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Wind Raker -- Auction

Wind Raker comes out tomorrow in ebook, so for Valentine's Day I thought I'd share a scene about love. This was one of the first scenes I wrote for Wind Raker, and I'd love to hear what you think!

"Lot number 8," the auctioneer said. "A cathedral radio. It works good. This is a real nice set. Bidding starts at four dollars." It was a sad, small crowd on the lawn, ten or twelve people, bargain hunters and the woman who had the second hand shop. It was a hot day for this early in the summer. Maybe that's why there weren't more people here. Mitch leaned against Alma's truck parked on the street in front of the little house, watching the auction.

"Four dollars," Maude McGee, the lady with the second hand shop, said.

"Four fifty," said a man in the crowd. Bidding went on up to six dollars and then stalled.

"Six dollars it is," the auctioneer said. He shook his head as if he were disappointed. That was the nicest thing in the bunch, and it hadn't gone for much, Mitch thought. The auctioneer picked up the next box, pulling out a few things. "Lionel train set," he said. "Two engines, some cars and track. Also a set of Tinkertoys, a stuffed bear and duck, and a Shirley Temple doll." He pulled out the doll and held her up. Her hair was kind of wild but she had her original pink dress even if she had no shoes. "Real nice doll. The bidding starts at fifty cents."

"Fifty cents," Mitch said.

Maude McGee already had her hand raised, but she turned around and saw Mitch, then put her hand down. Nobody else said a word.

"Mrs. McGee, don't you have a bid?" the auctioneer said to her.

She shook her head.

"Sold for fifty cents," the auctioneer said. He picked up the next box. "Boys clothes," he said, lifting out a winter coat. "Got some good wear left in them. Pants, coats, shirts." He held up a little cotton dress. "Some baby clothes in here too. Starting bid is fifty cents." He looked at Mrs. McGee.

She glanced over her shoulder at Mitch leaning on the truck.

"Fifty cents," he said.

"I have fifty cents," the auctioneer said. "Do I have sixty-five? Somebody bid me sixty-five on this lot of children's clothes. They're in good shape, ladies and gentlemen. Lots of wear in them still."

Nobody spoke. Mrs. McGee, who sold stuff like this every day in her second hand shop, looked like her mouth was glued shut.

"Fifty cents, going for fifty cents," the auctioneer said. "Gone." He pulled up the next lot. "Men's clothes," he said. "Got a suit and a couple of ties here. Starting at one dollar, ladies and gentlemen."

Mitch was silent. He couldn't afford to bid on everything, and Joey's clothes wouldn't do the kids any good.

"One dollar," Mrs. McGee said.

"Dollar fifty," said Howie Mills who worked at the train station.

"Two dollars," Mrs. McGee said keenly. That suit by itself was worth three or four. She bought the lot in the end for three twenty five.

The auctioneer smiled. He pulled up the next box. "Lot number 12," he said. "Ladies' dresser set. Got a silver plate comb and brush here, powder box and picture frame." He held each piece up. The picture frame held a sepia picture of a plain woman with her hair up in a bun holding a fat and unprepossessing infant, staring at its face as though it were holy writ.

"Silver plate?" a man in the crowd asked.

The auctioneer turned the brush over. "It says Oneida silver plate," he confirmed. "It's a nice set, Bob. Starting at three dollars."

"Three dollars," Mitch said.

Nobody said another word.

"Bob?" asked the auctioneer.

"Nah." The man shook his head, spitting tobacco juice on the ground. "Don't reckon so."

Silence reigned.

"Gone for three dollars," the auctioneer said.

There were a few more lots he bid on -- a box of books with a battered copy of The Wizard of Oz and The Women's Study Bible with notes and markers in it, some blankets and homemade quilts, When it was done, Mitch picked up his lots, lifting each box carefully into the bed of the Ford. Mrs. McGee stopped by him. "How're you doing?"

