[The Listserve]

Carl Rauscher
12/19/2016
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I thought the pawn shop empty but there she was, leaning over the glass display next to me and staring deeply at the pieces for sale within. She was beautiful in a retro-fringed jacket and faded jeans kind of way.

"Ever wonder what they'd say if they could talk?"

I had not, and said so but she'd moved on to look at dangling necklaces on a pewter tree. "Everything has a story to tell. Take this locket for example. Perhaps a young unwed mother carried it next to her bosom with her newborn's photo inside, but debtors care little for nostalgia."

I gently opened the locket and showed her the interior. "Nice story, but it's empty."

The shop owner waved to me from behind the counter and said, "Your engagement ring is legit, so how much you want for it?"

"I paid quite a lot and it was only worn once, so make me an offer."

"I can go four hundred cash, six if you want store credit. I've got some other nice jewelry..."

I shook my head. "Let the new chump buy her jewelry. Why don't I keep looking while you help the young lady."

The owner glanced around the tiny shop. "Who are you talking about?"

The mysterious woman had been looking at a box of LPs by a sparsely filled coat rack, but she was gone.

"Nevermind."

"I'll write this up while you think about my offer." He vanished behind a beaded curtain and left me alone with my thoughts.

"The thing about stories is when one ends, another begins."

I pivoted and there she stood, like she'd never left.

"And how does this little story end?"

She smiled and said, "Depends on you, of course." She moved closer, hesitating mere inches away before sliding around and stopping in front of a locked display. "Pick one that interests you and I'll tell you its story."

I joined her at the case to inspect the items. Gold coins sandwiched between plexiglass, an authentic china tea set, and a host of other unremarkable items - at least to my untrained eye. I settled on a slender pen and pencil set of polished rosewood nestled in an ebony box.

"What about that writing set?"

Her lips curled slightly. "Perceptive. Those were a gift to a handsome fraud from a childhood sweetheart blinded by love. The only time they left the box was on the couple's wedding night when she learned of his infidelity and used the pen to tearfully write a final note before ending her life."

"I'll bet she regretted that decision."

"Indeed. Second chances are rare, so when they appear..."

"Grab them before they're gone." As if on cue, I heard the beads rustle and turned to the owner. "Isn't that right?"

"Who are you talking to?"

I turned and she had disappeared. Again.

He held up a slip. "Shall I make it out for cash or store credit?"

Like the woman had said, everything has a story to tell and my pitiful tale would soon reside in a pawn shop display case along with other abandoned treasures.
Some stories deserve a better ending, I thought.
. . .
Leaving the shop, I felt the ebony box shift in my pocket and a cool wind caressed my cheek.

"I'd given up hope," I heard her say.

"You know," I said without turning my head. "I never got your name."

Faint laughter tickled my ear as I felt a ghostly arm slip into mine and sensed a new story was just beginning.

Carl Rauscher
Gaithersburg, MD

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