A Pawnshop Full of Rainbows
by Gayla Chaney
forum: A Pawnshop Full of Rainbows
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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A Pawnshop Full of Rainbows


        There is no way to start at the beginning, so let's just begin with first thing Monday morning. You yawn and stretch before reaching across the bed to turn off the alarm. You dress and have your coffee before heading out the door to the job you've held for nine years at the refinery. The sun is just breaking through the clouds as you pull your Dodge minivan into the parking lot and wave at Larry, the security guard, who raises a slack hand, and you begin your workday on the early shift. Or instead, this Monday becomes a special Monday. You decide to do something different, something you've thought about for awhile, but until last night, as you were lying in bed with your eyes opened, staring into the dark as your spouse slept soundly beside you, you weren't sure you really wanted to go through with it. Yet your mind felt pregnant with the idea. It felt like your only real option if you were ever to escape that pounding, claustrophobic pressure. Overnight, the thought became such a strong urge, it metamorphosed into a diabolic plot that seemed absolutely necessary by daybreak, compellingly so.

        Hence, on this Monday, before the alarm goes off and everyone in the house begins to stir, in these quiet moments before dawn, you take the hammer you have hidden under your bed and with all the force that you can muster, you swing it down hard on your sleeping wife's face, splattering brain tissue across the headboard of your J.C. Penney's bed, which your wife purchased on your credit card, and you are still making payments on the fifteenth of each month. Afterwards, you proceed down the hall, considering what should be done with your sleeping children: Josh, whom you have coached in Little League for the past two years and who wants a guitar for Christmas and Misty Jean, who looks like her mother and needs a speech therapist if she is ever to learn to speak correctly. All this on a Monday morning unless…

        You are not married, or a parent, or financially responsible enough to have a credit card with which to purchase new bedroom furniture. You might coast downtown in your eight-year-old Buick with the stereo blasting, the bass rattling the windows of the cars beside you. You might have a destination, such as the pool hall, where you hopefully can pick up a few bucks playing some cocky fool who doesn't know how good you are before heading on to the bowling alley for a few beers before picking up your kid sister when she gets off work at the mall.

        Or, you could drive your Buick over to the Fairway Apartments to pick up Jimmy and Fritz, who are waiting for you outside their place with three ski masks and their recently acquired snub nose revolver. Jimmy smells like sweat and glue. The guy hates to bathe, but he has other qualities that make him good for what they are about to do. Fritz mutters, "Turn right at the next corner." He points out the place that he and Jimmy have selected, and he tells you to circle the block until the convenience store has no customers. The clerk is a young Pakistani who starts to hyperventilate when you put the gun in his face and scream for him to "Open the goddamn drawer, or I'll blow your fuckin' head off!" You think about killing him anyway, even if he opens the drawer and does everything just like you say. You've got the gun to his forehead and your finger on the trigger, and you just can't decide whether to pull it or not. Unless…

        Holding up convenience stores is beneath you. Being some male punk is the furthest thing from your reality. Then, perhaps, you don't have to decide whether to pull or not to pull. That will not be the question.

        Instead, maybe you're female, a woman in her mid-thirties, and you have some other questions to ask yourself, like what you should fix for supper. The kids are watching TV while doing their homework, and your husband is on his way home. You think maybe spaghetti is easier, but you're not really in the mood for tomato sauce, and you wonder if you have time to thaw some steaks when the phone rings. The voice on the other end tells you that she is your husband's mistress, and she just thought you ought to know what's really going on, and then she mentions that your husband said you were "completely oblivious," but she is certain that you must have suspected something. She apologizes for upsetting you before she rings off, leaving you in a state of shock as you recall all the out-of-town trips Hubby has made in the last six months, and you start to faint or vomit or have some other autonomic reaction before breaking down into a sobbing heap on the kitchen floor, wondering whether to slit your wrists or his, and if you hadn't gotten fat, would this have happened?

        Or, you slowly hang up the phone and start boiling the water for spaghetti. While the water is heating, you contemplate the safety deposit box and the brokerage accounts and dyeing your head blonde like you had it in college. You wonder whatever happened to Rory Flanagan, the boy you dated before you dated your husband. You wonder if he stayed in Chicago or went back to his hometown…where was it? Kansas. Yeah, somewhere near the Colorado border. You figure if you had an atlas, the name would pop out at you. Wouldn't it be something if he were divorced or single, too? You pour the pasta into the water and watch the steam rise just as you hear the key in the door. You turn to smile at the guilty sonofabitch and you feel absolute gratitude toward him for making it perfectly okay to act insane and you offer him an incredible smile, one that he cannot possibly read, one that signals to the wild, young woman locked up for the past twelve years that life is about to begin again. Unless…

        It isn't like that at all. Maybe the skies are not cloudy where you live. Today and every day is always a majestic blue before the velvet eclipse of night. You might hum "Blue skies, nothing but blue skies…" while you stroll down your street to the java kiosk on the corner early one morning, stopping only to ask yourself, "Café latte or espresso? Decaf or regular? Sugar or Sweet-N-Low? Muffin or bagel?" until you finally exhaust all the possibilities that could possibly await you at the corner coffee stand. Then, with breakfast in hand, you progress through your perfectly beautiful day.

        You glide past shop windows, casually assessing mannequins' apparel, untroubled by a dead wife, or anybody named Jimmy or Fritz, or a cheating husband, or pool halls or bowling alleys, or beds bought on credit cards from J.C. Penney's. And if that is your life, you might be able to spend the whole day (after you finish drinking your coffee) lying on your back on a soft bed of grass watching clouds drift across the sky, creating a virtual menagerie, a parade of fluffy, cumulous animals that float through the air for your viewing entertainment. Unless….

        Your life is dappled with chiaroscuro streaks because some angel stole your rainbow. Or some demon. You didn't actually see it happen, but you know it did because it was there one minute and gone the next and who but an angel or a demon could make that happen? Ordinary folks can't wash the color from the skies, or can they? The concept of ordinary folks catches in your mind and for the next ten minutes, you argue against every definition you come up with.

        But it's getting late and you should be going. You stand in the gloaming and try to recall which Robert Frost poem reminds you of this moment: the one about the snowy woods or the one about the road not taken? And as you mentally recite fragments from each one, the light all but vanishes from the sky and still, you linger. It's not as though you are lost; you just don't know exactly where you are going. And it's just so difficult to see through those brambles. What waits on the other side? You wonder.

        Every hidden, unexposed crevice holds a secret. You pivot, then pause. You long for a flashlight's beam, but maybe that's like taking off the blindfold in Blind Man's Bluff. That would be cheating, unless you decided you needed to collect some samples of the flora and fauna. In that case, it would be absolutely necessary to see what was out there. Maybe you wish to ponder the multiple possibilities of mutations that could occur given the right agents. You could scrutinize the experiment in your own personal laboratory while listening to Mozart or Hank Williams or to the pendulum of a clock tick-tocking, and eventually, you'd come up with something interesting, perhaps, even remarkable. Examine those details because rumor has it that is where God dwells. But, if God is in the details, where is the devil lurking? Probably somewhere out there in the dark. Yes, he's out there. You can sense him. You almost hear him gloating, hunkered down in his pawnshop full of rainbows.


copyright 2006 Gayla Chaney.

Gayla Chaney:

Gayla Chaney's fiction has appeared in Potomac Review, Phantasmagoria, Thema, Concho River Review, and Natural Bridge. She recently won the Predator Press Chapbook Award for her collection, Women in Motion. Gayla and her husband Phil are the parents of three sons, Paul, Paxton, and Phillip. They make their home in central Texas.

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