It's fiction dontcha know. If you've made it this far, you were probably invited. Enjoy the writing process with me and feel free to leave feedback.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Slurping A Bottle of Two-Percent,

Chloe reclined for the ride.

I figured the walk would be good. I do some of my best thinking when I’m walking, or when I’m in the shower, and thinking is what I needed to do. I had one hour to get to the jewelry store and back before Jess stepped off the school bus and I could swing by the little grocery market on the way back to pick up at least something for dinner. Mac n’ Cheese was always an option, but then I’d have to buy margerine. I had milk. Okay, one step at a time. Let’s see what these guys are willing to give me for these earrings.

By the time we made it to the jewelry store, I beads of sweat were building up across my forehead threatening to cause major makeup streaking. I came up the sidewalk from the back hoping they wouldn’t notice that I hadn’t driven there. I dabbed at the sweat trying to preserve my face--anything to avoid the desperate crack-mother look. Okay, so I was exaggerating but I needed every dignified dollar I could get today.

“May we help you, Ma’m?” The man inside the circle of glass display cases seemed pleasant enough. He was at least as old as Abe Lincoln's granddad. His Larry King suspenders matched a yellow and brown hound’s tooth bow-tie that went well over the long-sleeved, blue dress shirt. The shirt would have accommodated him even if he’d been twenty-five pounds heavier.

“Yes, actually. I’m interested in having you take a look at a pair of earrings.” I said.

“Oh, very good. Let’s have a look see.” He reached into the front pocket of his sharply pressed trousers, which were an outdated shade of chocolate brown, and produced a pair of drug store reading glasses.

I plucked the velvet bag from my purse and fished the earrings out laying them on the black velvet display pad in front of him.

“They’re vintage emerald.” I said.

“Just one moment, Dear.” He said furrowing his untamed, wiry brows. “If you’ll excuse me for just a moment, I’ll be right back with you. Do you mind if I bring one of these little pretties to the back? I’d like to check this under the jeweler’s eye.”

“Not at all.” I said.

The jeweler shuffled through to the back office door and sat down at what looked like a microscope. He was visible through the plate glass window that partitioned the desk from the showroom. He looked down his nose through the machine’s goggles while he turned the earring over, around, and over again with over sized tweezers. He pushed his chair back, gave his bowtie a tug then angled his top end around the door jamb.

“I assume you’re asking for an insurance appraisal, Young Lady?” He asked with his eyebrows almost meeting in the middle.

Now, I hadn't thought of that.

“Uh, well, yes. Yes, that’s right.” I answered.

“Very good.” He heel-toed it to the telephone at least as fast as a turtle.

It seemed like he was on the phone for a long time. The longer he stood there with the receiver wrapped up tight in his boney grip, the more my armpits stung with prickly heat. Please God, don’t let Grandma’s stuff be the last missing piece from some 1945 museum heist. I should have gone to one of those pawn shops. I looked over the top of the stroller and Chloe was mellowed out cruising on a good thumb-sucking.

He finally hung up the phone and began his journey back to the counter. I pasted a serene portrait smile across my face as he made his way.

“Well, Young Lady, these are very nice pieces. We can have the appraisal certificate for you in the morning if you’re in a hurry, and that will be a $25 charge.” He said.

“Well, I certainly appreciate it.” I said. “Were you able to determine a replacement value?”

He cleared his throat and went for the other trouser pocket for a rumpled hankerchief and pinched his W.C. Fields honker with it.

“Well, let’s see here, in today’s market,” He began, “they can’t rightly be replaced but we would call it at a firm eighteen-hundred for insurance. A collector might pay more but the insurance company doesn’t give a dingy about what some of those crazy collectors would dish over.”

I was thinking grocery money. Now I knew what people on Antiques Roadshow felt like when they found out they had a Ming Dynasty vase they thought had been a flea market hand-me-down from Aunt Trudy.

“Oh, well, yes, of course.” I said trying to maintain a nonchalant composure.

“Let us know if you’re ever interested in turnin’ loose of these girls.” He said ringing the magic bell.

“Well, I don’t think I could, you know, they’re family.” I said demurring. Grandma, pleeease understand. Dizziness washed over me and I did my best to keep my eyes from crossing.

“We’d be willing to offer you the insurance value plus ten percent if you’re ever interested.” He said probing.

I did a quick mental cipher--he was willing to fix me up with just shy of two-thousand dollars. I was blinded.

“You know, that does sound very generous. I might be interested in talking about that sometime.” I said.

“I could have a check for you in the morning. I think we could make it an even two.” He said flashing his upper dentures.

The hair on the back of my neck stood at attention and I felt a dribble of sweat race down the middle of my back.

“Sold.” I said and shot him a flirty wink.

“Very good! I’ll write you up a jewelry receipt contract and a promisory. You’ll sign, I’ll sign and we’ll trade it for a certified check in the morning.” He said not missing a beat.

Thanks, Grandma. You know I normally wouldn’t do this.

“That sounds just fine, Mr. . . .?”

“Friedman, Mr. Friedman,” he said extending a boney paw. The contract was a pre-printed form with lots of fine print and blanks for writing in names, dates, and amounts. He filled it out as if he were late for an appointment. I didn’t figure his fingers to be so nimble.

“Initial here, here, here, and right here. Sign here at the bottom and the date is May 20th.” He directed.

I signed off quickly and folded my copy tucking it away in the secret zipper pocket of my purse.

“See you in the morning, Mr. Friedman.” I said.

“I certainly hope this helps you out, Young Lady. We all need a little help sometimes.” He said as I was pushing the stroller toward the door.

Daahhk!! How did he know? I closed my eyes and inhaled all the air I could hold. I swiveled the stroller around to push the door open with my behind and smiled inquisitively.

“Come again?”

“Have a good day, Young Lady.”

We bee-lined around the sidewalk corner and I didn’t slow my pace the entire mile home.


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