Doesn’t have a point of view.
Knows not where he’s going to.
Isn’t he a bit like you…
And me. – Beatles ‘Nowhere Man’
I decided to call up Earl at the pawn shop. He always knows low level players, but the rumor is he moves a little weight himself. The rumor isn’t true, well… it probably isn’t true, but he has held a few items he knew not to sell in the past.
“You carry that cheap little thing in your pants with the clip in and one day you are going to get a bad surprise young man.”
I rearrange my pocket so the butt of the pistol isn’t sticking out again and shrug off my windbreaker. It’s always too hot in here, too close. It smells like fried chicken and old farts. Earl shifts his fat body over the stool he’s been tormenting for the past two decades. I listen to the cheap metal creak and groan, and wait for him to settle. It’s like talking to a four hundred pound cat, if you start anything while he’s still up and around you’re just going to have to repeat it.
Once the creaks stop and there’s a beat where we’re both just waiting to see if the chair collapses, he looks at me appraisingly.
“Well I assume that from your demeanor and the tin courage in your pocket that this is not a social call. If you are planning to rob me you should know that you are on camera and I am not the sort of man who calls the authorities. Plus I know your auntie and she would just be devastated if they had to clean you up out of her basement. We go to church together, you know.”
I arrange the pictures in a fan before dropping them on the counter with a small sigh. When I was twelve, this kind of talk amused me, when i was fifteen, it scared me. Now I just know that he’s a fat blowhard with a gambling problem and a tumbler which is more whiskey than coke sweating it out on a coaster near the register. The sort of melodramatic asshole who won’t even give you a break when you helped him get his niece out of a bad spot.
“Ahhh, it is to be an information gathering meeting. How delightful. How may I be of assistance?”
“Do you know this man?”
“The line goes ‘Do you know this boy?’. That film is certainly no Zhivago but if you are to make cinematic allusions in my shop I would appreciate some effort.”
“Listen, do you know this dude or not?”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, my dear boy. Of course I know him, he pawns a guitar case or a TV here from time to time.”
Which makes sense. You don’t want to have your stash all in one place, especially when you’re the delivery man. You’ve always got to have a few local places you can go and pick up a little extra if business is booming. Earl isn’t the sort of guy to hold out on that, he knows I’m no police, and I’m not out to steal anything, so he’s probably telling the truth. The whole truth? Probably not.
“You seen him lately?”
“Last Tuesday he was in here picking up a few items he had pawned a month or so ago. I seem to recall he was very much in a hurry, and chose to take all of his belongings back quite suddenly. He loaded it into his caravan and drove off into the sunset without so much as a thank you or a how-do-you-do.”
“So just about a week ago.”
“As it is now Wodin’s Day, yes, that would be accurate.”
I bite back a retort. I can’t give him that satisfaction, otherwise I’ll be in a bad mood all day. I gather up my pictures and stick them back in my pocket. I know that I’m only gonna get one question here, and the favor I’m cashing in is not that big. I have to use it like a chess piece.
“You know how I could get in touch with his boss?”
“That’s funny, Robert. Quite funny.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I’m losing my temper now. The gun won’t work this time, Earl will just pull the trigger on the sawed off under the case and before I can even get this gun out of my pocket, I’ll be trying to plug the buckshot holes in my legs and waiting for the ambulance while he quietly chuckles and drinks his soda.
“Why, his boss was just in here yesterday morning, bright and early, asking how a person could get in touch with you.”
“Wait, wait… What did this guy look like?”
“I am not at liberty to talk about my other business partners, but I will tell you that he told me to give you a message when I saw you next.”
And what was that message?
“‘You have one week.’ He seemed quite insistent. I will not go into details, but if you owe this man something you should pay it. He is not the type to extend credit nor renegotiate terms.”
A drop of sweat drips into my asscrack and I can feel the inverted triangle of sweat slicking my shirt to my shoulders. I start back toward the door, glaring at Earl’s beatific, gigantic baby face as he eyeballs me like a particularly interesting insect. I’m getting nothing out of this one, looks like.
“Is that not the answer you wanted to hear, Robert?” a chuckle and the groan of metal as he gets up to wander over to his drink.
I put my hand on the pushbar and turn around. Distracted.
“Your aunt is a good friend of mine, Robert. She is a good woman and she would be most despondent for some reason if you were to get yourself killed.”
“Thanks, yeah Earl, that’s great, that makes me feel much better.”
I punch the door and I’m halfway out the door when he clears his throat. I pause.
“You should go talk to her.”
“Thanks for the advice, fat man.”
“No, no, I honestly believe you should go talk to her about your situation.”
He must have sensed my anger peaking because I didn’t have to prompt him again.
“Ricky’s wife is in the choir at our church.”
The door is jingling behind me as I turn to head for the house, and I hear Earl say “And now YOU owe ME one, dear boy.”