Believe in you

Believe in you

Two weeks ago we published the opening scene of Deep Ellum Pawn, a novelette, © 2019 by G. S. Norwood. Last week we offered Scene Two. Here’s a third glimpse. Deep Ellum Pawn is now available for Kindle, if you’d like to read the whole thing!

Seeking sustenance

Of course the damned violin was still on the counter when I got back from feeding Tid. I stared at the scorched, peeling, sticky case for a few moments, hoping for inspiration, before I realized I had forgotten my own lunch. “Running low on energy, Eddy,” I muttered to myself. “That’s why you’re stuck.”

Not that I expected a bit of sustenance would bring me lightning bolts of brilliance, but a walk in the sunshine always lifted my spirits. I promised myself I’d tackle the fiddle just as soon as I got back, grabbed my hoodie, and stepped out into the world.

There was a nip in the wind. I ran a quick check on the front of my store as I zipped my jacket. The wrought iron burglar bars were rust-free. Nothing broken or shorted out on the neon “Deep Ellum Pawn” sign over the door. The hand-carved desk, freshly-painted doghouse, and slightly dented tuba in the front window would intrigue customers. A sign, made by a loyal customer, was clearly visible from the sidewalk.

“Honest Eddy Weekes,” it said. The sign bore a smiling cartoon figure of a curvy young woman who was probably meant to be me. “Here when you need her.” A throng of happy cartoon people surrounded the woman with speech balloons over their heads that read, “Thank you, Eddy!” and “We believe in you!”

It all looked good. With a nod, I headed past the fluttering streamers of the tattoo parlor on the corner, then cut over to Commerce Street to wind past the burger joints and bars to my favorite sandwich shop.

About halfway along, I spotted a cluster of young creatives near the former flophouse that was now a shared-space office complex. They’d stepped outside to smoke, or vape, or whatever they did when they wanted to get up from their desks and take a brain break.

“Hey, Eddy!” A cute brunette, with pixie-short hair and a pixie-short dress, waved as I got close.

“Pomona. Aren’t you cold in this wind?” I nodded at her bare legs.

“Nah.” She wrapped her little cardigan more tightly around her torso, as if that would keep her knees from turning blue, and pulled a tall, shaggy sapling of a guy out of the knot of her co-workers. “Michael, this is Eddy. She owns the pawnshop I told you about. You should go there. She has guitars.”

“You a musician?” I asked. “I have amps, too. Drums. Lots of stuff. Come in anytime, if you’re interested.”

Michael did not look particularly interested, but Pomona gave it one more shot. “Eddy is a great supporter of the arts. Show her what you’re doing. She’s bound to love it. She said wonderful things to me, when I showed her my portfolio.”

“That’s because you’re talented,” I said. “I believe in you.”

“I believe in you, too, Eddy!” Pomona grinned and tipped me a wink.

“And right now, I believe in lunch.” I nodded to them both as I turned away. “Nice to meet you, Michael.” He’d be in, I figured, but he’d be looking at rings, not amps. At least if Pomona got her way. I believed in her on that front, too.

A sign and a mural near Commerce Street proclaim that we are in Deep Ellum Texas.
Photo by Jan S. Gephardt

A couple of cop cars sat at the curb by the sandwich shop. It was one of the reasons I frequented the place. It never hurt to foster friendly relations with our emergency responders. Plus, they had all the good gossip.

“Eddy!” Two extra-large police officers—one black and one brown—greeted me as I squeezed into the extra-small shop. I had to twist sideways to reach the counter without jostling their holstered pistols.

“Gentlemen,” I responded. “How’s the day treating you?”

“So far, so good,” said Officer Stokes, the brown one, who came by once a week to pick up the police copies of all my pawn tickets.

“Only excitement was some junkie collapsed over on Malcolm X, about thirty minutes ago.” Officer Gilmore’s bass rumble would have made an earthquake proud. “White guy. Scruffy beard. Beige flannel shirt. You ever see him around?”

Violin Guy. I needed to be careful here. He hadn’t filled out a ticket on the golden fiddle. Yet. “Greasy blond hair? Bad teeth?”

When Stokes and Gilmore nodded, I nodded back. “Yeah, he came in just after noon. Had a crappy old fiddle he wanted to sell me.” I was pretty sure I had one of those in the back if they asked. “Claimed it was made of solid gold. I figured he was high on something.”

