Striking a Chord

“Ninety dollars is all I can give you for it,” the pawnbroker offered.

Luis replied, “Are you sure you can’t pay the $200? It’s actually worth much more than that.”

It’s worth the last two years of my life, Luis thought. Two years of memories, highs and lows with the love of my life. 

The pawnbroker removed the toothpick he had been chewing on. He indicated to the guitar lying on the shop counter before him and continued: “Maybe it’s worth more brand new, but there are scratches on the body–”

Where Terri flung her shoe at me and cursed at me for making too much noise.

“– and a few of the frets appear to be missing.” He pointed to the scratches on the woodwork and fingered the neck of the instrument indicating the obvious absence of the metal strips.

I’d worn them down composing song after song for us.

The store owner replaced the toothpick in his mouth and examined the instrument further. Picking up the guitar, he adjusted the tuners and strummed a few notes.

“Pitch doesn’t sound right,” he concluded and replaced the guitar on the countertop.

Luis stopped to consider. He really needed the money, but this was his most prized possession.

“How about $150?” he suggested. “Believe me, it’s a steal.”

The same way Terri stole my heart and my money, and moved in with that “friend” from work.

The pawnbroker shook his head. He gestured at the other guitars on the wall behind him.

“They’re all ‘a steal’,” he drawled nonchalantly. The toothpick bobbed up and down through his teeth as he spoke. “And believe me, son, they all come with a story.”

Not like our story, I’m sure. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girls says she loves boy. Girl runs off with another girl and breaks boy’s heart. Girl lied.

The shop owner folded his arms across his massive belly and declared dryly, “Ninety dollars. Final offer.”

Luis stared at the pawnbroker as he continued chewing on the toothpick between his lips. There was just no negotiating with him.

Luis had received the custom-made Tagima acoustic guitar for his eighteenth birthday several years before from his father. The older man worked at the factory in São Paulo where the instrument was manufactured and had received it as a retirement gift. For him, this was equivalent to the obligatory retirement gold watch. For Luis, this was the only heirloom he would receive from his father in his lifetime.

But he desperately needed $200.

He sighed and relented. “Ok, you win. I’ll take the $90.”

Terri would have cussed me out for giving in like that. She always said I was spineless.

The pawnbroker gave him a thumb’s up sign and took the guitar from Luis and placed it behind the shop counter. He walked over to another part of the store to fill out the paperwork and retrieve the cash. As he did so, Luis’ mobile phone rang.

He checked the caller ID, then answered it.

“Hi…yeah,” he responded to the caller. “I’ve managed to raise about half the money. But don’t worry, I’ll try and raise the rest of it somehow.”

“No, don’t worry about it,” he assured the caller on the line. “Yeah I know you need to pay your rent by Tuesday…I promised you and I’ll get it to you. OK?”

The caller spoke some more. Luis nodded.

“Yeah, I’ll drop off about $100 now and I’ll get the rest for you in a few days.”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. I promise, Terri. I lov—” But the caller had already hung up.

He replaced the phone in his pocket just as the store owner returned with the cash and the pawn ticket for the guitar. Luis briefly wondered whether he’d ever see his beloved instrument or Terri again after he loaned her the money.

Nah, he reasoned and shook off the thought. She’d never leave me out on a limb like that.

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