Chapter Three: Shoo Fly.
They were in the middle of an argument.
‘Ah but,’ Vicki shouted angrily, ‘you didn’t pay us when you said you would.’
‘Exactly, but I didn’t not pay you on purpose. It’s just that everything happened so fast. That’s why I am trying to pay you now,’ reasoned Kerry.
‘It’s too late now, Kerry. You should have paid us when you said you would. Now the frame belongs to all of us equally,’ Emma said.
‘No it doesn’t. It’s my frame. I saw it. I bought it. And if it was just an ordinary old frame you wouldn’t even want it. It’s only ‘cause it’s magic. It’s mine and I’m not sharing it.’ Tears stung Kerry’s eyes and she punched her pillow on the last word.
‘Well, if you’re going to have a tantrum and hit something we might take you seriously if it was a brick wall,’ Emma said, laughing.
Vicki saw how upset Kerry was and she thought Emma was being too hard on her. Her attitude softened. ‘Kerry, it’s still yours and we know how special it is, but now it’s special to the rest of us, too. We’re all involved in the magic of the picture and it’s too much of a responsibility for you to have on your own. I think it would be better if you shared it with us.’ Vicki was now all done being understanding. ‘And, anyway, it already does belong to all of us because we all paid for it and if you keep making a fuss, I’ll come over there and smash your face in.’
‘Yes,’ said Mark, siding with the stronger opponent, ‘Go on, Vic. Knock her out.’
‘All right, then,’ Kerry moaned. ‘I’ll share it. But you’d better not do anything to damage it or ruin the magic, because if you do I’ll put slugs in your bed.’
Vicki and Kerry glared at each other.
‘It’s staying in our room though, isn’t it, Mark?’ Kerry looked to her cousin for support.
Mark knew how ugly these scenes between Vicki and Kerry could get and he didn’t want to be dragged into the middle of it. He looked shiftily between the two bristling girls, then back to Vicki. She didn’t look as though she was going to run over and give him a Chinese burn but you never could tell with Vicki. She was unpredictable.
‘I dunno,’ he muttered.
‘Agreed, then,’ Vicki said. ‘We’re all equal, joint owners but it stays in your room.’
‘Slug slime becomes you, it goes with your hair,’ sang Emma, sensing that the war was over. Kerry was still sulking and clutched the picture possessively.
She looked at it and relived the excitement of the night before when their mother had taken her and Emma to an auction.
It was a general auction of household goods. They went to see if they could find a suitable picture to fit the frame. This was the second time that they’d been and Kerry was impatient. Last time there was nothing but a load of old junk. She hoped that this week would be better.
Before the auction began they walked round viewing the lots. Emma was looking at ornaments for her room but Kerry went straight over to the pictures. She found one at the back of a dusty pile of dirty, oil paintings and prints that she thought would look good and she called Emma over.
They huddled together discussing the picture and what they were going to try with it. Kerry got out her tape measure and measured it. It was fourteen by eighteen inches and was a little bit too big, but that didn’t matter. She could cut off some of the scenery around the edge to make it fit. The frame was awful. It was thick gilt and the gold coloured paint was gaudy and chipped. The print would look much better in the lizard frame.
It was just their luck that the picture was lot number one hundred and eighty one. They had to sit through two hours of boring lots passing through the sale: endless scratched tables and chairs with wonky legs, chipped ornaments and dirty lampshades, electrical goods—that may or may not work—old bicycles, brass bedsteads and all kinds of this and that. Mrs Taylor, Debbie, bought a gold ring that cost eighty six pounds and a socket set for Mr Taylor for a fiver. Emma bought a pot elephant, a teddy bear cookie jar, a large box of books and a fascinator. Kerry didn’t buy anything at all but clung tightly to her purse waiting for lot one-eight-one to be called.
She felt the excitement mounting. Emma also fidgeted, two pinpoints of colour rising on her cheeks. Both of them were gripped by a rightness with the picture.
‘And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have lot one-eight-one. Look at this lovely picture. Wouldn’t it look elegant above your fireplace? You never know it might turn out to be a Rembrandt. Who will give me ten pounds for this delightful picture?’ Kerry was about to raise her arm but Debbie held on to her firmly and gave a small shake of her head.