He put the box down, Shirley Temple's legs sticking out between train tracks, and tipped his hat. "Pretty good, how about you?"

"I'm doing all right now," she said with a smile. "You give everybody my best, Stasi and the children too."

"I'll be sure to," he said. Mitch stopped, looking for the words. "You know, I've never been prouder that I live in this town."

She put her gloved hand on his arm. "As if anybody would bid against you once they knew you were bidding for the children! Why if anybody did, I'd swat them over the head with my purse!"

And that was a picture, Maude laying about with her purse, making sure every lot he bid on went at the starting price. Though she'd done as much with her eyes. Maude's glare could melt glass.

"It's a good thing the judge said they could stay with you," she said. "I saw him at church on Sunday and told him so. I said it may be that Mrs. Sorley is a little eccentric, but she has a heart of gold. And all right, maybe she's got red knickers and she's showed them to the whole town, but they were practically married already. I mean, you wouldn't do that kind of dancing except with your husband, but it was Saturday and they were married on Tuesday! Just nobody knew they were engaged at the time. So it was all right. And good Lord that woman can bake."

"She sure can," Mitch said, since that was the only part of the entire speech he could answer.

"And that Joey Patterson. He ain't been right since Alice died. She just took the heart out of him and left him with the bottle, and that's poor comfort for a man with three children. He was bad enough before that, but I haven't seen him sober since the funeral. It would do Alice good to know that you're looking out for them." She nodded toward the box with the dresser set, the picture in its silver frame. "That's Alice there. And Jimmy, I reckon. Back when there was money for studio photographs, before the Depression."

"I reckon it is," Mitch said. He didn't trust his voice to say more.

"I know they'll get along fine with you," she said. "And would you ask your wife if I can buy two of her cakes? We've got a world of company coming this weekend for Homecoming at the church, and I sure could use some help with the baking."

"I will," he said. "What kind do you want?"

"I reckon those chocolate ones with the buttercream icing," she said. "If she can do that in this heat."

"I expect she can," Mitch said. "I'll tell her you want them. When? Saturday?"

"Saturday would be perfect," she said, and watched him lift the last box in. "You take care."

He went around to the cab and got in, backed the old Ford out and drove away. He trundled carefully through town, through two stop lights and up the long road that led into the hills, the peaks against the sky, lower slopes whispering with aspen trees, round the dirt road corners and switchbacks.

All the windows were open at the house, curtains blowing in house and garage alike, the Torpedo parked on the lawn. He pulled the pickup in beside it and lifted the box of clothes out, bending over carefully with the familiar aching pull of muscles in his abdomen. Then he got the box of toys out.

Douglas and Merilee came running, Jimmy following more slowly and suspiciously. Alma stuck her head out the front door to see what the commotion was and raised a hand in greeting.

"Bear!" Merilee squealed, making a dive for the box and grabbing the battered bear with both arms. "Bear, Bear, Bear!"

"There's your bear," Mitch said. "And your doll and your duck and some other things."

"My trains!" Douglas grabbed an engine and some track. "Jim, it's our trains! Our trains!" He waved one over his head, his round face pink and hot from running, then plunged into the box. "It's all here. Here's the Santa Fe and Western caboose!"

Merilee took off across the yard with her bear like she was afraid somebody would grab it while Douglas danced around.
Jimmy stood quietly, then reached in the pickup for the third box, the powder box lying on its side beside the brush, the silver picture frame. He pulled himself up, thin sharp shoulders under a plaid work shirt, his mouth working. He reached out and picked up the frame, one finger touching her face, and he closed his eyes for a second. Then he opened them and swallowed hard, squaring his shoulders. "Mr. Sorley, you didn't have to."

"Yes, I did," Mitch said.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2015 01:50 am (UTC)
Ooh, nice. I just finished a book, Wind Raker is up next!
Feb. 15th, 2015 11:18 am (UTC)
The ebook just went live! I hope you enjoy it!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )