Chapter 18: The Pawn Shop

Finegan and Joey are walking through a business district of a small flooded city. The business district is above the water line, though most of the small city and its suburbs have been flooded. The area appears deserted and has as usual been devastated by quakes and high winds. Shingles have been ripped off roofs, masonry buildings have collapsed, frame buildings have been thrown sideways, and any signs not painted on the buildings themselves have been blown about and are in the street. Portions of the signs can be read, saying things like "Insurance" or "Municipal" or "Handy Mart".

It is drizzling, so Finegan and Joey are steadily becoming damp, their clothing starting to stick to them. They arrive at a former pawnshop, the fading sign painted on the wall above the door. The door open, and they hear noises of someone bustling around inside. Finegan says,

Ya spose they'd have an umbrella?

The pawnshopman is rearranging shelves, moving items off a shelf, dusting the shelf, then returning the items. For all the clutter, the place is immaculate, all except for the pawnshopman himself. He is short, has an extremely dirty white shirt on, rolled up at the sleeves. He wears a gray-stripped vest, also covered with dust in places. His gray striped pants are bagging and stretched out over the knees from too much kneeling. His black leather shoes are scuffed, the shoelaces flapping under foot.

The pawnshop is filled with items, so every shelf is crowded and every corner piled high. Items line the front of the counter and are piled on the counter top. These are all items formerly of value, when a monetary system was in place and people were not starving. Jewelry lays in piles, though some is placed under the counter for safekeeping. Electronic equipment is stuffed into the shelves behind the counter, with some speakers placed along the front of the counters. Fine ballroom dresses and tuxedos are hanging on a rack toward the back of the shop. Dish sets, fine pottery, glassware and crystal are displayed on one shelf, the boxes containing the full place settings behind these display items. Leather cowboy boots and matching belts are on another shelf, along with accompanying items such as cowboy hats. Under the counter in one spot are displayed metals of honor from past wars or with a presidential seal, given in appreciation.

Finegan and Joey are gawking, looking around in amazement as they slowly walk down the middle of the shop, between the counters. They look high and low, not saying a word, taking it all in. The pawnshopman says,

What can I do you fer?

Finegan says,

Got any umbrellas?

The pawnshopman says,

None of those, but got a sale on over here . .

He walks over to a counter top piled high with video games.

Half price, today only.

Finegan says,

But we got no electricity!

To which the pawnshipman replies,

It's coming back.

Both Finegan and the pawnshopman stop the conversation and just stare at each other at this point, as Finegan is stunned at this delusion and the pawnshopman does not want to get into details. Finegan leans an elbow on the counter, leaning toward the short pawnshopman who is standing proudly behind his wares, fingertips resting on the counter edge and back ramrod straight.

How do you figure? You must know something I don't.

To which the pawnshopman replies,

Yez sireee, it's coming back. When they come through here laying new lines and roads, we'll all be back in business again. Yez a matter of time.

Just then a man wearing his Sunday best, suit and bow tie and shined shoes and hat walks into the pawnshop. He is carrying a small wooden box, which he sets on the counter. He opens it carefully and music plays. He almost visibly breathes a sigh of relief, as though he had expected it might not work right. He looks at the pawnshopman, who says,

Not much call for these, but it is a beauty. What you looking for?

The man in his Sunday best looks a bit worried as he is going to try for food instead of the usual - cash.

I'd trade for a sack of flour for the mizzus.

The pawnshopman replies,

None of that, but I do have a sale on over here.

He gestures at the pile of video games.

______________________________

Finegan and Joey are walking away from the pawnshop, followed closely by the man in his Sunday best who has several video games in his hands. Finegan turns on his heel to address the man, still fascinated by the mass delusion ongoing in this town. Finegan nods to the pile of video games he is clutching.

Can't eat those.

Finegan is now walking alongside the man, who is trying out the pawnshopman's sales pitch on Finegan, as he must now go home and face the little lady.

These are worth more, overall. Growth item. Low price now but the value of these babies will skyrocket!

Finegan asks,

So when are the crews expected to arrive?

The man in his Sunday best says,

We ain't heard, but that's cause they're real busy.

Finegan is still engaging the man in his Sunday best in conversation as they approach his home, having never encountered a mass delusion before. The path is along a path worn into the yard, which is no longer mowed. Joey has now caught the fascination too, and realizes what Finegan is trying to do with his polite questions. Joey is walking along beside Finegan, straining to hear every word.

The home where the man in his Sunday best and his missus live has collapsed, the roof falling into the center of the home, the beams having broken during the quakes. But an entry into one wing has been arranged through a window, a piece of rug placed over the windowsill to soften the slide in and out. The porch of the small home is sloping but the roof is holding.

The missus is wearing a cotton dress and slip-on shoes, sitting on a stool in the yard, plucking a chicken. She has her long hair piled on top of her head and pinned with hairpins, out of the way of her work. The missus is gutting the chicken, pulling the entrails out into a bucket between her knees where she has also placed the feathers. She tosses the plucked chicken into a roasting pan to her side, and digs around in the entrails for the heart, liver, and kidneys of the chicken, also to be roasted. As the threesome approach, she looks up. The man in his Sunday best says,

Another bargain, my dear! I'll just put these away with the rest of our treasure.

At this, he sprints for the padded window frame, and putting one leg inside he slips through to escape any questions from the missus. Finegan and Joey are left to introduce themselves but no need as the missus starts talking.

Oh Lord. More junk.

The missus swings on the stool so she is facing the roasting pan and a pot with some dressing, and begins to stuff the dressing into the chicken. It's evident that she does the work around the place while her husband dreams on about the recovery to come. Finegan is in the midst of motioning toward the window where her husband disappeared, ready to speak and has his mouth open, but is interrupted again. The missus sits up straight, catching her breath, and brushes away a strand of hair that has escaped the pins.

At least it keeps them busy. We had some that just withered away, couldn't take the loss.

She nods in the direction of the padded window where her husband disappeared as she bends to finish stuffing her chicken.

He thinks he's got gains.

Just then the man in his Sunday best appears in the padded window, slinging one leg out and turning to pull the rest of his body through. He has a chalkboard in his hand and holds it up with an ecstatic look on his face.

Maw, best ever!

______________________________

The pawnshopman walks up to his shop and opens the door with a key. A crowd of a half dozen people has formed outside the pawnshop, all carrying clothing or small boxes or electronics in their hands. Some are dressed in casual clothes, others wearing their Sunday best. The pawnshopman says,

Open for business!

Finegan and Joey are walking down the middle of the street, past this congregation, heads turned to watch the drama. The crowd is bargaining with each other while waiting for their turn in the pawnshop. One woman holds up a sequined dress, holding it out to her side for display, trying to sell it to a man who is holding a box. Another man has mounted antlers of a deer that he is holding in front of him. He is approaching first one and then another in the crowd, but they turn their backs on him. As Finegan and Joey are leaving the business district they pass a man carrying a large picture frame, devoid of a picture, toward the pawnshop, followed by a woman carrying a large iridescent vase.

______________________________

Finegan and Joey are returning to the houseboat, moored near the business district of the town. They are walking up the gangplank, greeted by a wagging Barney. Finegan, who is first on the plank, throws a comment over his shoulder to Joey.

I like our stuff better.

Joey grins and laughs in agreement.