Sunday, April 17, 2011

FICTION: Sold! by LaVa Payne

“And I will start the bid at five dollars for the Planters Peanut canister set” the voice thick with smoking gruff drawled out into the crowd.
Two men with arms crossed turned to face each other. They glared--daring the other to bid. The taller man with a leaner build shook his head and the voice finished, “Sold, for five dollars to the gentleman in flannel.”
Nodding in approval, the man opened his cheap wallet and handed over a wrinkled five dollar bill to the auctioneer. Gleaming over a box full of canisters, he had won. What a bargain! Yes, Juan had won again, as he had many weeks in the past at the Salvation Army public auction. This time he won; it was easy. There had been one occasion where that was almost not true.
About a month ago, a vintage glass coffee pot with stem had gone on the auction block and was a very nice buy for eight dollars. However, there was an ominous stranger that appeared at the auction that day and really pursued an aggressive bidding war against Juan.
The coffee pot, which eventually went for twenty-five dollars, was only worth about ten. Though the stranger kept challenging Juan on his bid, Juan did not give up. He wanted that coffee pot for his own. It was no longer a coffee pot—it was a treasure to be had!
Not for any particular reason in value or otherwise, but because “the ominous stranger” had wanted it so bad. Juan was glad when the stranger relented at twenty-four dollars and swooped up to the counter to hand the auctioneer his money and collect his prize.
The ominous stranger, who was not accustomed to losing anything, looked at Juan with a loathing eye and approached him. “You might very well be the luckiest man today, but I grant you that your luck will soon run out” the dark grimace on his face shadowed all the goodness within that room.

Death shrouded over the ceiling, and everyone was quite to listen to his words. The cold air made for an interesting contrast to heat of almost one hundred degrees outside where no air conditioning was present. Some say that stranger cursed Juan that day, but others they just shrugged it off as a heated argument—one sided of course.

Juan had not thought about that day much at all. He had taken that coffee pot home and brewed coffee. The glass coffee pot percolated some of best Arabica coffee he had ever had. It was a treasure indeed.
But the words of the ominous stranger had clung to him like the pelt of a wet donkey, smelly and coarse.
This was an unrealized curse by Juan until he began to open the canisters that he had won. Inside each of the canisters, several objects crammed together were tightly bound. One such canister held paper dolls that had been cut from a Good Housekeeping magazine circa 1931. They were sure to be valuable to a collector. Another canister held baseball cards with Ty Cobb stealing third base for Detroit as one of the rare ones in the collection. The dented canister held clippings from political ads, movie hand-outs, and memorabilia that icon collectors would swoon to own. Yes, each canister had been filled with “treasures”.
Juan did not open all the canisters at once. There was too much richness to be evaluated already. He must be the luckiest man alive. Juan was going to be rich. He knew just where to take his treasures to be appraised.
Carmine was her name, draped in purple, she moonlighted telling fortunes and reading tarot cards. Her real calling was underground antiquities for price. Juan had had his tarot done on several occasions and had liked her advice. “So, I see you have done well with your findings, my friend” Carmine slurred her speech ever so cautious. “I can make you a good offer, but first tell me what you are willing to take for all this.” Her grin was more devilish than honest.
“Tell me you will give a good price, Carmine, and I will accept.” Juan was so trusting. “Yes, yes, of course, I give you best price, say…five hundred thousand for the lot, and we won’t even open any of the other canisters.”  Eager hands rubbed together.
“Oh, no, I have to open the remaining canisters.”
“As you wish” Carmine shrugged lazily, “but I warn you, too much luck can often be bad—I would not open another, if I were you.”
Juan opened the other canisters and found that riches were also enclosed. One had fine jewelry fashioned and another held a trove of collectible coins. It was truly the best find ever. As he opened the last canister, something strange happened.
An image of the ominous stranger came to his mind and the words, “…your luck will soon run out” echoed in his mind. The canister was empty except for what Juan said he saw crawl out.
Carmine told the police that he ranted and raved about seeing a black scorpion crawl upon his hand and sting him. However, she told the police that she had seen nothing at all. He clutched his chest and fell back in his chair much as they had found him wide-eyed and in terror.
Now some people say that it was the curse by the ominous stranger that came back to bite Juan for being lucky. Others say it was the ominous stranger that transformed himself into a scorpion and stung Juan at the peak of his luck. The coroner said that Juan had had a heart attack and died a rich man.
 But the ominous stranger stood laughing at the Salvation Army when the auctioneer cried, “Sold, for five dollars, this glass coffee pot, once belonging to our good friend Juan, in his lucky memory.”

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