This is a short story for the Australian Writer’s Centre Furious Fiction December 2022 Contest for which I was longlisted.
In addition to being limited to 500 words, the other rules were:
- Each story had to begin with a 12-word sentence.
- Each story had to include the sale of a second-hand item
- Each story had to include at least five (5) different words that end in the letters –ICE.
Curious, when the entirety of life’s endeavours is little more than junk. Curious and pathetic. A loose collection of knickknacks, collectable items, kitsch.
Annabel loved her crochet samplers, her porcelain miniatures, her creepily-staring dolls, but she worshipped her spoons. She bid them good night, every night, and she stopped and stared at them every single day, sometimes finishing a nice cup of tea whilst standing unsteadily in front of them.
Her life consisted of very few lasting things. No children, not a single loved one still alive. Those spoons were the only thing she cared about. For them to be here, in this shop, awaiting appraisal and an unfair amount of currency for them was an injustice. Annabel’s life should be worth more than that.
The shop owner regarded the spoons with slightly less disdain than he did the man presenting them. Both were of swarthy persuasion, older and greying, and had been granted citizenship many years ago. But their countries of origin had fundamental differences of policies, and now a prejudice against the other permeated their very cell structures.
Annabel’s spoons would never be here were she alive. The only way someone would get them off her and get them here, was if they knew she was dead.
The man presents a tea set, the shop owner shows even more disdain, pointing out that it hasn’t even been given a proper clean. The tea remnants stain the bottom and one of the saucers shows the striped imprint of a licorice Allsort that was unstuck from it at some point. They bicker, the shop owner doesn’t want it until I call out that I would like to purchase it.
“Fifty.” The shop owner didn’t waste even a heartbeat before turning to me with an outrageous price. The seller’s eyes light up until he looks into my eyes and there’s a flicker, but I don’t think he recognises me.
“Twenty.” It’s a stupid game to play, but play it I must.
“Thirty-five.” The shop owner goes instantly to split the difference but catches the look of excitement on the seller’s face, leans over to him with his hand held up and reminds him, “Fifteen to you.”
The man doesn’t like it, but relents. Perhaps bolstered by this early success, he then takes among the first offers for the spoons and hastily departs. He’s easy enough to follow home because he lives next door to Annabel. I’ve seen him several times, though I don’t believe he’s ever really gotten a good look at me. When he answers the door, his brow gives a crinkle that says he’s confused as to how I was at the shop earlier and now on his front porch.
“I don’t know why, but you got in there before I could finish cleaning up at Annabel’s.” I push into his house. “Now it looks like I’ve got a whole lot more to clean up than just the nightshade from the teapot.”
I pull the door closed behind me.