

                Mike woke early and made Nancy a big breakfast. “You relax this morning, I’ll go shopping and we can make dinner like the old times.” Nancy told Mike he needed to take it easy and ease off the stress.

                “Listen, I know you don’t like it, but, I have to get some smokes. I’ll be right back.”

                Fridays were always busy at the Pawn Shop. Harry worked with Eli on Fridays; they got along well.

                “Harry are you still stalking that girl?” Harry didn’t respond. Eli told him he was a sick bastard and the two of them laughed.

“Eli, look at this!” Eli looked out the window and Harry’s favorite car pulled up at the curb.

                “Can you believe this, she came back!” Harry was excited; maybe the old man petered out in bed last night. The door of the car opened as Mike climbed out; Harry didn’t make it to the front door of the store in time to lock it.


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