• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10

A Collector’s Item

We wandered into the poster shop because Mum was taking ages at the kaftan stall.

‘Come on Charlie, let’s wait in some air con,’ Dad said.

We drifted into the store, Dad’s hands clasped behind his back, a habit formed from the time he knocked over a crystal vase in Haines and had to pay for it. His sunburnt calves looked sore against the white shorts Mum had made him wear.

‘I look ridiculous.’

‘We’re abroad. Where else are you going to wear white.’

‘No man over fifty should wear white shorts.’

I was deep into Marvel comics so the posters of fruit and women in hats left me cold. 

‘Sir, may I help you?’ 

A young woman appeared in the aisle, all warmth and brown tan.

Dad’s face flushed the colour of his calves.

‘No thank you. We’re just browsing.’

She smiled deeper, forcing out the dimples in her cheeks.

‘We have a sale today. 30% off. Maybe an extra 10%, for special customers.’

She winked and left us alone.

Dad glanced at me, beetroot faced. 

‘Charlie boy, what do you think of that there picture?’ 


A Collector’s Item

He pointed at a random print, his finger a flustered compass, searching for any change of subject. The print showed a stack of flattened cars balancing aloft a tree stump. 

‘Weird,’ I said. ‘What’s that about?’ 

‘Ah, that is by a famous local artist.’ 

The woman’s voice reappeared, startling us both. Had she been lurking in the next aisle, waiting for an opportunity to re-engage? 

‘The cars, stacked in inverse, represents the decline of industrialisation. Balanced upon the tree stump, the artist is commenting that nature continues to be the foundation upon which society hinges, despite the way we treat it. In summary, it is a portrait of climate change and the harrowing future that awaits if we don’t prevent further climate disaster.’ 

She stopped for breath. Dad and I were frozen, like two deer, struck dumb in the glare 

of headlights.

‘I can give you 50% off,’ she continued. ‘It is a collector’s item, a complete original. Each time you look at it, you will see humanity’s...’

‘I’ll take it.’

The dimples came out.

Dad’s face turned ashen when the price was deducted from his card. I worried for his circulation, such extreme flushes of colour but I kept my mouth shut. I’d just seen what speaking when not needing to, could do. 

Back out in the blazing sun, he thrust the bag into my hand.


A Collector’s Item

‘Don’t tell your mother.’

We found her three shops along, wearing her new kaftan. 

‘There you are,’ she beamed. ‘Do you like it. It was a tough haggle. But he threw in 

something extra.’

She pulled a scroll out of her tote which she unrolled to show a poster of cars aloft a tree stump.

‘It’s a bit odd,’ she said,’ but I didn’t want to be rude and refuse. What have you two

been up to?’