Robt. Emmett [not his real name of course; WHY? that’sa long boring story] has, after working twenty-five years at large international, manufacturing company as a mechanical design engineer, [he had no engineering degree] retired. However, his imagination, and his continuing need to create urged him to write over half a million words about his early life in the mid-1950s.
He’s published almost, because his short stories are about his high school years [when the world was young, the music was great, the cars were unique, and the young ladies were just that – ladies], and who wants to read stories of what was?
Rich’s Auction Barn
I’d stop in Rich’s Auction Barn every Tuesday evening. It wasn’t a barn; it was a defunct single story furniture store. If Rich, the auctioneer, had something of interest, I’d come back the following evening and try to outbid the antique dealers. Most nights, I used the Barn as a social event. My half-hearted bids usually bought me nothing. I’d spend my time talking to Kathy. I’d known her years ago, in high school. She was the captain of the cheering squad. I found out about her accident when I returned to town. Back then, she said to stop calling her Kathy and to call her Styx.
“Sticks, why,” I asked, “cuz you’re on crutches?”
“Not that kinda sticks, Styx, with YX.”
“You mean S-T-Y-X?”
“Yes.” She never explained.
Her job was to take phone-in bids from people who had deep pockets and wanted to remain anonymous. Their bids usually won because they had the bucks.
The crowd hanging out at Rich’s Auction Barn was a family bunch. We were, for the most part, friendly, fun loving, sometimes boisterous, and respectful. The one thing we didn’t do – run up someone else’s bid. We could have. It would have made Rich more money, but he didn’t like it and on more than one occasion had told us so. The real reason for respect – we’d be seeing each other again in a week. Another quirk Rich had was the size of bids. Under a hundred bucks, any bid was good. Over a hundred dollars, bids were to be in twenty-five dollar or more increments. Over five-hundred bids are in the fifty-dollar or more increments.
Tonight, as most nights, found me leaning against a wall and drinking free coffee. We’d talk, except when she’d make an anonymous bid for someone. When she won the bid, she’d marked the price on the bid card and put it back into the pocket of her Home Depot nail apron she used to hold the bid cards and her cigarettes.
Rich held up an item. “Hold on, I need to go to work.” She pulled her stack of bid cards from her apron pocket, sorted through them until she found the one she wanted. The bidders around the hall voiced their price. She flashed the card at Rich. He nodded in recognition. The price was jumping up fast. Rich started to ask, “Do I have …?”
The black-hair woman in the leopard-skin elastic pants nodded her head.
“Do I have …?” Styx bid a little more than Rich asked. The bidding froze. Styx bid had shocked spastic-elastic and the rest of the crowd. Rich pointed in our direction, then looked at leopard pants and shrugged. “Better luck next time, Jan.”
“Deep pockets will win every time.”
Styx nudged me, “Just gonna drink free coffee or are you gonna buy something?”
I smiled and held up a finger.
The auctioneer put his hand on a large cardboard box and asked for an opening bid of twenty dollars. There were no takers. He asked for a ten-dollar bid and still, no one raised a hand. The big box sat there, contents unknown, just waiting for a buyer.
“One buck,” I hollered.
Then Rich looked at me, shook his head, and stage-whispered, “Thanks, Rob. You’re the last of the big spenders.” The crowd knew me and enjoyed the humor at my expense. “Do-I-heara-two-dolla bid? Who’lla-givea-two? Anybody? Somebody? Two-dollas, two-dollas, where?” He paused. “Goin’ once.” He paused again. “Goin’ twice.” He pointed at me, “Sold to Cheap-ass for a buck.”
The auctioneer and the crowd moved on to the next item as Styx side-glanced me.
“What?” I asked her. “I got this big box for a buck. Who knows what great treasures it holds?”
“You came here tonight to buy a box of junk you don’t need?”
“It only cost me a buck.”
She laughed, “Big deal. That stuff’ll be lying around your shop a year from now.”
She rolled her eyes, “Will too!”
I spent the week sorting my box of treasures into smaller boxes to take around to other collectors and antique dealers. By the weekend, I had unloaded it all and after gas money, I’d made a few bucks.
Wednesday evening before the auction, I had a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke.
Leaning against the wall, drinking coffee, I waited. After stopping to talk to another bidder, she came over, leaned her crutches against the wall, and sat in the chair next to me. “See anything interesting?”
“Yeah,” I didn’t elaborate. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to play the crowd. It was larger than usual. Red stood near the center of the table that held the tools. He idly sorted through a box of rusty bits I knew he wasn’t interested in and be wouldn’t bid on. Half a dozen tool dealers I knew were milling around and eyeing each other. There were three guys I knew to be private collectors. The two men in suits looked out of place. We weren’t the bib overalls kind of auction-goers, but none of the Auction Barn regulars ever wore a suit and tie. I saw Fat Jim whisper to Bill and glanced at the locked showcase. It was the reason for the large crowd and me being at the Barn.
In the ten years I’d been looking, I’d only laid eyes on four of them that were for sale. Two were counterfeits, another had a small nick, and the other wasn’t worth half the money the owner wanted. I would get this one. I had too. There were only eighteen in the set. I had seventeen. The locked showcase held my eighteenth.
“You want it, don’t ya Rob?”
“I do. What do you think I’ll go for?”
“It’s in great shape. On a scale of 10, it’s a 9 or better.” I said.
“My guess, it’ll be as low as seven-hundred, and as high as nine, nine-fifty.”
“Yeah, and if it breaks a grand, it’ll see fifteen-hundred.”
“How much are you willing to spend?” She asked.
Rich had held off until the end of the tool table sales. He unlocked the showcase. “Here we go folks, who’lla gimme a two-grand, two-grand, two-grand where.” It was the crowd’s turn to get even. No one bid. “Folks, this is a pristine Stanley number one bench plane. Damn open the bid somewhere.”
“One dolla,” I said. The crowd laughed, even Rich. That was the start, bids exploded from every corner of the room. In seconds, the price was at four-seventy. The bidding paused. If someone said fifty, the bid would be over five-hundred and I wouldn’t be in a position to get a bid in at seven-fifty. “Six even,” I said.
Styx flashed a card, and said, “Seven-fifty.”
The bidding stop and she’d stolen my bid.
“Do-I-hear-eight-hundred-dolla-bid? Who’lla-givea-eight-hundred-dolla-bill? Anybody? Somebody? Eight-hundred-dolla bid-dollas, where?” He paused. “Goin’ once.” A long pause. “Goin’ twice.” He pointed at Styx, “Sold.”
“Rob, would you get it for me?” I did. As I handed her the plane, she said, “Stop in tomorrow, pay me, and it’s yours.”
“Tell me, why the name Styx with YX?”
Smiling, “Google it.”
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