The bell on the door of Soul Pawn Shop #316 jingled, alerting Mara to the arrival of her customer. She pushed back a wisp of hair, checked her smile in the mirror and turned around.
“Good day, sir,” she chortled as she brushed past him to lock the door.
“Shalom.” His voice was soft, melodious. “I appreciate your agreeing to meet me before regular hours.”
“No problem, sir.” Her eyes studied his face, while her mind made a quick assessment of his clothing, posture and demeanor – all clues to possibilities. Mara had learned this skill well from her master. She took pride in her perception of knowing just what her customers wanted without asking. This one – with his well-trimmed beard, impeccable suit, and shiny patent leathers – yes, this one, although he had not said so when he made the appointment, was surely a buyer.
The man stroked his beard as he scanned the wall-to-wall categories.
“You have a wide selection.”
“Indeed,” Mara smiled. “My master is the foremost dealer of souls in the world. We buy, sell or trade both directly and online. Soul Pawn Shop #316 is one of his top franchises. We deal at all levels, regardless of gender, race, religion, or. . .,” she hesitated, giving him a sidelong glance, “status.”
“Ah,” he smiled, looking deeply into her dark, brown eyes. “Then, I suspect, you would not turn anyone away.”
Emboldened, she asked, “Which are you, sir, buyer, seller or trader?”
“I’m interested in redemption. Let’s start with these categories: Honesty, Integrity, Fidelity, Purity, Humility, Compassion, Forgiveness, Reverence for God, . . .”
“Please, sir!” Mara interjected. “I see you are a discriminating man – interested in the finer goods that men and women have placed here in exchange for, shall we say, more worldly advantages? I’ll need to get an update. Just this morning I’ve had over three thousand trade their integrity to gain political status in the U.S. alone. Of course, I’m sure you know it’s an election year. The Fidelity numbers are never stable – always climbing. Why I surmise tens of thousands have pawned their fidelity for a few sensuous moments just while we’ve been talking.”
Mara’s voice rose in her excitement. She couldn’t wait to show him the large stockpile of soul exchanges Pawn Shop #316 had available.
“Of course, we make inventory adjustments each Monday to account for some redemptions – mostly fundamental churchgoers - but, by the weekend, we’re up again. Reverence for God stats always go up by Saturday and the Humility numbers have been over the top lately! If you’ll wait, I’ll get an update.”
“I have all the time in the world.”
Mara hurried behind the counter to download the information. Her hand was shaking as she clicked the mouse and watched the files appear - Purity, Respect, Reverence, Trustworthiness, Unselfishness. . .so many categories, so many souls scrolling across the screen. She was lightheaded, almost giddy. This could be her biggest sale ever. Soul Pawn Shop #316 could top the other 665 shops in sales for the week. . .maybe even the whole year! The master would be pleased.
The man leaned over the counter, placing his hand on hers. Her eyes widened as she noticed a deep scar on the back of his wrist, but what he said was more shocking.
“I’ve also come to redeem you, too, Mara. I know the only reason you work here is because you made a trade.”
Mara’s heartbeat quickened, pounding in her temples. “How did you. . .?” She pulled her hand away, gasping for air.
“Would you like to be redeemed, Mara?”
“But, who. . .why? Are you really the Savior – the Christ?” Could the stories she had heard about the redemptions be true?
“I love you, Mara. I know your sin, just as I know those of all who have traded here and at the other shops. My Father sent me to buy you back by making the greatest exchange ever – His grace for your soul through one payment for all your sins for all time. You can be free, Mara.”
“But, I have nothing to give in return,” Mara sobbed.
“It is a gift, dear one. All you have to do is believe in me and the One who sent me and you will have eternal life.”
“Oh, forgive me, Lord, I do believe!” Mara fell to her knees.
Above her a message flashed across the monitor - “Soul Pawn Shop #316 – file update – another soul redeemed forever.”
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