When Kathleen O’Doughty appeared in the local paper under the headline ‘Charity shop find scoops £20,000’, Beryl Handsworth was peeved. Kathleen was a fellow car boot and charity shop aficionado on the hunt for potential money-spinners and they’d bumped into each other at one of Beryl’s regular haunts. Realising that they shared the same hobby they decided to go for a coffee and spent several hours happily sharing local knowledge, their views on the Miller’s Guide and the ins and outs of finding ‘the big one’. She’d seemed pleasant enough but it was when she started talking about how much money she was making; ‘I can usually find a couple of items a month that I can sell for over £1,000, no problem, how about you?’ that Beryl felt miffed by the obvious lie and made excuses to leave: she wasn’t about to admit that the most she’d ever made was £250.
Kathleen’s big find was a dirty-looking necklace that cost £3. Once cleaned it turned out not to be cheap paste but diamonds, and Beryl was self-righteously put out because she thought she’d seen it at Oxfam and had dismissed it as worthless. Irritated beyond measure at Kathleen’s luck and her stupidity, Beryl was undeterred and believed wholeheartedly that it was just a matter of time. She had devised regular routes around the county and followed them methodically; car boot sales at the weekend and charity and junk shops during the week. Her part-time job as a secretary for the local solicitor prevented her from pursuing her passion full-time and Kathleen’s big win made her resent her lack of time even more – but it paid the bills.
Although Beryl had amassed a lot of knowledge on a range of items and had bought and sold dozens in her time, she was really only focussed on finding one thing: an original Tiffany lamp. She kept track of auctions and knew that a Tiffany ‘Zinnia’ had recently sold for over a million pounds. She’d had many disappointments of course, since charity shops and car boots are awash with reproductions and she’d amassed quite a collection over the years, but after years of research, she felt sure she would know an original when she saw it.
It was on a sunny day in Odehampton that she came across a lamp that would change her life. She’d heard on the grapevine that a new Cancer Research outlet had opened and managed to fit in a visit before heading home. It was 4.45pm when she entered and with only 15 minutes to closing time, she quickly scanned the shelves for anything resembling Tiffany. Nothing came close but as she turned to leave she saw an odd-shaped lamp on a top shelf. It was covered in cobwebs, made of some sort of metal, oval in shape and had strange markings on the outside. She managed to reach it with her fingers and took it down to examine it more closely. She could smell remnants of wax emanating from the inside and although not a big fan of candle lamps, she impulsively took it to the counter anyway and paid a measly £1.50.
That evening she prepared a meal of lamb chops, boiled potato, carrots and peas and left the lamp in its anonymous plastic bag on the kitchen table. Her dreams that night were filled with a strange voice, scrolls, parchment, spices and the lamp. In the morning, feeling exhausted, she made tea and took another look at the lamp. It at least needs a clean before I sell it she thought and using warm soapy water and a sponge the lamp soon revealed itself to be made of copper. She polished it carefully and the copper gleamed, the markings clearly etched with considerable skill. She decided to check Miller’s and the internet to see if was worth anything but as she logged on she suddenly became aware that the lamp had started to glow. She picked it up to look inside but dropped it immediately when a voice said ‘I am the genie of the lamp, what can I do for you my master?’ ‘Wh..who’s there?’ she stuttered. ‘I am the genie of the lamp, what can I do for you my master?’ the voice repeated. ‘Come out now or I’ll call the police’ she said as she picked up a knife. ‘I am the genie of the lamp, what can I do for you my master?’ Beryl stood stock still and looked down at the lamp. It can’t be she thought; it’s a myth, a fairy tale. I must be dreaming. ‘Can you show yourself to me?’ she said. The voice said ‘Master, I am the genie of the lamp, what can I do for you?’
Two days later Kathleen was arrested for theft. The headline read ‘Car boot Kathleen a thief’. In the same paper there was a picture of Beryl proudly holding up an original Tiffany lamp. The headline read ‘Tiffany lamp sold for record £1.2 million’.
Categories: Just Stories