The Pawn Shop


We don’t do “new.” I’m not sure whether it’s born in us or if it’s leaned behavior, but we don’t know how to go into a Big-Box store and buy something with dangle tags or peel off stickers. No unopened box with Styrofoam protected item for us. We’re on a treasure hunt. Our cars, clothes, tools, and furniture are all second, third or forth hand. Today we go in search of a chain saw at the pawn shop.

“The pawn shop?” I ask. Pawn shops sell used guitars, bongo drums, stereo systems, used wedding band sets and wicked looking knives in leather sheaths. Going to look for a chain saw in the pawn shop sounds to me like going to look for a set of pots and pans, or high thread count sheets, a wasted trip.

“I called,” Bruce said. “It’s a used Steihl, five hundred dollars, worth a drive for a look.”

“I might ride with you,” I say. I haven’t been to a pawn shop since we stopped at one on a whim coming back home from the beach.

“OK,” Bruce says. “Ben’s going. He said he’d drive.” Ben’s looking for a deal on some electronic gadget I’m sure. He has the buy-used gene too.

When we leave, it’s sunny outside, but cold. I wish I had wrapped a scarf around my neck. All four of us squeeze into Ben’s Explorer. At ten o’clock on a Saturday morning, Ryan is usually immersed in dreamland under a quilt, but he’s in the back seat, leaned against the car door, face covered to the nose by his hoodie. I’m not sure of his motivation, but know he has one.

Bruce is a no-nonsense shopper. He pulls his cap down, focuses his attention straight ahead, ignores all flashy bargain signs, and trudges to the item of interest. The rest of us browse.

I look into the glass jewelry case at the rows of engagement and wedding rings, sad symbols of lost love. Someone working in the shop has shined the tarnish off. The gold circles and diamonds sparkle. “Who would buy those, Mom?” Ryan asks, then lowers his voice an octave to simulate a man. “Come on Honey, let’s go down to the pawn shop to buy some divorced couple’s rings, see if we can make them work a second time around.”

Farther down the case is an assortment of belt buckles. Two especially gaudy ones are six inches across and four inches tall, proclaiming “ELVIS” in silver letters. “You know, today is Elvis’ birthday,” Ben says, always a font of historical facts and useless trivia. “Maybe we should buy them to wear in tribute.”

Both boys walk around looking at bicycles, scooters, a motorcycle that Ben swears he could resell for four thousand dollars at school. Everything wears price tags higher than we are willing to pay.

Ryan wanders off to a case in the back of the store. There’s a young man next to him in a wheelchair. The two of them are surveying the contents of the case. They are pointing and talking. Ben and I wander over to Bruce as he barters for the chainsaw.

“It doesn’t even have a chain break,” Bruce says.

“A chainsaw just like this one is selling on ebay for four hundred-fifty dollars, with three days to go,” the salesman says.

“When I left home, it was listed for four-thirty, and it has a chain break,” Bruce says.

“You can buy a chain break,” the salesman says.

“Yeah, but that adds another fifty dollars to the cost.”

“Let me go check my books,” the salesman says, slipping around us and heading to the back of the store.

Bruce looks at me and shakes his head. “It’s older than I want and doesn’t have a chain break.”

The man returns. “I can’t go lower than four seventy-five.”

“Thanks for your time,” Bruce says shaking the man’s hand.

“Here let me give you my card in case you change your mind,” the man offers.

“Thanks,” Bruce says putting the man’s number in his pocket. Ben and I follow him out the door.

Halfway down the block, Bruce turns around. “Where’s Ryan?”

“I thought he was behind us,” I say.

“I’ll go back and get him,” Ben says.

Bruce and I stand together, huddled, backs to the cold wind and wait for the boys. “I’ve decided I don’t like pawn shops,” I say.

“Why? I’ve found some good deals in pawn shops over the years,” he says.

“It’s sad,” I say. “people taking their belongings into the place to trade for some small amount of money.” I look down at my wedding and engagement rings.

“You know, a long time ago, I got those…” he starts.

Our attention is drawn to the the boys as they hurry toward us. Ryan is waving a bag. “Hey look what I got,” he says, pulling a video game from the bag. “Half the price you pay at Best Buy.”

“You got what at the pawn shop years ago,” I ask Bruce.

“Never mind,” he says, putting his arm around me as we walk to the car.

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2 Responses to “The Pawn Shop”

  1. Barbara Nordin Says:

    Margaret, I just love the story you wrote about cleaning out your attic, and reliving all the memories. You’re an *excellent* writer–brava!!! (And a fabulous person, to boot.)
    Barbara Nordin

  2. train-whistle Says:

    Thanks so much Barbara, and thank you for dropping by the blog.

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