“You gave him money, didn’t you?” A wide grin split Stokes’ face. “For what? Food and a trip to rehab?”

“You sayin’ I’m a soft touch, Officer Stokes?”

“I believe in your generous heart, Ms. Weekes.”

“Yeah. Well. I might have given him something. He looked like he was all stove-in.”

“Told you that fifty came from her.” Stokes opened his palm to Gilmore, who put a ten in it without comment.

“What did he do? Buy a hit and OD?” I hoped not.

“Nope. Just collapsed from bein’ sick, hungry, and miserable, as far as we could tell,” Stokes said.

“Ambulance took him to Baylor,” Gilmore added. “He’ll probably live.”

“Until the next time.” Stokes didn’t look optimistic.

I paid for my sandwich, wished the two officers and the three folks behind the counter a good day, and headed north toward Elm Street.

A new building was going up across from the bondage and leatherwear shop. They’d taken out a whole block of crumbling storefronts from the 1940s to build a high-rise condo complex. I figured that meant a new wave of gentrification was about to hit Deep Ellum, even worse than the plague of pricy lofts and fern bars that hit in the 1990s.

A scene from the real Deep Ellum offers a glimpse of both old and new. Miz Eddy tells her neighbors she believes in them, and they reply they "believe in you" right back, no matter what changes come.
Photo by Jan S. Gephardt

A few Chamber of Commerce types were gathered on the sidewalk in front of the construction. An equal number of natives watched and muttered from the sidewalk in front of the leather shop. Looked like C of C Suit #1 was giving the rest of the suits some kind of sales pitch.

“ . . . Because we believe in preserving and promoting the unique spirit of this historic neighborhood!” His voice carried across the street as I came up behind the unreceptive crew of locals.

“Preserving and promoting my ass,” said the tank-sized woman in white tee and black leather pants.

“It’s a fine ass, Violet. You gotta admit.”

Violet, whose mohawked hair matched her name, turned my way, and her frown turned even fiercer. “Why don’t you do something, Eddy? You’ve been here longer than anyone. They should listen to you.”

I shrugged. “Neighborhoods change, Violet. But I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

“Gawd, I hope not. It wouldn’t be Deep Ellum without you.”

I slid around her with a smile, and crossed on a diagonal to avoid the C of C guys. A few more blocks brought me to the 7-Eleven, where I found Perkins, one of our resident homeless guys, leaning against the wall next to the dumpster, smoking a cigarette.

“Hey, Perkins.” I handed him my sandwich, which he accepted, but didn’t so much as look at. “See Morsel anywhere lately? I hear there’s a pack of dogs comin’ around at night. I don’t want him to be caught out.”

“Ain’t seen no dogs,” Perkins said. “Heard ‘em, though. Last night.”

“Don’t you be caught out, either.”

“I got me a place. No worries.”

“Know anything about a skinny little blond guy, claims he has a golden fiddle?”

“That dude’s messed up.” Perkins had been an on-the- street alcoholic for at least two years, with intermittent bouts of the DTs and the occasional psychotic break. He knew messed up when he saw it. “Showed up last night, askin’ about you. Heard them dogs ‘bout an hour later.”

So Violin Guy had come to Deep Ellum from somewhere outside, looking for me in particular. Interesting.

“Cops took the guy to Baylor just now,” I said. “Dogs may be a little harder to get rid of.” Might as well warn him one more time. If the Hell Hounds were coming, I didn’t want any collateral damage.

“Saw old Morse’ about an hour ago, over by the school.” Perkins ground out his cigarette on the sole of his shoe. “I’ll be sure to send him home if I see him again.”

“’Preciate it.” I nodded as I turned back toward my shop.

“Keep on believin’, Ms. Eddy.” Perkins called after me. “That’s what I do.”

If you’d like to keep on readin’ and believin’ , the entire Deep Ellum Pawn novelette is now available for Kindle.

IMAGE CREDITS: the header image is a detail from the cover of Deep Ellum Pawn, ©2019 by Chaz Kemp. The photos were taken in the Deep Ellum neighborhood in September, 2018 by Jan S. Gephardt. Re-post or use them if you like, but please include an attribution and a link back to this page. Thanks!

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