Feelin the Squeeze
He pulled the money from the machine and counted it, hoping that if he willed it to be so, there would be another twenty in there. It could happen. A rogue note might find its way into the bundle. Computers make mistakes, he’d read about it in the paper. There was a story about a bank machine somewhere down South spitting out double anyone asked for. It was queued around the block until the authorities cottoned on and contacted the bank. Surely another twenty, even a tenner, could find its way into this withdrawal? What’s the chances?
Somewhere between slim and infinitesimal, as it transpired. He shook his head in recognition of his desperate imagination and for allowing himself to humour it. Leafing them through his fingers again, just to make sure, he counted four twenty pound notes. Eighty two pounds and five pence - the Department of Work and Pension’s idea of a fair weekly payment when equated to a working life of contributions.
You spend your working life paying into the system so that when you need it, when you really need it, in retirement, you can get by.
He’d cashed in his company pension from the Steelworks years earlier. It had paid off the house and left him a little to give to his daughter to put away for the weans for when they turned eighteen. It was the right thing to do. He didn’t need much, he had reasoned. Just enough for the essentials. A man didn’t need much once he’d gotten to a certain age. Basic sustenance. Enough left over for a pint at The Portland or the bowling club was all that was required. Until recently, the reasoning had been sound.
He flashed his bus pass at the driver and made his way to the first available seat.
Sitting down, he placed the rectangular, leather case on to his lap and undid the buckles, opening it. The smell of the old, weathered leather brought with it a hundred memories instantly. Memories of playing in the band; of times long gone.
Back in his younger years he’d been in a folk group made up of workmates from the Forge. The Ragtag Ramblers was the name they’d gone by. They’d play in the folk clubs and pubs of Glasgow every week. The Scotia and The Clutha Vaults on Stockwell St being among their favourites.
He lifted the accordion out of the case and held it close to his face, breathing it in. Absorbing the history. Remembering.
He placed it back in the case and closed it over.
The door of the Pawnbrokers was locked when he got there and he had to press the doorbell before being allowed to enter, the man behind the counter buzzing him in.
The member of staff inspected the item, lifting it up into the light before drawing it open and squeezing a loathsome sound bereft of any feeling or emotion from it. ‘This yours, is it?’ he said, placing it back into the case.
‘Whit dae ye mean? Course it’s mine.’ Tam replied, annoyed. ‘Ah’ve had that fur near fifty year.’ he said, as though he needed to reaffirm the point.
‘No much call for fifty year auld squeeze boxes aboot here.’ the man replied, fastening the buckles. ‘Much were ye lookin for?’
‘Aw, ah don’t know. . . ah hunner?’ Tam replied, hopefully.
‘A hunner poun? Fur that auld thing. Na mate, ah cannae gie ye that.’ he replied, dismissively. ‘Ah’ll gie ye thirty quid.’
Tam baulked at the suggestion. ‘It’s an antique, how kin ye say it’s worth thirty quid?’
‘Ah didnae. Ah said ah’ll gie ye thirty quid for it. Antiques urnae oor bag in here. Ah’ve got a storeroom in the back full ay auld shite like this. Wan string guitars an nae string banjos. Tae be honest, ah probably shouldnae even offer ye that. Ma gaffer widnae be too happy.’
‘It’s no auld shite! Ah’d make mare than that buskin in the street wae the bloody thing for a few ooirs.’
‘Tell ye whit, auld yin, that’s whit tae dae then.’ the man said, sliding the case back across the counter towards him.
He grabbed the case and turned away angrily towards the door before stopping. He lifted it to his nose once more smelling the leather before turning back to the man. ‘Thirty quid?’
The man nodded.
He placed the case back down on the counter and the man wrote him a ticket before handing him three tenners from a brass cash box he pulled out from under the counter.