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January 1, 2007 Fiction

Lot 613

J.W. Wang

Lot 613 photo

She found me at the public auction house, a placard reading "613" displayed over my head. A jeweled egg hung from her left shoulder, crusted with rubies, diamonds, glinty stuff. "So what's your deal?" she said. "Tortured artist? Oedipus Complex? Terrible listener?" A slit ran up the side of her silk dress, and I kept my eyes low. "Or ...," she continued, "no flaws of consequence? My lucky day?" She peered into my cell. It was a dim little place, stretching two tatamis wide, with electricity from eight to ten. She was pretty, yes, but I didn't know what to do with precious stones, or eggs that held objects other than yolks and whites. She'd do better talking to 614, who owned a lake-side bistro, or 618, prince of an island nation near the Northern Marianas. I pushed around mail carts and took home extra samples of soap and detergent. "I'm sorry," I said, "but I'm not the right person. There's nothing all that interesting here." She retrieved a cigarette from her glittering egg and struck a wooden match. A chorus of laughter sounded from one of the other cells. She turned her head to look. There were thirty-two of them down where she gazed, another eighty rows lined up behind us. I tried to think of simpler times, the men running about with big sticks and the women just running away, though I never knew any such. She blew a puff of smoke that didn't dissipate for quite some time. A woman from a magazine smiled at me from the wall, framed and happy.

image: Sean Carman