Word Count: 500
The Need for Superfluous Treasures
It was two days before anyone thought to look for her. Two hours more before Evelyn found her,
buried beneath a lifetime of memories and useless objects, her hand curled around her latest
acquisition like it held a tomb-raider’s treasure. Trash, to anyone else’s eye.
Nearly everything here was superfluous: Stacks of books and papers, teacups, some sans handle
or saucer, tins—of crumbling cookies, or old buttons—contents unknown until opened. Empty
tissue boxes, and boxes jumbled with sterling silver pickle forks, servers for cucumbers, oysters,
asparagus, tomato slices—every conceivable piece from an era when each tidbit of food had its
own peculiar utensil. How many figured in her collection? Eighty-seven? Ninety-seven? Who
knew, scattered as they were, no longer displayed. Buckets of seashells. Empty egg cartons and
totes, shopping bags, antique tin toys, and plastic bowls, heaped precariously on Tiffany,
Lalique, Fenton. Baskets with bird nests, yarn balls, and rusty buckles; mystery prizes wrapped
in brittle, yellowing newspaper; mounds of someone else’s memorabilia. Where did she sleep?
Clocks and coffee urns once holding pride of place in someone’s humble abode—things anybody
else owned one of, not twenty-one—now holding up teetering towers, like the one that had
toppled, pinning her beneath as she tried to position the prize.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law. The hunt is the other tenth, she often, flippantly, told
Evelyn. Being a small part of the whole, the hunt is never enough in itself, but possession
without the hunt is empty. If someone gave this item to her, her need would be unmet. A nice
gesture, but unfulfilling. Yet the hunt without procurement of the item just whets the appetite.
With the logical portion of her mind, she knew she should stay away from places that brought
forth this longing. Obsession, if you will. She could control this impulse if she just stayed home.
Evelyn knew she still roamed the shops, less frequently, perhaps, although not with as much
discrimination as she once had, in her search for a particular complement to her collections.
Evelyn could picture her: setting this bauble down, walking away, that covetous longing she
described insinuating itself. A hundred steps later, turning around, wending her way back to the
piece, as though it was a waif insistently whimpering for mama. Its brash assertion repelled
people like Evelyn, but she said she found it comforting. Until that moment, hadn’t known she
needed it. Now, couldn’t live without it. Never considered it excessive. She would give it a good
home. It would be excellent with her others.
Each time she shared purchases, she explained the need, and Evelyn had nodded, but until now,
this very moment, seeing her clutching the shattered, doll-sized teapot in her very cold hand,
Evelyn had not understood the addiction for what it was. Until now, she hadn’t thought to call
Weaving her way to the front door, Evelyn breathed in the fresh air, pulled out her cell phone,
and pressed 9-1-1.