The Auction of Unlikely Things – Sheila Scott

An aura of decay clung to the air in the austere hall. Dennis, the auctioneer, was never certain if the odour emanated from the fabric of the building, the sale items, or the clientele themselves. He regarded the sea of faces before him with displeasure, trying vainly to recall the last time he had spotted anyone whose hair colour was neither grey nor that strange honey-blonde shade found nowhere in nature but so favoured by the dowager class.

His profession was also in its death throes, and he felt his shoulders sink a little as he stood at the podium. They had brought it upon him, this generation with naked greed glinting in gimlet eyes. So keen to possess, they left nothing for those in their wake. They’d created Generation Rent by refusing to relinquish ownership of anything.

Now no-one bought anything. Everything was leased, inadvertently favouring the planet as its raw materials experienced constant recirculation, rather than sitting in landfill-like cupboards awaiting infrequent use and entropy. Businesses slunk back to high streets offering temporary tenure at reasonable rates, and shared ownership had reignited a sense of community across the land.

That had really pissed his audience off.

Eric, his assistant, gave him a gentle nudge in the ribs, and stage whispered.

‘Next item?’

Dennis unhooked his brows and lifted his head.

‘Next item!’ He thunked the wooden gavel on the block, glanced at the day’s list and turned towards the door on his left. ‘The next item on today’s list is…’ Eric stepped sideways through the door, carrying a large empty wooden frame. ‘…a lovely day.’

A ripple of avarice passed through the audience.

‘Expression of pleasure in the exquisiteness of a full twenty-four-hour period will henceforth fall under your copyright. Starting price £6,000.’ The ludicrous and unseemly battle for possession of yet another basic human right played out before him, replete with the customary paddle waving and instances of stink-eye.

‘A Lovely Day’ went for £120,010.

The list progressed through ‘Love of Nature’ (now under the ownership of an aging physics teacher, who declared on successful bid that he hoped to dissemble it into “a rather exciting equation”), ‘Surprise Parties’ (personally Dennis was happy to see that one taken out the public domain), and ‘Canal-dwelling Shopping Trollies’ (that one only just secured the reserve despite the appetite of the audience).

‘Final item on today’s schedule.’ Dennis surveyed the slightly diminished gathering. Panic sweated the faces of those yet to secure a new item, the thought of a static, unenhanced collection of stuff clearly triggering a physiological explosion from their adrenal glands (which were, incidentally, scheduled for inclusion in next Tuesday’s auction). He returned his attention to the list.

‘Wellbeing.’

Dennis leaned into the lectern to allow the passage of Eric who was man-handling a large Perspex box. The auctioneer covered his microphone with a hand and turned it to one side before muttering ‘Really?’ at his assistant.

‘Yes, really.’ replied Eric, his breath momentarily clouding the box of Wellbeing.

‘Jesus.’

Eric carefully placed the large empty box on the table and exited stage left. Dennis stared at the box until an impatient cough from the cash-rich crowd reclaimed his attention.

‘Okay. Reserve price for this item is £20,000 but I think we can start a little higher than that. Who will bid £30,000?’

Paddles flew.

Hybrid writer-scientist, Sheila most enjoys turning idle thoughts into short narratives and illustrative doodles. Her work has been published in Edwin Morgan 100 Anthology, Postbox, Cabinet of Heed, Causeway, Ellipsis Zine, Flashback Fiction, Bangor Literary Journal, Poetic Republic, and 2019 Morton Writing Competition. Her intermittently hyperactive Twitter account is @MAHenry20.

Image via Pixabay

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