Story by Emily Broadmore
I almost had a meltdown today, Ollie said.
Sadie raised an eyebrow at him questioningly.
They tried to make me draft an email.
Oh dear, Sadie said. The life of a senior public servant.
She spoke flippantly, and bent over a pile of large Iranian carpets, leafing through the top five or so until the weight became too much. Ollie bent down to help her.
Diabolical, I know, Ollie replied. I like this one. What do you think honey?
Too green. What did you do?
I closed it down quickly. Said there’s no need to carpet bomb the situation, we can just send out a few missiles to sort it instead. And then I got the new grad to draft the missiles.
You know me. What about this one?
Sadie stood back and looked at what appeared to be a very old and faded carpet. Velvety blue with an ever so faint pattern filtering through the worn patches.
It’s very old, she said.
From over her shoulder came the lilting voice of the young Iranian shop assistant.
This one, Madam, he said, Is over one hundred years old. Very old. Very beautiful. Re-dyed. Four by two point five meters. It is two and a half thousand dollars. One of a kind. Very beautiful.
His head nodded as he spoke and he ran a slender hand over the grain of the carpet.
Very beautiful, he said again. One of a kind.
It is, isn’t it, he said to Sadie.
It just seems a lot for an old carpet.
But that’s the point honey, isn’t it? That it doesn’t look old. Like we’ve had it for generations.
Sadie was doubtful. It would be obvious to all their regular social acquaintances that this was a new carpet, and therefore a statement that they saw value in antiques and were willing to pay large sums of money for an item that had been, she assumed, discarded by the original Iranian family who saw it as too ragged to use.
Sadie bit her lip.
It almost feels a little nouveau riche to spend such a large amount of money on something so old, she said.
She spoke tentatively and watched Ollie purse his lips.
But these super plush ones are a bit too new, he said.
He indicated to the pile of thick carpets piled high to his left. The top one was burgundy with a cream and black border.
The salesman stepped forward, meticulously pulling each of the carpets above the antique one further back to show a larger segment of the frayed edges, patched spots and undulating (or faded, thought Sadie) dye job.
They would be nicer for the children though, Sadie said. The newer ones, I mean.
Ollie shrugged again, pulled out his phone and began self-importantly flicking through his work emails. It was 11am on a Thursday after all. But the politicians weren’t in town this week. He’d told her that on the way in.
Usually, he’d said, I’d be in an Officials meeting with the Minister at this time. Thank God that wanker is out of town today.
New Zealand politics formed much of the conversation at their dinner parties these days. Sadie used to think she was a left -wing girl. Until recently, when she began watching their social circle more closely. Largely senior public servants made unemployable by their cushy and highly paid jobs who spent their days rubbing shoulders with Wellington’s elite. The security of their public sector jobs allowed them to dismiss realities of the business community while at the same time feigning concern for the true working class whilst living in a world outside of the realities of poverty. They were all right wingers parading as lefties.
As was Sadie.
About to drop two and a half thousand dollars on an antique Iranian carpet their friends could spill wine over as they staggered about with their glasses of Te Mata pinot at the next dinner party. She saw herself in her mind, rubbing the frayed edge of the carpet with the toe of her shoe as she casually dismissed any questions about it. It’s why we liked it, she would say. Because it is old and not so showy. Her friends would nod in agreement and she would make a point of spilling some drops of Pinot over it. And so practical for family life, she would laugh.
Fine, she said.
Ollie looked up from his phone.
What’s that honey, he asked.
Sadie gestured toward the worn antique carpet.
It is beautiful, she said. And you are right. There is a charm about the fact that it is worn. Not so showy.
Excellent Madam, the young salesman said. He nodded and smiled at her. A smile that made his eyes twinkle with an authenticity Sadie wasn’t used to.
Sadie, self-conscious, glanced down at the carpet.
The salesman was rolling back the top carpets now, slowly working the antique carpet from beneath the pile. His sleeves were rolled to his elbows and the muscles of his arms flexed as he worked. His shirt was tucked into his trousers ad he wore a thin gold chain around his neck.
Thank you, she said quietly.
It was beautiful, she decided. And two and a half thousand wasn’t so much for a carpet that size, was it? Should they have haggled? Was it appropriate to haggle over a carpet in central Wellington? She glanced at Ollie, still thumbing his phone. He clearly didn’t care. She watched as the carpet was folded up. She had expected him to roll it, for some reason.
Ollie strode over to the counter and sat with a grunt on one of the wooden chairs in front of the desk. He pulled out his wallet and lay the Visa on the counter.
Very good Sir, said the salesman.
Yes, it’s a good carpet. I like that it has history, said Ollie.
The salesman bent over the Eftpos machine, punching in the figure and moved the machine across the desk toward Ollie.
Ollie flourished his card and punched in his pin number.
Your ring Sir, said the salesman. It is also very old, no?
Ollie sat back and spread the fingers of his left hand. He looked down at his wedding band. The darkness of the grey band glistened in the dim shop lighting.
Sadie bit her lip, feeling herself blush.
Ollie laughed. Actually its not, he said. Just been heat treated.
Heat treated, asked the salesman.
In the fireplace, Ollie said. I fished it out of the fireplace recently.
Sadie closed her eyes momentarily. When she opened them, she saw both the salesman and Ollie closely inspecting Ollies wedding band.
Very good Sir, said the salesman. It must be titanium, no? Otherwise the heat of the fire would have melted the metal.
Yes, said Ollie. And I like it like this. With some history.
He turned and winked at Sadie, whose heart ceased to thump quite as hard within her chest.
Isn’t that right honey, asked Ollie.
Sadie smiled at the salesman.
Yes, she said. It’s nice that it’s a little worn.
This story by Emily Broadmore was the second-place winner in our recent "Undiscovered Gems" writing competition. Follow us on Facebook and join our newsletter to be up to date with Exisle Academy.