‘No? Five then, five pounds? Somebody must want this picture at just five pounds.’ Debbie was still restraining Kerry. The auctioneer looked around the room. He signed theatrically, ‘You guys are killing me. One pound. Give me just one pound to take it away?’
Debbie released her hold and Kerry’s hand shot up; she couldn’t stop herself from jiggling on the seat.
The auctioneer looked at Debbie for confirmation of the bid. She nodded.
‘One pound from the little lady at the front. Two pounds. Am I bid two pounds?’
An elderly woman in a huge fur coat waved her program to indicate a bid. Kerry scowled at her.
‘Fur is worn by beautiful animals and ugly women. She looks like a ferret,’ whispered Emma. Debbie frowned at her daughter but Kerry, engrossed in the bidding, didn’t even hear Emma’s remark.
‘Two pounds I have. Am I bid three?’
Kerry put up her hand—so did a fat man with a notebook and pen. Debbie whispered that he was probably a dealer.
The auctioneer looked at Debbie again and accepted Kerry’s bid as being the first. Kerry jiggled in her seat with excitement.
‘Three pounds I have, four pounds? Am I bid four pounds?’
The auctioneer looked at the man who had bid against Kerry. He gave a small shake of the head indicating that he was no longer interested. Then he turned in his seat to face the girls. Kerry had been staring daggers at him and the man must have felt her eyes willing him not to bid. He raised his hat, nodded at them and smiled. Both girls smiled back and he nodded his head courteously at Debbie, who blushed.
The lady in the dead rabbit raised her hand.
‘I have four pounds, am I bid five?’
Kerry bid five pounds.
Ferret lady bid six.
Kerry bid seven.
Debbie gave her daughter a look that warned she would be intervening soon to stop her bidding. It was getting too expensive.
‘Am I bid eight Pounds?’
He looked at the lady. She didn’t raise her pamphlet. Kerry’s cheeks were burning. This was it; she was going to get her picture.
The auctioneer looked around the room, scanning every potential bidder to make sure that he hadn’t missed any.
‘Come on, folks. Seven pounds for this beautiful picture? I’m giving it away. Why, this picture probably hung in Windsor castle before the great fire.’
‘And during,’ shouted somebody in the crowd.
Everybody laughed. Everybody, except Emma and Kerry.
‘Okay. Have it your own way but it breaks my heart to let it go for that price. A lovely antique like this. It’s probably, oh, at least ten year’s old. Come on, people, make an old man happy. I have a wife and seven hungry kids to feed. Will anybody give me eight pounds for this lovely picture?’
He raised his hammer.
He prepared to bring the gavel down. His arm was already on its downward swing when The Ferret made up her mind and waved a pamphlet. Kerry was furious that the bid was back with the woman.
‘Ladies?’ He looked at the girls and their mum. ‘Will you give me nine pounds?’
Without any hesitation Kerry raised her hand and waved it madly. The auctioneer smiled.
‘Nine pounds over here, Ladies and Gentlemen, with our pair of lovely art lovers. Who will give me ten pounds? Ten pounds, just ten measly pounds. I ask you, what does that buy these days? Come on, ten pounds for this spectacular picture. No takers? Going once.’
He raised his hammer.
He started the closing swing.
Kerry panicked. She felt sure that the awful woman was going to steal the bid from her again. She was confused and excited, and, almost without realising she’d done it, she flung her hand up in the air.‘Here, here, please. I’ll bid again,’ she said, waving her arm and jumping out of her seat. Everybody roared with laughter but Kerry didn’t care. She had to have the picture and had convinced herself that it was perfect for the magic frame. Emma slunk down in her chair and covered her face in embarrassment. Debbie turned crimson and the auctioneer could hardly speak for laughing.
‘The bid was already with you. You can’t bid against yourself, Princess. I think you deserve this picture and I hope it brings you great happiness.’ And then, without giving anybody else another chance to bid, he said, ‘To the young lady with the pretty smile. Nine pounds.’
He brought the hammer down with an especially loud crack and wiped a tear of laughter from his eye. Kerry was pink with pleasure.
‘You big dope, I’m so embarrassed. Fancy bidding against yourself. You’re lucky that he didn’t make you pay extra,’ Emma said. Kerry was beaming and didn’t care about anything but seeing how the print looked in the frame.