Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Daily Story 140: High Bidder

"I can't believe this is a thing!" Yvette chirps, crushing my hand in hers as she bounces along.
"It is, indeed, a thing." I'm less excited, weighed down by the knowledge that I have already failed in my mission to reacquire my cousin's lost possessions. Still, if it makes Yvette happy I don't mind staying a while longer. We follow the crowd down another identical isle of storage units and halt in front of 102. The auctioneer consults some paperwork, nods, and his assistant leans down and plants a heavy-duty bolt cutter against one of two padlocks. It pops free after a second and the other is removed with a key. You can feel the excitement in the air.

I was expecting a bunch of know-nothing vultures, or at worst some people gambling their time for the chance of hitting it big. I thought they would only be on the lookout for high-value items. Instead, when my cousin's storage unit was opened up most of the crowd turned out to be cold, calculating eBay machines. The auctioneer wouldn't let anyone dig through boxes or open drawers, but they estimated the contents of everything based on bulges, trends in the visible items, and some strange sixth sense. Hearing some of them whisper to each other I was shocked at how closely their guesses matched what I knew to be inside. In the end the winner got a good deal, but even a good deal was more than I could afford. If my cousin had any money to fund this with he wouldn't have fallen behind on the payments in the first place.

The metal door for unit 102 rolls up with a clatter, and there's a sigh of disappointment. The only thing in there is a door leaning against the wall, complete with a frame.
"Ten dollars!" Yvette yells, and the crowd chuckles. I can see one other person looking at the door and considering - it's an outside door rather than a flimsy inside one but it looks more like a child pasted it together out of individual splinters. The auctioneer hadn't even started the bidding yet but he knows there aren't any other offers so he looks right at Yvette.
"You know there's a fifty dollar deposit that you can get back when you've cleared the unit out."
She nods, grinning ear to ear, and smacks me hard enough to make my teeth rattle - but in an affectionate way. Knowing my cue, I dig out some twenties and hand them over.

The crowd moves on, and Yvette goes to gaze lovingly at her new door.
"So, sweetie... why did you just buy a door?" The storage unit smells like dust and mildew, like we're in a cave or something.
"I wanted to win something, and I think I can sand it down and use it in the laundry room." I can't imagine that's going to work but the laundry room door does have a nasty split and Yvette loves to have a project. Besides, it's done now. I reach over and test the knob and it turns without any trouble. I check the hinges, pulling the door open and...
"Oh... oh my." Yvette says. I just keep staring through the doorway as she leans behind it. "The door is still closed on this side," she says, and her voice is shaking a little. Mine probably would be too if I could talk at all. Where there should be an empty door frame and the wall of the storage unit, a dark tunnel stretches out of sight.
"So... maybe not the laundry room."