Auction #42: The Spoons in My Drawer
Lot 42A is a heavy, stainless-steel teaspoon with an elongated bowl stamped with the word “Japan,” a bent neck, and a pressed pattern of alternating fleur-de-lis and eight-petal daisies along the handle, part of a mismatched set of three utensils left in the bare silverware drawer (one fork, one knife, said spoon) by the explosive ex-boyfriend of the seller in a two-room apartment in Boulder upon being asked to vacate it. The utensils were a message, obvious and silly and cruel, that the seller would live and die alone without him.
Any damage on the spoon is normal wear and tear, merely part of its provenance, tiny blips that add character to a pedestrian object—such as the seller hurling the spoon with some vigor out the second-floor apartment’s kitchen window with its partners to breathe free then jangle and bounce off the sidewalk below, retrieving the set and subsequently chipping the crust off the inside of the oven in order to cleanse the very appliances of rage-reverberations, then using the spoon to dig a pit in a local park, hacking away at the backs of stones and frozen dirt, to bury an amethyst rock in the shape of a heart, hands covered with dirt and loam. Feeling pleasantly Hollywood.
In the right light, one can observe echoes of its primal ancestors in this stainless-steel spoon, made of bone or shell or wood or pounded metal, their shape still recognizable across millennia. Such echoes strum memories of huddled backs around a fire, slurping hot soup cradled against the body, shadows dancing across a wall of stone or along forest boughs, heat glowing against ancient faces. Or, closer in the well of memory, shadows thrown along the thin sheath of a tent flap, across the mouth of the Volkswagen bus the seller and her ex drove to camp along desert canyons over the five years they stayed together, the spoon an unassuming passenger among many other such commonplaces.
Since the seller came into possession of this heavy, stainless-steel teaspoon with alternating flowers nearly twenty years ago, she’s never once used it to eat—though it lies in a drawer in the kitchen, nestled with other ordinary spoons in a slot designed for such purpose, and surrounded by forks and butter knives, steak knives and measuring spoons in a cluster, paring knives, a miniature whisk, and a small pair of gifted dainty forks for fancy cheese, evidence of a prosaic yet full life.
Starting bid: Two break-up stories and a bottle of gin
Lot 42B is a stainless-steel dinner spoon bisected with parallel lines at the neck and the base of the handle, with a not-too-generous bowl and a subdued sheen. Late 20th Century American. The light reflected off it is soft, like the woman’s voice who once owned it.
The former owner was, at first, less a girl than a giant blue duffel bag making its way down the crowded isle of a packed tenth-grade classroom, struggling to break free of the forest of unacknowledging elbows and backpacks and knees, slouching teenaged bodies grown stuporous in the afternoon.
Upon reaching freedom at the front of the room, the duffel bag revealed that it was spooned by a person, tight-wound and cross, wearing glasses, with brown hair and flint eyes. She stared down the teacher, the room, and huffed out on her way to a track meet, the door reverberating in her wake.
Later, the seller and the former owner of the spoon lived in separate houses with separate problematic boyfriends but within walking distance. When the explosive ex was cleaning out the apartment, they got drunk and howled out Cars tunes and annoyed the neighbors. The girl with the blue duffel was by then a young woman, mistress of a kitchen and her own record player and silverware. She fed the seller beef stew, her first meat in years, then gave the seller the bisected stainless-steel spoon along with one more fork and one more knife, that she might not have to eat alone. They stayed friends for twenty-five years.
Now, the spoon remains where the friendship does not. It’s a favorite of the seller, but these things must pass. We can’t hold on to everything. Some things are best given up. All things must come to an end. Things change. People change, the world keeps turning. There are so many fish in the sea. Time is free but priceless. The spoon is ideal for cereal, for parsing the fine balance between liquid and solid, fruit and nut and flake. “If you do not tell the truth about yourself,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “you cannot tell it about other people.” The seller misses the girl with the duffel. Let go.
Starting bid: A record (something synthy and loud), a secret, and a trip to the airport whenever it’s needed
Lot 42C is a curvaceous and comely dinner spoon, circa 1980s American. Brushed steel gently disperses light reflecting from the bowl so that the spoon is ever nearing dusk. The handle is nipped at decorative intervals, as though bound in rope, or segmented like a lopsided string of sausage. Only minor scratches disrupt the spoon’s smooth surface, belying its tumultuous provenance. It has a pleasant heft that speaks to its longevity, both solid and frivolous at once. The spoon was once possessed by a poet.
