Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

Fire Ring
M Alan Roberts

About 23 years ago, I was in downtown Atlanta, at the Greyhound station. I decided to take a walk, during a layover, and explore the city, a bit. On 4th Avenue, I was approached by a man who slinked up beside me and holds out his hand to display the brilliant ring on his finger. This ring was no fake; it was a solid hunk of thick, shiny gold with the biggest diamond I had ever seen on it. The diamond was clear, yet not honed to shapely perfection as most are. This diamond was a rock that commanded attention. The ring was solely for wear by a man. He looks me in the eyes and says, "C'mon man - fifty bucks".

I've spent time on the streets like few others will and I understand the ways involved. I know this ring is definitely being missed by someone - but I truly want it! But, I don't have fifty bucks of cash on me. I tell the man that I lack the cash and he then says, "How much you got?". I tell him that I have only 13 dollars. He reaches into one of his coat pockets and produces a small zip-style baggie. He palms it and again shows me his offering. It's a gold chain with a jewelry store-style price tag on it - you know, one of those little price tags on a string. I can't read it - too small.

Partially wanting to end this interlude, and partially wanting to capitalize on a great deal, I reach into my money pocket in the front of my pants. When visiting a city, I never carry my money or cards in my rear pocket - like to keep them a little closer to home. I know that there is a ten and three ones in there. I tell him that I need the 3. I shake his hand and transfer the ten-spot. In return, the plastic baggie is now in my hand. We part ways and never look back.

As I walk away, I scan the streets for police and anyone else who looks out of place - thinking maybe I have been set up or something. Nothing happens. Of course, I am thinking that the gold chain is a fake and that I have just been swindled. It doesn't really matter though. From Atlanta, the bus would take me straight to Columbus, Ohio, my destination. And it did.

When I boarded the bus, it was crowded like always. I sat one seat in front of what appeared to be an elderly Native American. He was dressed in non-norm clothing and wore lots of jewelry - mostly turquoise pieces. At one point, I took out the baggie and removed the chain from it. I also removed the little price tag from it. It read $340.

I turned to the Indian man and asked him if he could tell real gold from faux gold. He said that he probably could and to let him see. I handed the chain to him and he proceeded to examine it. He held it in his palm and weighed it on a scale in his brain. He hefted it up and down as to discern its true density and composition. He squinted to read the descriptive lettering on it but was unable. He handed it back to me and said that it did seem to be genuine gold. I liked that a lot - made me feel like I had just created some wealth.

Back at home, I showed the necklace to my father. Dad said that he knew a man at work that also owned a local jewelry store and that he would have the guy analyze it. A few days later, my dad brought me 200 dollars. He said that the man verified the authenticity of the chain and was happy to fork over the dough for it. I liked that a lot too.

I proceeded to spend the money on my Mustang - and my girlfriend. It didn't go that far, but it made a few good times. The true beauty of the event in retrospect is that feeling of freedom that it gave me to have done something a bit naughty and to have profited from it. Now, I never adopted a fully-criminal lifestyle. It was simply a onetime happening that added an element of excitement in a very young man's life. I know that the necklace was hot, but what's a guy to do? In these times of crippled economic opportunity today, I wish I could make that same deal about 50 times every day. Turning $10 into $200 is pretty cool. And, I have always felt that the jewelry store had it insured anyway.

My only real point here is that I am only sorry that I didn't have the fifty bucks for that super-sick ring. I can't stop thinking of that.

M Alan Roberts is a radical thinker. He has a gimlet eye for injustice, much as did Frederich Engels, a century and a half before. Still, Roberts finds a way to write effective SEO copy. This suggests both sides of his brain, his mind, work equally well.

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