My dad and I arrived at the estate auction, our vehicle settled alongside the other cars, vans, and pickups with trailers. Summer in a farming community now overtaken by subdivided lots and strip malls. I’d never been to an auction. Dad hadn’t actually invited me, just called and told my mom he’d be over on Saturday, for my eleventh birthday. I’d miss my ball game.
We stepped through barn doors and into the main space. It smelled faintly of horse, mostly of rot, and was festooned with artifacts. A big fat guy holding a microphone stood on a stage, like a pitcher strutting the mound. He wore a plaid sport coat that battled his polka dot tie. Dad explained he was the auctioneer, an umpire of sorts. Off to one side was a wheeled podium. I learned it was used to sell big stuff outside. Cars that had quit forty years before, outdated farm equipment, and other relics of America. Items Dad lectured on and on about. All rusted junk to me.
Men talked amongst each other, they sounded excited. Dad explained the estate owner had been wealthy, eccentric, and notorious for distrusting banks. The men were hopeful some old trunk or milk can they won might contain a false bottom.
The big man chattered loudly between wipes of his brow. Dad explained this was the auctioneer’s patter, used to drive up bidding. The guys around us, Dad called them serious buyers, held sticks with numbered cardboard circles attached. We were stick number fourteen. Dad was partial to seven, but to me fourteen meant Rose, a sure winner.
The auctioneer prattled and the men created drama with their sticks, like fielders leaping for liners. Dad handed me fourteen, said to have it ready, but raise it only when he tagged me. He did this a lot, between trips to a beer stand in the back. Maybe this place was Dad’s baseball field; he was the manager, and I was learning the game.
Later that night, he dropped me off. I watched him drive away in the rusty white wagon, blemished treasure stowed in back, an empty six-pack littering the floor. The longest day I remember ever spending with him, a birthday with extra innings.
Patrick W. Gibson is a metro Detroit-based writer. His fiction pieces favor an urban and working class feel. Patrick graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, attended The Writer’s Studio, and holds a Certificate in Fiction Writing from UCLA. He is at work on his first novel.