“I can give ya 30 bucks . . .”

Fuck, we’re worth more than that. Do you remember when that prick ripped us off her neck, and we scattered all over the motel room and got lost under the bed? She got down on her hands and knees, on that filthy, fluid-soaked carpet, and picked every one of us up . . .

The pearls had already seen much catastrophe. They were happy in the Jesus Loves Me pawn shop, reclining on navy velvet. Serene. No pressure to perform. Their previous owner navigated her life rather tragically. Some nights, the pearls would discuss how they accompanied her through blasphemous stumbles and countless down-and-out troubadours.

“You, goddamn son-of-a-bitch . . . You never loved me . . .”

Seagrams 7 and 7 smoothed her squalid edges. No ice. Plates flung across the kitchen. Everything shatters eventually.

It was true, the pearls observed. He never did love her. None of them ever would. Her small bedroom reeked of the detritus of extravagant hope – hope for tenderness, love, redemption, joy. None of it came. The pearls remained bystanders, en route to a frenzied dissolution. They watched their owner’s life unravel under the hiss of neon and the orchid skyline of dusk, night after night, dawn after dawn. Extended trips to Niagara Falls – where leather-covered bibles lay interred in drawers – never to be read. Lots of cheap motels with dilapidated roofs and shoddy tilework. Cash and carry. She’d squint at the liquid daylight assaulting her skin, her eyes. Another John placated. The Blue Moon, The Rex, The Travelodge – all different yet all the same. No matter how hard the pearls tried to lend their owner a sense of refinement, she ravaged all their hope. Yellowed with age but still iridescent, their antique sheen is still visible as a potential new owner looms.

“Nah. These are cultured . . . I can’t let them go for less than 30.”

Yeah . . . fuck, man, we’re cultured as shit. Remember that time she was thrown out of her apartment and had to find a new place? We got that place for her . . .

Stubby fingers hold up the yellowed strand. Rancid breath make the pearls nauseous. Dangling – panicked they’ll be dropped and separated again – they resist. The pearls cling to the cheap velvet. It doesn’t work. They’re hanging mid-air. The pearls hated the touch of men. It always ended badly.

We command respect. We can make you worthy. This guy is not worthy.

“They ain’t worth 30 . . .”

“South Sea pearls are hard to come by. If you want ’em, I can go to 25. That’s it.”

Oh, Christ, he’s going down . . . Not this prick, not him, not him, not him . . .

The pawn shop owner waits. He’s good at waiting. He knows he’s got something for everyone. It’s just a matter of who and when. The pearls brace for departure. It’s not what they hoped for.

Hey, remember when she got rid of the kid?

She couldn’t afford a kid. Too much responsibility.

It was a mistake.

It was the right thing to do.

It was wrong.

Fuck you.

The aborted pregnancy was always a point of contention for the pearls. They’d argue about it, sometimes for days. Eventually, they’d come to the same conclusion: We had to watch her cry for two weeks straight. Where was anybody then? All she had was us . . . 

“Nah, I’ll pass . . . Ya got any diamonds?”

Relieved, the pearls go back into the dusty glass case. They huddle in the navy velvet, still hopeful the right person will come along. The pawn shop owner opens the diamond case. The diamonds are another story.

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