Long ago, the brushed-steel spoon belonged in the unlikely silverware drawer of the poet’s father. Unlikely because you’d never suspect a man with his pointed face, angular as though chiseled, owned silverware of such supple softness. But you’d have to know a little more about him—that he weathered the death of two children, divorce and the death of his former spouse years later, fractious conversations with his remaining son. The world is sharp, he might have thought, so why chance it with pointy silverware? The spoon can hold even these tragedies with grace.
The poet as a young man pieced a disparate set of silverware together on leaving his parents’ house, carting the spoon and other things from Michigan to Arizona to Colorado. He and the seller spent years alternately in love or not speaking, eventually settling on something in-between. Years ago, the seller came into possession of the spoon by accident while packing an impromptu picnic meant to distract the poet as friends prepared for his birthday. They broke up again soon after, the spoon residing with other detritus, nestled against a dangerously swollen yogurt cup at the bottom of an unused bag in the seller’s closet, the handle splotched with long-forgotten food. Found again.
A careful examination of the spoon’s open, ovoid face reveals next to nothing about its adventures. The spoon holds its secrets. Listening is what this spoon does best. To out-loud poems that might become paper airplanes thrown through a window, more delicate and graceful in their passage than a spoon’s. To mourning. To silence. To seditious statements about the government, to arguments, to miles and miles of music, and to the loose play on rhyme and meter of late-night conversations. The seller and the poet periodically get together and mull over their shared history, the passage of their youth, the shoals upon which their waves of memory repeatedly return.
The spoon is a traveler that refuses to be lost, biding its time and steady as always; the light it gives off dull then strong again, the way friendships swell and waver, curl over and over again to their beginnings, altered and constant at once.
Starting bid: A belly laugh, two cups of coffee, and a poem written over a long afternoon
Lot 42D is a long-necked soda spoon designed to stir iced tea on a porch in the humid summer heat. Art Deco lines define a lip along either side of the handle, and the bowl is streaked by tarnish that’s part rainbow-colored and part ochre, as though the spoon were dipped in an oil slick and left out to dry. Early 20th Century American, from a set of inexpensive plated silverware manufactured in Connecticut under the Victor S Co. division of the Derby Silver Factory—that much is clear from deciphering the marks on the back of the handle. And Google.
Yet the fact remains that the spoon is a curiosity, a would-be metallic envoy from an alternate universe lit by fireflies, or magnolia-filtered sunlight, serenaded by a dainty cicada chorus, murmurs of ice cubes tinkling glass, genteel gossip, pungent table-top flowers and perfumed wrists. Somewhere in this fantasy a handkerchief cascades to the floor. This is a world the spoon has never known.
The spoon came to the seller by way of her mother’s disastrous first marriage, she sleek in the wedding photos in a simple long-sleeved gown and garland of flowers, he in a red cloud of 70s hair, a reception in the lobby of the Woolworth Building arranged through obscure family connections, the both of them so young. Their marriage lasted only long enough to alienate them from one another and produce a baby, the seller herself, now a grown woman with an emotionally-complicated silverware drawer.
The box that held the wedding-gift soda spoons and other place settings of the long-ago couple is scratched and sticky. It was relocated from New York to Denver to the mountains to Boulder to Denver to the suburbs, only a meagre piece of black tape attending to the top that swings open unexpectedly, its contents rattling inside in a noisy and chaotic pile. The surface of the box is fuzzy with settled dust clinging to the layers of grease accumulated in various poorly-ventilated kitchens. It has the character of things that go unused.
What is known about the man, half of the original owners, could fit in the bowl of the soda spoon. He had red hair. He liked to draw. He was arrested in Hurricane, Arizona. He died in Apache Junction. The historic record only goes so deep. What’s left are pieces of the six-place set of wedding-gift silverware in a red-felt-lined wooden box and the seller herself, who finds the taste of the spoon too like sucking on a penny.
But still the spoon remains. It reflects a much prettier light, even with the tarnish that plagues its narrow face, than its actual story. In the spoon’s bright light are the seeds of fiction, imagination, what might be or might have been, if only. The spoon is an ache, but one that leaves room for speculation, love, curiosity. The spoon is a fairy tale.
Starting bid: A sacred ball of twine, one end of which is stuck to the center of a maze, the other end an invitation to parts unknown
Sara Fall comes from the mountains and lives in a house tucked into the foothills of Colorado with her family. She teaches writing and has recently begun to flirt with AI. Her most recent publications are in The Sonder Review, trampset, and Otis Nebula.
A Song for Sara