Another Sunday, another story. Here at the Story Factory, we are all about quantity over quality, and with that goal, here is another story.
This week’s prompts:
A Pawn Shop Owner
Returns to his hometown
A broken mirror
“More coffee, Connor?”
I didn’t think I could drink one more cup of coffee. My sister, Myrt, got up from the table and grabbed the coffee pot from the counter. I couldn’t stop her, though. I lifted my cup toward her.
“We will need to go through Dad’s things at some point.” Myrt sat back down and blew on her mug. “He never really got rid of all of Mom’s things, so it’s just a huge mess.”
She was right. Dad’s kitchen, where we were drinking some of his coffee, had dishware piled on every counter. Several of the cabinets would not stay closed. The two closets in the bedroom that once was mine were filled to the ceiling with stuff. And it wasn’t really anything I could sell. Just junk.
“I know a guy…”
“Of course you do..” She could be a bit rigid, Myrt could.
“C’mon, do you really want to clean this place out yourself? I can’t stay long enough; my shop needs me.”
She sighed. So dramatic, just like Mom was.
“Really, Myrt. Go through, get what you know you want. Dad had a couple things that I would like personally. Then my guy will go through, separate out what can get a good price at auction, and let us do what we want with the rest. One of those Goodwill places can come cart it off, for all I care.”
“Goodwill? You can’t sell it at your shop?”
That is the thing about owning a pawn shop. Everyone thinks their shit is priceless. It’s almost always junk. But how can you tell someone that this old vase their granny left them wasn’t worth two dollars when their rent was a week late, and their babies were hungry? It’s a hard job, but when I thought about quitting, selling the shop, and moving on, it was Dad who gave me great advice – Keep a list of nonprofits under the register. You’re a businessman, not the Salvation Army. But just because you can’t help people directly doesn’t mean you can’t find them help, right?”
“This stuff won’t sell at my shop. At Goodwill, it will help someone. Dad would have wanted that.”
Myrt sighed again. “I guess.” She reached over and squeezed my hand. “Ok, call your guy. I have what I want already. Dad let me pick from Mom’s stuff years ago, and I just want his pipe and his old red flannel jacket.”
“Fair enough. I want the leather jacket and a few books for myself. He has some autographed first editions.”
Myrt raised an eyebrow. “And you’re ready now? Or are these old books worth more than you’ll admit?”
I got up and put my empty mug in the sink. I needed to go for a walk; too much caffeine was making me jittery. “They mean something to me. I am not grabbing them to sell.” Yet. I considered them a retirement plan, truth be told. I glanced at my watch. It was nearly three. I hadn’t told Myrt that I had made an appointment with a potential seller. Our father’s funeral was less than 24 hours ago. She wouldn’t understand. “I gotta get out of here for a bit, go walk, clear my head.”
Myrt didn’t lookup. “I saw that guy talk to you at the funeral yesterday. What are you buying from him?” She didn’t miss a thing, did she.
“Just an old camera. Probably nothing.” And that was the truth. People didn’t come to pawn shops for cameras anymore. Not when they could get something much better on their phones; even the cheapo pay-by-the-month phones had cameras better than most currently on my shelves. But he was young and probably needed rent money. I would go talk. I had my list of nonprofits in my phone, just in case.
I found him where he said he would be – sitting on the bench near the zoo entrance at the city park. His leg bounced up and down with some invisible beat and his head owled around watching the people around him. I wasn’t a newbie to the pawn business; this guy was gonna try to pass me something hot. I tried to avoid things like that. Having the police visit any more than they have to was not good for business. But if it was worth the risk, I did have private buyers…
He stood up as I approached. Attempting business deals at funerals aside, the kid did have manners.
“Mr. Carmichael, thanks for meeting me. I promise it will be worth your while.” He didn’t make eye contact with me. He was still scanning the area behind me.
“How hot is this?” I asked. I’ve never had the luxury of subtlety, not in this business.
“Hot? It’s pretty old, actually.” He pulled a beat-up camera out of one of those reusable grocery totes HEB sells for ninety-nine cents.
I already didn’t trust him. Who pays for grocery bags when they give out the plastic and paper ones for free? “Let’s see what you got, Turk.” I took the camera from him and turned it over in my hands. “Never heard of this brand before. Is it German?”
“Um, I guess so.”
“Where did it come from?”
“I really can’t say. A friend gave it to me, and my phone is my camera, so I thought I would try to get a few bucks for it.” Still no eye contact, the little liar. He needed to get better at lying if he thought he could make a living fencing goods. But I wasn’t going to encourage that.
There was no slot for USB cables or an SD card. This one was so old, the back opened for the film. “Who uses film anymore?” Once the camera was opened. I could see the crack across the mirror. No way this would even work for film, not with this crack. I showed him the inside of the camera, “Look at this, it won’t even work. I don’t do repairs. Get it fixed, and maybe I can do something with it.” I handed it back to him
He shut the case and looked at me. “I don’t even know who fixes cameras in town.” He studied the camera. “What if I told you it’s not really just a camera. What if I told you it came from an old Time Ranger.”
“Now you have my attention.” Timepieces, those things that helped regular people do time travel, there was money in that, just like my dad’s old first editions. Myrt didn’t realize that those old history books would bring you to that point in history. And I was betting this kid had no clue what this camera could do. But I couldn’t risk being seen getting it fixed. “If that is the case, then I think you know who can fix it.”
“Yeah, but I can’t go there….”
“Get it fixed. It’s worth nothing to either of us like this.” I turned and walked away, knowing I would be hearing from this kid again by the end of the month.