A shorter, more recent version of this story exists.
Mike frowned at the “Closed” sign in the window of Dick’s Pawn Shop and looked down at the American Eagle — an ounce of platinum — that he twirled between his fingers. He knew pawn shops tended to close early and it was already past 8:00 PM, but he had his fingers crossed as he sped across town. He needed cash.
He sped off again down the road, heading in the general direction of his apartment. He paid less attention to the road than he should have though, as his thoughts were more on the hungry growls coming from his stomach and the fact that he had less than a sixteenth of a tank of gas left. Somewhere along the way, he had taken a wrong turn. In the past, that wouldn’t have been an issue, but since he had pawned his GPS navigator only two days before, it was an issue now. He started to circle around the block he had turned onto by accident, aiming to get back onto the strip, when he caught a glimpse of the word “Pawn” on a sign to his left, in front of a lit store. He hastily made a U-turn and pulled into a strip mall that he had never been to before.
Mike nervously looked around the parking lot of the seedy strip mall. Tucked in the corner of the various shops was a narrow store named “Sal’s Pawn.” The store front was kind of blackened and the windows grimy, but lights were on inside. It was in fact the only store in the strip mall that appeared to be open, and the parking lot was empty except for his car and one other which was parked in front of Sal’s. Mike pulled his car up next to the other, turned off the engine, and went inside.
Inside, two men stood behind a window and waited as an elderly woman rummaged through her purse for something. Next to the window was a door that presumably led from the small vestibule into the pawn shop. That door was locked, however, so Mike got in line behind the elderly woman as she rummaged through her purse. She was pulling out various items and putting them on the counter: Kleenex, lipstick, more Kleenex, still more Kleenex … elderly ladies sure carry a lot of Kleenex. While the woman may have been around 70, she looked positively youthful compared to the two guys on the other side of the window. They looked decrepit; not wrinkled so much as atrophied. They wore dark suits and had slender bald heads barely wider than their necks. What really stood out about the men though were their Adam’s apples, which hung from their necks like ballsacks. Imagine the guy from the painting American Gothic, mummify him, and put a giant nutsack where his Adam’s apple should be, and that is what these two guys looked like. They might have been twins. Mutant 120 year old twins, but twins nonetheless.
Finally, the woman found what she was looking for and placed three coins on the counter at the window. Mike craned his neck a little to see what they were: Three early twentieth century Indian Head Eagles. Nice coins, about a half ounce of gold each. Composition: 90% gold, 10% copper. Mike knew his coins. Mike watched the wormy old guy’s ballsack of an Adam’s apple gyrate up and down as he made an offer to the woman. She nodded and he counted out around $2000 and handed it over to the woman who tucked the money into her purse. She then walked to the locked door and was apparently buzzed through as the door seemed unlocked when she pulled it. She disappeared into the interior of the pawn shop and the door swung closed behind her.
“I thought it was closed?” said Mike, pointing at the door the woman had gone through.
“Members only,” croaked one of the scrotum-throated men.
“Members only? This is a pawn shop, right?” asked Mike.
“It is,” said the man. They weren’t big on small talk or lengthy explanations.
“So, how do I become a member?” asked Mike.
“Bring us something useful,” said the man.
Mike plopped his platinum American Eagle piece down on the counter at the window. It should get him between $1400 and $1500 — enough to get by until his next payday. The wormy man who seemed to do all of the talking carefully picked it up with a bit of tissue, as if it were a dead cockroach, and eyed it with a distinct look of disgust, his lip curling up to one side. He then dropped the bullion piece back down onto the counter and slid it back to Mike. “We aren’t interested in ghetto metals here,” he said.
“Ghetto metals?” said Mike. “What the fuck man? It’s platinum!”
“It’s ghetto platinum,” said the scrotum neck.
“What the fuck is ‘ghetto’ about it?” asked Mike.
The scrotum throat looked down at the disk of platinum on the counter. “Mixed isotopes,” he sneered. He pointed a bony finger at the ingot. “You’ve got a good six isotopes there, all jumbled up. We’ll take a single isotope if you have it, but we don’t want your ghetto blend.”
“The fuck you say?” said Mike. “You just bought three gold coins from that woman ahead of me. My platinum is 0.9995% pure; that gold she just sold you is 10% copper.”
The guy behind the window shrugged. “Pulling copper out of gold is like picking a bit of lint off your shirt. Isotopes are more of a bother. When’s the last time you had mixed isotopes of gold, hmmm?”
The other scrotum neck, who thus far had been silent, made a sound like a snort, followed by a long series of honking sounds that resembled laughter. The talking scrotum neck turned to that one and honked back. “Nark Nark Honk Nyuk Nyuk Nark!”
Mike was feeling a little insulted. “Okay then,” he said, “what else do you buy? I need cash.”
“Got any thorium on you? Or maybe terbium? We could really use some non-ghetto terbium if you have any. Pay you top dollar.”
“I don’t have any fucking thorium or terbium. What do I look like? The periodic table?”
“How about something with a little pep then?” said the talking scrotum neck. “Got anything with negative mass?”
“Negative mass?” asked Mike. “You mean like, antimatter?”
The non-talking scrotum neck started laughing (or nark-nyuking) again. “Do you not have schools on this planet?” asked the talking one. “No, not like antimatter. Antimatter, like regular matter, can have positive or negative mass. But we don’t want either flavor of antimatter, since we don’t have anything to store it in.”
“Well, I don’t have anything with negative mass then,” said Mike.
“Hmmm, said the scrotum neck. How about imaginary mass then. Got anything with imaginary mass?”
“Imaginary mass?” asked Mike. “You mean like, antimatter?”
“Nark Honk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!” laughed the non-speaking testicular-throated man. The talking one shook his head. “No Sonny, not like antimatter. What is it with you and antimatter? Is this a fetish of some kind?”
“Well what the hell are you asking for then?” said Mike. “Negative mass, imaginary mass … speak some fucking English and tell me what you want?”
The talking guy behind the counter pointed a bony finger at the platinum piece. “See that?” he said. Multiply its mass by negative one and you’ll have negative mass ghetto platinum. Multiply it’s mass by the square root of negative one, and you’ll have imaginary mass ghetto platinum. For shits and giggles, multiply it’s mass by the negative square root of negative one, and you’ll have ghetto platinum with negative imaginary mass. We would actually buy that, even if it is ghetto, because negative imaginary mass items are hard to come by. But what we don’t want is your fetishistic negative imaginary antimatter platinum, because antimatter sucks.”
“I give up,” said Mike. “I don’t have any of these things you’re talking about. Can you think of anything I might actually have on me that you would be willing to buy from me? Maybe my car? Or my watch? It’s a Timex.”
The two scrotum necks nark-nyuked back and forth for awhile. After a bit, the talking one turned back to Mike. “Ten bucks for a sample of your DNA. We’ve got a–um, a kind of a petting zoo. Of course, a DNA sample isn’t enough to gain membership in the store.”
Mike didn’t inquire further about the petting zoo comment. He let scrotum neck scrap some cells from the inside of his mouth, took the ten dollars, and left. At least it was enough to gas up his car on the way home.
— R. S. Huber