“Fourteen… thirty-five?” He felt stupid saying it so slowly, but it sounded wrong.
“Yep,” the woman sitting on the other side of the table said. He thought he saw a slight leer. “You want it?”
“Ummm, well, I, uh, hmmm…” He had an uncomfortable sense that she somehow understood his disfluencies better than he did. “I’m not sure, hmmm. What is it?”
“It’s a clock. Antique. It’s worth at least a hundred and fifty but I gotta get rid of it.”
“A deal,” he thought. “Maybe. This lady knows what she’s doing. Probably not $150, maybe less, but who knows? Maybe it’s worth even more. I could get Sam to look at it… Besides, it would look good on the bookcase, next to the lamp.”
What he said was, “Huh,” but again he sensed that she was reading him more closely than he would have liked.
The vendor sat at the edge of a plastic folding chair, arms folded, with raven-black hair, wearing a dark purple dress made of what looked like velvet, the steward of a table covered with old dolls, old bottles, old mirrors, objects waiting for a place to go besides the dump. The table’s faux oak veneer was peeling, revealing the damaged particleboard underneath.
“It’s nice,” she said.
It was, he agreed. But it also looked heavy, and he had a long train ride home.
“Yeah…” He started to pull back.
“You can have it for ten. I gotta get rid of it.”
He tried to remember what was in his wallet. Did he have a ten? He was pretty sure he had a twenty, but sometimes these flea market people didn’t have change, and they had to go to the next table, to their… friends? Probably more of a you-scratch-my-back kind of situation (now that was an old saying). Anyway, he definitely didn’t have… fourteen-thirty-five, and didn’t feel like spending more time with this transaction than necessary, and already regretted following his curiosity to this weird place, and this weird woman, with her weird table, but if he had a ten on him, what the hell, it was a nice… clock, or whatever it was. It didn’t look like a clock to him, but it looked old and ornate and brassy, and they don’t make things like they used to, and it would give his apartment a slightly classier feel, and… She was staring at him, waiting, waiting for a decision, while he tried to remember if he had broken a twenty recently… He had! Yesterday, when he stopped by the deli to get a coffee. The guy hadn’t been crazy about giving him nineteen dollars in change, either.
“Sure,” he said.
He took out his wallet. There was no ten, only three twenties and a few singles. He blankly handed her a twenty.
“Hold on, I’ll get you your change,” she said, and headed to the adjacent table.
“Careful, it’s heavy.”