Monday, November 4, 2013

One Last Chance

He slinks into the pawn shop, low to the ground, shoulders hunched, eyes flashing left to right as he passes each customers, fearful that one might lash out in violence towards him.  He is rail thin, and his cheeks are concave, and his slight frame accented by a shaved head, which makes me think of grainy news reels and photos taken in the waning days of World War II, as Allied troops stumbled into places like Auchwitz and Treblinka.

This was years ago, I was working at a competing station at the time, and a wild police chase had brought me to this State Street pawn shop.  The whole screeching mess crash landed near the store front, and I was wondering if anyone inside had seen anything.

The shop, with its high ceilings was a chaotic mess.  The store was bulging with grey metal shelves crammed with an assortment of overpriced, worthless trinkets.  The cinder block walls are painted yellow.  The shade is sickly, like the hue that coats the inside of a frequent smoker's car windshield.  It smells of mothballs and gasoline, and is filled with old screw drivers, covered in a thin layer of maroon rust, and a wall lined with what appeared to be miles of guitars, surrendered by struggling musicians, or more likely, novices who purchased that guitar to "get girls," only to find the "like new" instrument sits in the corner for years, unplayed.

"I really didn't see anything," the owners tells me with disinterested indifference.  "I've seen a lot of things here," he adds, "but I didn't see what happened over there." he announces as he points at the crime scene tape across the street with a bent ski pole over a row of dusty, outdated boom boxes, and CD players.

As I glance around at the Weed eaters, coated in dry oil, and look at the scuffed snow boards, the slinking skinny man fumbles with old TV remotes, and fiddles with the rabbit ears on an old console, I can tell, he isn't interested in the electronics.  He makes his way to the counter, and pokes and prods at a well-worn plastic grocery bag, hunting for the opening, then pulls out a set of frequently used jumper cables.  I imagine how many times he must have yanked those black and red wires out of his cluttered trunk to bring back to life an exhausted old jalopy, that likely should have been retired years ago.  He places the cables on the counter with gentleness, as if the dirty, matted mess is a Faberge egg.  He says nothing, but looks at the clerk with wide-eyed hopefulness, rocking quickly from foot to foot, dragging the back of his rough hand across his wet nose.  "What do you think?" He finally asks gently.  The owner, continues to jot prices on small white tags with little white strings attached, knows he isn't going to take the cables, gives them a casual look, "I can't use 'em, bro." he shrugs, returning to his pricing.  "Oh," the little man," says pulling his palm over the top of his shaved head, then stuffing his hands into the pockets of his grey sweatshirt, pondering his next move.

He stands for a moment then, hunching his shoulders even lower than when he entered the store, floats to the door.  "Hey!" the owner announces, "you're cables."  "Uh," the man looks back with his eyes now glistening with moisture, "you can have them," then he presses out the door, and hustles across the street on foot.  The car on which he once used those jumper cables long dead, stolen, or sold, and the cables, likely his only possession, left hopelessly on a counter where plenty of last chances had been placed before.

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