Family Feud

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. — Sun Tzu

Darryl looked across the gathered circle at the person he hated most in this world.  Janine.  It was Saturday morning and he was at the Alamo-Redbird Self Storage center in Dallas, Texas. 

They were holding an auction. The facility was clearing the contents of any storage unit whose tenant was 90 days behind on rent.  Darryl ran a pawn shop, Darryl’s Pistol and Pawn.  He made plenty of money.  Quality merchandise didn’t stay on the shelves very long.  

Things like tools, golf clubs, even guns or jewelry were in the units he bought.  Those he could sell, sometimes for ten times his cost.  When the boxes contained clothes or old kitchenware, he donated them to charity.  The tax write-off was impressive.

Darryl wasn’t the only person with this idea.  Most who joined him at the auction were retailers, buying inexpensive merchandise for their stores.  He knew almost everyone standing in the circle.  

The bidders had quite a game going.  Someone might not be interested in the contents of a particular unit.  But they’d bid long enough to raise the price for a competitor. 

That’s why Darryl was glaring at Janine.  She also owned a pawn shop, just a few miles from his.  He knew she wasn’t interested in this unit.  It contained a 1968 Ford Mustang, minus the engine and transmission.  Not the kind of thing that is sold at pawn shops.  But Darryl had friends in the auto restoration business.  He could easily resell the vehicle, probably today.

When Janine bid $1200, Darryl thought about dropping out.  Sticking her with half a car she didn’t have a use for he'd consider poetic justice.  But what was left of the Mustang was in decent shape.  He could make quick money, even with Janine’s spiteful bidding eating into his profit.

Finally, he bought the unit for fifteen hundred dollars.  Janine leered at him.  She knew she’d cost him three hundred.  A voice whispered in Darryl’s head.  “That bitch has been fucking with me my entire life.”

He wasn’t exaggerating.  Janine was Darryl’s mother. 


It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.  When he was growing up, the plan was for Darryl to go to college and get a degree in accounting.  Then, become the manager at the pawn shop run by Janine and his father, Hal.  

Business at East Dallas Pawn was booming.  The store was open twelve hours a day, six days a week.  When Darryl was ready, he would take over the shop.  Mom and Dad would eventually retire and spend their golden years going on cruises.  However, Janine had a different plan.

The divorce shattered Darryl’s world.  Being a teenager was hard enough.  The brutal, public way his mother went after his father humiliated him.  Everyone at school knew about the accusations.  Janine had hired a private investigator, and he put together a pile of evidence.  Supposedly, Hal had been cheating on her.

Hal insisted he’d been completely faithful.  He claimed the evidence was fabricated.  Nobody believed him.  Except his son.  

Darryl had grown up in Janine’s house.  He’d spent a lifetime learning her tricks, and had a special talent.  He could tell when his mother was lying.  Darryl knew his father had never cheated on her.

But teenage intuition is not considered evidence by the legal system.  Janine ended up with the pawn shop.  Hal got to keep his clothes and the pickup truck.  He shook Darryl’s hand before he drove off.  “Son, you never know how life is going to turn out.  Take care of yourself.  I’ll be in touch.”

Hal needed a job.  All he knew was the pawn business, and he didn’t have enough money to open another store.  Alaskan fishing boats were always looking for deckhands.  No experience required.  Hal drove north.

His career in the fishing industry went nowhere.  That was okay.  After three seasons of freezing cold weather, nearly getting washed off the boat, and barely making any money, he met a prospecting crew in a bar.  Soon, Hal had gold fever. 

It’s funny how things work out.  Hal and his buddies never found gold.  Instead, south of Sleetmute, Alaska, they discovered copper.  Hal became part owner of a mine, and very rich.

He wanted to return to Dallas and open another pawn shop.  It was in his blood.  But he and his partners quickly realized, there was a difference between being a prospector and running a mine.  Hal was a beginner at prospecting, but among his partners, he was the best businessman.  He was needed in Sleetmute.

His money, on the other hand, was not tied to a particular location.  When Hal offered Darryl a sizable, long term loan, enough to open his own shop, his son said yes.

That led to the current situation.  For twenty years, Darryl and Janine had been trying to put each other out of business.  Neither had succeeded.  Janine and Hal each had a keen eye for the business and Darryl had been an apt student.  Both shops prospered.


After the auction, Darryl waited for Steve to show up.  He was a Mustang enthusiast and always had a restoration going.  If he didn’t want the car, he’d know someone who did.

Steve looked over the vehicle, the men haggled over a price, then shook hands.  Darryl watched as a winch pulled the Mustang up on a tow truck.  He couldn’t wipe the grin off his face.  He’d made $800, with no more effort than a few minutes of bidding and a phone call.  Easy money.

Then, the realization hit him.  Tomorrow was Sunday.  Otherwise known as Truce Day.  A 24 hour period where Darryl and Janine pretended to be part of a normal family.  Janine was a talented actress.  

Darryl particularly hated the hugs at the beginning and end of the visit.  Not to mention the constant phony smiles.  If it were up to him, Truce Days would never happen.  But he had Lisa to contend with.  His wife.  

She insisted that their daughter, Anita, must have a relationship with her grandmother.  Darryl had learned not to get into arguments he couldn’t win.  He was resigned to suffering through Sundays with Janine.

