Business was slow at the pawn shop. In fact, it was deadly quiet. Peter flipped through catalogues, and Joey got on the phone for every business related call he could conceive of, but the truth was that they had all the inventory they needed, and there wasn’t any business going on to make calls about. It became an unspoken truth neither of them wanted to address, but finally Joey broached the subject.
“You’d think in an economic downturn this kind of business would do well.”
Peter looked up, surprised at this acknowledgment of their current bad luck. “How so?”
“In good times, people might just go buy a whole new set.”
Peter thought about this, as an idea germinated in his head, but he did not say anything. He knew it ran counter to Joey’s vision.
Every morning they opened up the shop, the myriad orbs staring like blind eyes. As the silences dragged on, finally Peter had to speak.
“Joey, I think we’ve got to diversify.”
“What do you mean?”
“We need to offer other pieces.”
“But…the odds are sixteen in thirty-two verses…one in sixteen that…”
“All those ones in sixteen add up to half! Half the pieces!”
Joey had nothing to say. He knew the logic; he just hated breaking the purity of selling nothing but pawns. He hated breaking the pattern of all those little orbs. Still, he broke down, and soon there was a table offering Knights, Bishops, Rooks and Queens. Joey insisted that anybody who loses their king should concede and buy a new set, but this was the only point on which he didn’t concede.
Still nothing sold.
Then one day a ragged looking gentleman entered the store. He barely glanced at the merchandise. He walked over to Joey and pulled a small marble pawn out of his pocket.
“Want to buy?” he asked.
Joey laughed. “I’ve got a store full of pawns. Why would I want to buy yours?”
“It’s a nice piece. Marble.”
“I’ve got marble pawns. Lots of them.”
“All right, look. I’m a little behind on cash, and I need some cigarettes. How about this: you give me a dollar for this pawn, and I’ll buy it back at the end of the month for a dollar twenty five. You make a profit.”
“How do I know you’ll buy it back?”
“If I don’t, you can sell it for at least that much.”
It could have been desperation, or momentary confusion, or maybe Joey just wanted to see what would happen, but he agreed to the bargain. He took the piece and gave the man a dollar.
At the end of the month, the man did not appear, and Joey ruefully put the pawn out on display with the other unbought pieces.
Two weeks later the man reappeared. Joey scowled at him. “So, are you back to buy your wonderful pawn back?”
“Oh hey, yeah, sorry about that. Times are a little tough these days. I’m flat broke. In fact, I was wondering if we could do the same thing again.”
“No! Absolutely not! I’ve got all the chess pieces I need!”
“Okay, yeah, I get that. What about a guitar?”
“I’ve got a vintage Ovation out in my van. It’d go for like, seven hundred bucks. Throw me a few C’s for it and I’ll definitely be back with the cash at the end of the month. I don’t want to lose this guitar.”
Peter jumped in. “Look pal, we’re not a bank. We sell chess pieces! So why don’t you…”
Jerry stopped him with a gesture. “Let’s think about it. Why don’t you go get that guitar and we’ll take a look at it?”
The man smiled. “Sure buddy! I’ll be right back!”
He left and Peter looked at Jerry incredulously. Jerry said nothing, and looked around him at all the pawns and other pieces. He already knew that his business was about to change, forever.