The Pawn Game

The bar is crowded when he walks in. Its only minutes before he finds his mark: a young guy, just out of college, sitting alone at the bar. He approaches the young man. A salesman never sleeps; never stops his pitch, and thats what this older gentleman is. In fact, hes the finest salesman Ive ever met.


How do you like those shoes youre wearing? Just fine? Good. Johnston and Murphy, right? I thought so. I sold those for a number of years. Where? Oh, you know. Here and there. Ive sold to some high-rollers, you know. Janet Jackson and Phil Collins and Wayne Newton.


A pause.


I sold shoes to the Devil, you know. Twice. Swear to God. Similar to what youve got on there. He likes his shoes. Im standing at the counter, watching the cars go by, and in he walks. Two of those, he says, and he points to a shoe. 11D. Thats a size, you know. Pretty common. We shouldnt have two in stock, and I tell him that. He tells me to check for two, though, and I do. What do you know? Two pairs. 11D.

He goes to try them on, and they fit like a glove. You know, when you work in shoes, you can tell how they feel on the customer before they even stand up. Theres a sound, you know. The sound of the foot sliding in. You can tell a lot about a shoes fit by the sound.

Anyway, he takes them up to the counter, and before I know it hes walked out without paying and I dont even think to stop him til a couple hours later. Hes walking out the door, he is, and he turns to me. Says Im a good salesman. And thats it.

This happens twice more in the next year. Shoes dont last too long when the Devils wearing them, you know.


Hes got the young man clinging to his every word. He takes a drink before he continues.


You wouldnt know its him, by the way. You might, but mostly people dont. Hes not red. No pointy ears, tail, or pitchfork. Hes not the smooth businessman with the white suit, either. No. Hes a lot simpler than that.


He wears a leather jacket, and has long hair slicked behind his head. He sometimes wears glasses that ride on the end of his nose. They make him look older than he is. Imagine that. Hes Polish. I can tell by his nose.


I can say that, you know. The Polish nose, that is. Its ok. Im Polish. My Dads Polish. My Moms Polish. Hell, theres a lot of Poles around here. Speaking of my Dad, the devil has his nose. It couldve been taken right off my fathers face, and I wouldnt have known the difference. My sisters got that same nose. My Dad. His Dad. His Dad. Me, well. Ive got my Moms Polish nose. Different part of Poland, they say. I think its from the Eastern side. Or the Western. I always get them confused.


Hes a salesman too. The Devil. Not my Dad. My Dad was a pharmacist. Kinda like sales. Right? Medicine sales. Drug sales. Favor sales. That kinda thing. The Devil is more traditional. What does he sell? Ill give you two guesses.


HINT: Its not shoes.


He laughs.


You could say he works in pawns. He might buy your soul outright. Thats the easy way. One minute, you got it. Next minute, you dont. But youre 1,000 dollars richer. Or 10. Or 10,000. Theres no set price for a soul, you know. Makes sense, right?

If he doesnt buy it outright, he might pawn it for you. Take your soul as collateral, against a 90 day loan. And again, 1,000 dollars, 10 dollars, or 10,000. Or more. Or less. Of course, theres a little bit of interest involved. And if you dont pay, well, there goes your soul. Thats the pawn game.


It can be hard to pay your pawns, these days. In this economy, shit. Ive got bills to pay. More bills to pay. Who can afford to pay back a thousand dollar pawn? The shoe game has its ups and downs. Slow days, and fast.  Just like all sales jobs.


Except the Pawn business.


Hes wrapping up his pitch. The young man stares straight ahead.


Its brighter on that side of town. Check it out sometime. The neon lights, the signs, the headlights; they never dim. The casinos churn out their own sounds, blasted from every corner. EVERY MINUTE A WINNER, screams one robotic voice. VOTED BEST SLOTS IN TOWN, says another. The noise from the drunks and the addicts and the homeless almost matches the volume.


The barred door is heavy, and the shop is dimly lit. But dont let that scare you. It didnt scare me. It was time for a career change. I had debts to repay, and only one man can take payment.


Im looking for work, I say to the man in the jacket behind the counter. The man with the long, slicked back hair and the polish nose. He recognizes me, and smiles. Tells me he knows just the place for me. And Ive been there ever since.


He finishes his drink.

Say, you look like a man who knows a good deal when he sees one. Here. Take a card. We can always use a little extra business in this economy, and you look like the kind of guy who could use a little cash on the side.


The bar closes in an hour. The young man takes the card with him when he leaves. Outside, the lights flash and the music plays in a city full of salesmen that never sleep.


Uploaded 04/15/2012
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