• Amber Shockley

Pawn

When the young man she'd been dating for two years applied for a scholarship to an out-of-state school, then got in the car with his packed bags, kissed his weeping mama and drove off to major in Economics without asking her to marry him first, Judy said, Fine.


She walked down to the pawn store to look at diamond rings. There were twelve. Several were three-stone, or trinity, as the shopkeeper explained. Those looked too extravagant. The few small marquise weren't her style, but there was one tiny, round stone ring that fit the bill. She bought it for fifty dollars and placed it on her finger. Sitting the neighborhood's screaming, teething children 3-4 evenings every week since she'd turned 12 had earned her that, at least.


She went to the grocery store and unzipped her wallet with her left hand. She filed through the bills there carefully, her fingers crawling like a drugged centipede. She pushed back her hair with her left hand when the wind blew at the bus stop. She tucked her hair behind her ear, letting her ring finger linger at her lobe.


She took a job at the five and dime as a cashier, where customers were treated to flashes of brightly manicured nails, a hypnotizing effect as her fingers flitted over the register's keys. One old woman complained of the immodesty: red color is for whores. Judy went out and bought a gold band.


Men tipped their hats lower, longer. Young girls gave deference. There was an embarrassment at the bank when she presented a check and gave her own name to open the account.


Eventually, the shine did wear off. Judy appeared at the pawn store again. This time, one of the trinity rings. At work, she received congratulations. Oh, how sweet! For your anniversary? I wish I were so lucky.


The trouble and the luck was that no one really cared enough about Judy to ask about her husband, or invite the couple over for dinner. Judy was one of those people others seemed happy to let remain unknown.


Aging didn't bother Judy very much. There was no shift for her, no loss. Other women panicked. That's when they noticed Judy, and came to her for advice. She seemed smart, happy, careless. For the first time in her life, Judy was able to play coy.


She settled into the role of mysterious sage. It was assumed that her husband died. Widowers flirted with her at the five and dime. A bouncy, bright-toothed reporter from the local station came to do a human interest piece on the "bejeweled" cashier who had worked at the same shop for over 30 years. Apparently, she was an attraction for small children who begged their parents to bring them in to see "the lady with all the rings." Judy kept looking down at the huge foam microphone held in front of her during the interview. On television, she looked like she was crossing her eyes. The pawn shop owner refused to comment for the story, or even confirm that Judy was among his regular clientele.


One haggard mother was interviewed outside the shop who said that when she brought her daughter in crying after a difficult dentist appointment, Judy took off an emerald and handed it to her, just to make her feel better.


Judy was generous, and trusted to be honest. It got to the point that, if someone lost, or sold, a valuable ring, and wanted to see if they could get it back, it was a toss up whether they would check with the pawn shop or Judy first.


Judy would stand at the door, smile, then disappear inside, leaving the visitor to wait on the stoop. You stood a 50/50 chance. If luck was in your favor, she would return with your ring, and ask nothing as payment. Not even the amount she gave for it.


Late in life, when her generosity accelerated to the point that she was known to strip an entire finger bare on a whim and drop it into a stranger's hand, or the collection plate at church, people around her would look at each other and shake their heads. She was a lunatic, or lonely.


Pity, either way.


It wasn't until after she passed away - peacefully, and in her sleep - that an attorney discovered among her possessions many lost items, including the class ring of a local veterinarian who often drove drunk, a known philanderer's military signet, and a ruby from a woman who repeatedly undertipped waitresses. There were dozens. All had been reported, and everyone claimed to have knocked on Judy's door. The thief in her grave, there was no explanation other than luck and punctilious piety. These qualities are often overlooked in light of a pickpocket's flashy fingers.