This Week’s Theme: Write about an auction
When I was younger, my grandfather ran an auction house. I remember the old musty smells of mothballs and cedar that seemed to permeate the items for sale. Most of the auctions were estates; grandfather worked in the real estate business and would help families get rid of the secrets in the attic. It always seemed to me that the auctions were more than just a sale. It was ripping the soul out of the item.
I remember one Saturday afternoon when we went to the auction house. Grandfather told us that there was an estate lot that had some of the most amazing furniture. Mom was fascinated with antiques and furniture was her favorite. I tagged along with my Barbies as I was still to young to stay alone.
This was one of the larger lots that I had seen Grandfather work with. There were bureaus and dressers, and armoire that reminded me of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe". I wondered what world was hiding behind the heavy doors and was quite disappointed when I peaked in and found nothing but dust and the stench of cedar.
Mom saw a Governor Winthrop desk. Oh, how she had always wanted one of those! She was very excited when she saw it and carefully inspected the quality. As she examined the structure of the desk, I climbed up and looked inside. So many cubbies! This would be an amazing place for Barbie to play, I thought! In the center, there was a tiny door. I opened it and found a set of note cards, tied with a blue satin ribbon. I glanced up. Mom was behind the desk, knocking on the back, muttering to herself. Grandfather was busy working with the auctioneer who was almost ready to start. I snuck the package of note cards into my jacket and shut the small door.
Suddenly, it was starting. Mom herded me towards a chair with a stern reminder to be still and quiet. This was adult business. Surprised, I looked around and realized that I wasn’t the only child. There was a little girl here too. She was about a year or so older than I was. And she was staring at me. I felt a bubble of guilt start. Did she know I took those cards? How could she? No one saw me. Or did she?
The auctioneer started and his cadence waxed and waned with each item, climaxing with the cry of "SOLD!". I lost interest after a while and thought about the cards in my jacket. I looked up and the girl was still watching me. She knows, I thought. I don’t know how, but she knows. In some ways, I felt like that funny poem Dad had told me about, with the heart beating under the floor. The note cards wanted to leave me. They burned in my jacket pocket, almost screaming that I was a thief. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. Mom was now completely engaged in the auction. The desk was next. I slipped out of my chair and went to the girl.
"Hi", I said.
She looked at me and whispered "Hi" before dropping her gaze to her shoes.
"My Grandfather runs this place." I said, trying to establish that I belonged. Maybe I was trying to explain why I took the cards.
"Oh." More studying of her shoes. "These things are from my Nana’s house. She died last month."
The note cards suddenly weren’t important anymore. Not to me anyway. I thought about how I would feel if Grandfather was gone. I would be devastated. I would miss his walks with me, the Sunday afternoon football games on TV, the smells of his house, everything.
She motioned towards the desk. "I loved playing with that desk. Nana would let me draw for hours at it. I am going to miss it." But I heard her say she was going to miss her.
I pulled the note cards out of my jacket. "Here. I found these in the desk!" I blurted as I pushed them into her hands. And then I ran back to my chair. I was overwhelmed with the guilt that I had taken something from her Nana. I had to get away from her.
The auctioneer was still working on the Governor Winthrop. The price was edging higher and higher. Mom was still active in the bidding with two others fighting over the desk. Numbers were being called back and forth while Mom raised her hand every few seconds. Suddenly the word "SOLD!" was called out. I glanced up in surprise. The desk was gone. Mom’s eyes were bright and I knew we had won the auction. I looked back, but the girl was gone as well.
At the end of the day, I tried to find the girl, to let her know that her Nana’s desk was going to a good home, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. I was afraid to ask Grandfather in case she told him about the note cards.
I never did see her again, but the memory of her was burned into my brain and I could not help think of her every time I walked past that desk.
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