The thing found by the man sat for many years piled amid the musty crenellations of his attic. He had bought it at an estate sale, just one among the many heirlooms of dead folk whose repose he knew only through the auctioneer’s stale hammer. But today the man was happy because the thing had been anointed by the money-men, and for once inside him the gulf between price and value was breached. This was the messianic conviction that saw him through all those decades of beachcombing or yard sales or glum liquidations enduring the percussive harangues of third-rate auctioneers. He knew the price of few things and the value of fewer and inhabited the dismal zone between them.
The thing was a painting, but it could have been any thing: a chair, a bowl, a clock, a ring. Today the man was rich because this painting, bought on a hunch, had been sold to the man in ignorance, neglected, lost. It was painted in a master’s hand, yes, but the ecstasy of images was not something the man indulged in, only the ecstatic possibility of incomplete information. The thing sat in a cupboard or a drawer or some such crevice for many years before the man’s knowledge of its price became suddenly complete, most likely by accident.
Tomorrow the man will be in the day’s paper, and we will read of his good fortune. He will tell us that this is “everything I was hoping for and more.”
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