14.

The next day, Joe began making arrangements to leave town. His next show was gonna be in Arlington, Virginia, on New Year's Eve, and his ticket had already been booked in advance for Christmas afternoon. Nonetheless, there was still much to keep him busy, and for that he was grateful, as his thoughts tended to wander far too often towards Marjorie for his taste. First of all, there were rehearsals to be held. He had a few new numbers he was looking forward to run by Betty, if she ever was compliant enough to collaborate. Secondly, there was the matter of Ethel's injury. He couldn't stand the thought of sitting idly while his friend and motherly figure struggled to keep her life together, not knowing if the only source of income she ever knew could still be there once she recovered.

That afternoon, he'd fished out the dusty old phone book out of his bedside drawer and found the address to the closest pawn shop. He arrived in Belleville an hour later via bus, his whole life belongins stuffed in his brown leather suitcase.

The bell above the door jingled as Joe entered the spacious locale. The place looked more like a warehouse than a shop. An open space made of concrete walls, it was lined up with shelves and plywood tables displaying all kinds of antique items.

An older, balding, plump man sat on a stool behind the counter in the back of the room, flipping through a magazine.

"Excuse me," Joe said. "I'm Joe Casey, I called before to get my belongings inspected."

"Sure." The man put down his magazine and met Joe on the counter. "Let's see what you got."

"I don't think it's much, but I got a friend in a tight spot, and anything that could help is good."

Joe put the suitcase on the counter and opened it.

The elder man entered in full focus, pulling item after item out the bag and inspecting them carefully, without saying a word. Books, clothes, records, anything he could get his hands on was fair game.

"Hmm," he said, pulling out a pair of socks.

"What?" Joe asked hopefully.

"Nothing, you just have a lot of socks."

"I dance. I like to always have an extra pair. Now, is there anything valuable in there?"

"Let me finish." the man replied, continuing his perusal. He tossed aside a bottle of cologne and a few pair of shoes, before his eyes lit up.

"I want this." He said, holding up Joe's lucky baseball.

"Nope. That's the one thing I can't give you. You see, it's my lucky charm."

"Damn right, it is. You know how much it's worth?" The man's eyes bulged.

"That old ratty baseball?"

"That's no old ratty baseball, my son. Where did you get it?"

"At a pirates game about fifteen years ago. It was a home run."

"I'll be darned." the man replied in disbelief. " … Here's the deal. I believe in pawn business you gotta be honest to make a good deal, so I'm telling you straight up – some other guy would try to pull a fast one on you and make you go home with fifty bucks. Lucky for you, you found me." he pointed his thumb at his brawny chest.

He then moved through a beaded curtain to the storage room, to emerge about a minute later with a large tome entitled History of American baseball.

He licked his thumb and browsed through the pages, landing on one towards the end reading Leland Dorsey: One hit wonder.

"This guy," he pointed to the photo portraying a scrawny guy wish a mustache in a baseball uniform "signed your ball. He played only one season in the pirates."

"I remember him."

"That's his only home run for that team. He stopped playing two years later after an injury."

"So what, he's a lousy hitter."

"And that makes your baseball all the more rare."

"So, how much are we talking? Ten bucks? Twenty?"

"Young man, you better sit down."