GOING, GOING, GONE
c. fern cook
Dana came home from work carrying a flier in her hand. “Richard, you home?”
“Yeah, I’m in the bedroom.”
“Look what I’ve got.” She meets him in the bedroom and shoves the flier just inches from his face. “That old farm house out by my mom’s is going to have an auction. Look at this great stuff.” All excited, Dana is talking as fast as ideas pop in her head. “We might be able to get some great antiques. At least we can pick up some decent furniture. At least it would be better than these thrift store rejects.” She kicks the side of the night stand.
Richard grabs the lamp as it wobbles from side to side, and then grabs the flier out of Dana’s hand. “All right, let me look at it….It’s just an auction, what’s the big deal?’
“My mom said that’s how they furnished their house when they first got married. You know that great dinning room set they have, it’s from an auction.”
“Don’t get your hopes up; we don’t have money for a lot of furniture.” He yells back while walking out of the bedroom. “Furniture can’t be that exciting. I don’t to want to spend a Saturday at an auction. I got a life.”
Following behind him, “Indulge me. Come out to the auction with me. It won’t hurt to look.”
“Don’t get so wounded up over some used furniture.” Richard messes up her hair just because he likes too.
Dana smacks his hand down and straightens out her hair. “We’ll get up early and take a good look at all the stuff before the auction starts.”
“Fine, but I got to get something out of this. If I am going to waste my Saturday at an auction I want breakfast in bed, and I want to watch the game on Sunday without you bugging me.” For only being married a couple of months Richard has honed his skills of bargaining to a high level.
Bright and early Saturday, Dana gets her way and they follow the signs to the parking area at the auction. The parking lot is almost full when they arrive. There are a lot of other people with the same idea Dana had. When they find a parking spot, Dana barely waits for the car to come to a stop before she jumps out. Richard is trying to catch up as Dana speed walks her way to the rows of furniture out on the lawn.
“Look at this beautiful bedroom set; don’t you just love the color? Do you think it is Maple?
Still catching his breath, Richard leans on the bedpost. “I told you not to get your hopes up, didn’t I? There are a lot of people here with the same idea you have.”
Dana doesn’t even hear his answer and continues to meander through the rows of furniture. She stops to look at a dinning room set. “I’ve got to have his. Look at these chairs. They don’t make chairs like this anymore.”
Richard is just catching up when a middle-aged man standing next to the dinning set turns over one of the chairs and adds, “That was my mom’s favorite piece of furniture.” Pointing to some faded words on the bottom slats. “My mom signed it like an artist signs a painting after she refinished the chairs. She was so proud that she could do something like that.” He puts the chair upright and leans on it. “I remember how we all teased her about it, calling it ‘mama’s Rembrandt’.”
Richard puts one foot up on one the chairs and leans over the back of the chair. “So, this is your stuff they’re auctioning?”
“No, it was my mom’s. She passed away this year. I haven’t been here for years. It’s kind of late for me to visit now. You know I was the first to say ‘It happened so fast’.” He looks up as if he is looking up to heaven.
“I’m sorry. This must be hard for you to watch everyone pick over your memories.” Dana puts her hand on his shoulder in a gesture of sympathy. “I know how sad it would be if it was my mom’s stuff they were auctioning off.”
“Don’t be sorry. I’ve already taken quite a few keepsakes for myself. I just wish I had known my mom didn’t have long to live. I would have visited more often. I guess everyone says that when their parents pass away. But don’t let that stop you kids from getting a good bargain.” The stranger points to an old couch in the next aisle. “That couch looks ratty, but the frame is solid. You could reupholster it yourself for next to nothing. Look at all those odds’n’ends over there, they all still work.” He points out a table filled with obsolete appliances.
At the end of the auction, all Dana and Richard were able to afford was the dinning room set. But that was Ok with Dana. After their new family heirloom is set up in their once empty dinning room, they stand back and admire how great it looks.
Remembering the ‘mama’s Rembrandt’ story, a wave of guilt hits Richard. “Do you mind if I go visit my mom this afternoon, it’s been a long time since I was over there.”
“What a silly question. I’m always telling you to call her.” Dana runs her finger across the dinning room table and lefts up a finger full of dust. “Just be home in time for dinner.”
Dana spends the afternoon polishing her new table and chairs. Looking closely at the signature on the bottom of the chair she can’t quite make it out. Rummaging through the kitchen junk drawer she finds the magnifying glass. The scribbling come into focus, Remmington Furniture Co. appears. “What!” Dana is furious, as she turns over the rest of chairs and discovers they all are the same.
Baffled by her discovery she calls her mom to protest. As soon as she hears hello she starts in, “You remember that auction they had out by your house today?”
“Did you know the woman that used to live there?”
Dana is shaking her head in disbelief as she continues. “Did she have a son?”
“I don’t think she had any kids. Why?
“This guy we met out at the auction was telling us about how his mom was so proud of refinishing this dinning room set and that she signed the bottom like an artist.”
Dana’s mom patiently responds, “So.”
“We bought that dinning room set. There is no signature on the bottom, just the company name stamped on the bottom. Why would someone make up a story like that to tell a complete stranger? I don’t get it. It is so rude to lie like that.” Thinking about the whole incident infuriates her further and Dana pounds her fist on the counter for emphasis.
Hearing the pounding, the mom counters with. “Calm down. Who knows why people do the things they do. Maybe he thought it was funny, maybe he was trying to get you to buy the dinning room set.”
Just then the sound of a car pulling into drive interrupts and Dana peeks out the window to see who it is. “Mom, I got to go, Richard just came home and I want to show him this so-called signature.”
Dana waits for Richard to come through the door with the chair and the magnifying glass. Richard is half way into the house when she blocks his way with the chair. “Look at the bottom of this chair.” She pushes the magnifying glass at him.
“Well, let me get in.” Richard takes the magnifying glass from her hand and pushes the chair out of his way.
Dana turns the chair over, “Look at that signature and tell me what you think.”
When he gets the writing in focus he can’t stop laughing. “I didn’t know his mama’s name was ‘Remmington Furniture Co.’”
“Why would that guy tell us such a ridiculous story?” Her voice goes up an octave as she becomes more irate every time she thinks about it. “I bet he didn’t even know the woman that lived at that house.”
Richard turns the chair upright and takes a seat. “I think it’s pretty funny. My mom wouldn’t care if I came over to visit her just because a fictitious story made me feel guilty. She’d just say, ‘God works in mysterious ways.’”
C. Fern Cook
Author, South Dakota Way