He knew he’d gotten lucky with Lisa.  She was as smart as Janine, but the complete opposite as far as personality.  She was a great mother.  And, Anita was the light of Darryl’s life.  No matter how stressful his day had been, coming home to his daughter always put a smile on his face.

A bonus was the time he got to spend with Anita at the pawn shop.  Since she was twelve, she’d worked for him during the summers.  She had become quite good at sales, and was a tough negotiator when people brought items to pawn.  Darryl hoped she would one day take over the shop.  But he’d raised her to think for herself and had decided, regardless of her career choice, he’d be happy if she was happy.

Still, there was a nagging thought buried deep in Darryl’s mind.  He remembered the genetics lectures in high school biology.  He knew Anita contained one fourth of Janine’s DNA.


Truce Day came and went without any problems.  A casual observer wouldn’t have guessed that mother and son hated each other.  Janine played the perfect mother-in-law and grandmother.  Darryl suffered through the hugs without any involuntary shudders.  He focused on the positive.  First and foremost, he had six days until the next Sunday.  

And, there was Wednesday morning.  When Heritage Auctions was holding their annual collectible coin sale.  Rare coins had always been a staple at Janine’s pawn shop.  Not only that, Janine was an avid collector.  Over a lifetime, she had put together a first rate collection.

Darryl didn’t usually go to coin auctions.  Plenty of collectible coins came through his shop, but he didn’t dabble in high end coins like his mother did.  This time, he was making an exception.  For payback purposes.

American gold coins from the 1800s were Janine’s specialty.  The 1849-C open wreath Liberty dollar is considered the rarest of all.  So rare that years might elapse between sales.  It was the only Liberty coin missing from her collection.  She’d been trying to buy one since Darryl was a child.

In mint condition, these coins sell for over a million dollars.  Too expensive for Janine.  It just so happened one with some wear and tear was at the auction.  Heritage was estimating it would sell for between 50 and 80 thousand dollars.  A lot of cash, but within Janine’s reach.  

Darryl didn’t want the coin.  He wanted revenge.  He was going to the auction to bid up Janine.


On Sunday, Darryl was wearing a shit eating grin when Janine gave him the customary hug.  Despite the forced smile, he knew she was pissed off.  He’d been the last bidder to drop out when she’d finally purchased the coin that completed her collection.  He’d forced her spend an extra ten grand.

It was a big day for another reason.  His daughter had just graduated from high school.  Darryl was determined for Anita to go to college.  She’d narrowed her choices to two schools.  If she went to Baylor, she could still live at home.  The other option was the University of Texas, two hundred miles away in Austin.  

While he didn’t want to see her move away, Darryl was secretly hoping she would choose Texas.  Just to get her away from Janine.  His mother had offered Anita part ownership of her store if she’d skip college and go to work at East Dallas Pawn. 

Today was the day Anita would announce her choice.  Baylor, Texas, or Janine’s shop.  Darryl was confident she would choose Texas.  Lisa had graduated from there and Anita’s bedroom was filled with burnt orange Longhorn memorabilia.

After the meal, the family gathered in the living room to hear Anita’s decision.  She spoke.  “Before I tell you what I’m going to do, I need to make a quick phone call.”  She dialed, and said, “Hey, it’s time.”  Then hung up.


Darryl was staring at Janine.  She had a blank look on her face.  Darryl couldn’t think of anything to say.  What just happened had not registered on either mother or son.

After Anita finished the phone call, they heard a diesel engine outside the house.  A truck pulled up and parked in the driveway.  The door swung open.  Through the living room window, Darryl saw his father walking toward the house.  Anita opened the front door and he came in.

She spoke.  “Okay everyone, this is what I’ve decided to do.  I’m not going to college, and I’m not going to become a partner at East Dallas Pawn.  Grandpa has agreed to loan me the money to start my own shop.”

She looked at Darryl.  “Daddy, with everything you’ve taught me, I’m ready to run my own store.  I got my brains from Momma, so I’m a lot smarter than you.”  Then she turned to Janine.  “And, dear Grandmother, I’m just as ruthless as you are, and a lot younger.”

“I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble putting both of you out of business.  Maybe I’ll buy your merchandise after you’ve gone bankrupt.  But don’t worry, I’ll be glad to hire you. I’m going to be open around the clock and I’ll need people to work night shift.” 

“If you think I’m too inexperienced, don’t worry.  Grandpa is retiring from the copper mine and he’s moving back to Dallas.  He’ll be around to advise me.”

Anita kissed Janine on the cheek, then gave her mother and father a hug.  As she walked out the door with Hal, she said, “I love you guys!  I’ll see you every Sunday!”

Submitted: November 12, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Criss Sole

Hope it turns out okay for her. And i can only imagine how competitive it got between mother and son! Great story Serge,

Sun, November 12th, 2017 1:30pm


Thanks. Darryl will probably wish he had adopted.

Sun, November 12th, 2017 5:46am


A real case of 'Happy Families'!! So cleverly put together, Serge, to make a really entertaining read!

Sun, November 12th, 2017 9:27pm


Thanks. I know a few families that could use a truce day.

Mon, November 13th, 2017 1:45am


I bet this could be expanded into a book. Something like Richard Russo's "Nobody's Fool".

Tue, January 23rd, 2018 3:35pm


Interesting idea. Unfortunately I've hit a busy streak at work and I won't have much time to write for a while. But, I will keep this in mind for later.

Wed, January 24th, 2018 3:02am

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