Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lion in Waiting

An audio version of this post can be found at:

   Uncle Billy set a plastic grocery bag on the table. "Here it is."
   "In that?" asked Clara.
   "Sure ... why not?" Billy opened the bag, pulled out a bronze lion statuette and set it on the table.
   "Well, it sure looks old," I said.
   Billy produced a small card with the title, Ramayan Arts. "See, it says right here, 'um ... Ma ... Mad ya ... uh ... Prah deesh ... Tribal Bronze, twenty-eight thousand years old.'" He held out the card for Clara.
   Clara set down her coffee and shot a look at Billy. "You mean, Madhya Pradesh?" She took the card. "Hmmmm ... it says, 'Bronze lion cast in the lost wax method'"
   I swallowed a bite of my hamburger. "Twenty-eight thousand years old? That might be a truly historic find ... to the best of my recollection, wasn't the bronze age about five or six thousand years ago?"
   "What would you know about it, Wonder Boy?" Billy took the card back from Clara. "The price tag is seven thousand, two-hundred dollars ... would they charge that kind of jack for something that wasn't old?"
   "Uncle, they could put anything on that card ... it doesn't mean it's real."
   Billy picked up the statuette and held it in front of my face. "Look at that ... it's the real thing."
   I set down my hamburger and took the lion from Billy. In spite of it's small size, it was hefty, surely made of metal, and it had a green patina that would indicate bronze or maybe copper. "It looks old ... but people have been making replicas of things like that for ... well, forever."
   "You don't know ... I'll bet it's worth every bit of seven thousand dollars," said Billy.
   I handed the lion to Clara. She turned it over in her hands, inspecting it. "How much did you pay for it, William?"
   Billy smiled. "The guy gave me a great deal ... seventy percent off ... only two-thousand dollars ... and that was thirty years ago ... it must be worth a lot more today."
   Clara set the lion in the middle of the table. "I wouldn't think thirty years is going to make much difference for something from antiquity ... if it really is."
   "Well, are you going to take it?" asked Billy.
   "Yes, I'll take it with me ... I don't really have anything else to be evaluated."
   "How did you get the tickets? I heard Antiques Roadshow only had something like three-thousand available ... and over thirty-thousand people applied," I said.
   "Somehow, Ellen Sunderland got two ... and her husband can't go, so she invited me."
   "That was lucky," I said.
   "I'll bet this lion will be the hit of the show," said Billy.
   Clara ignored Billy's comment. "Ellen has a painting by Jean Heyermans that she inherited from her mother ... she's anxious to get it appraised, but she didn't want to go alone."
   "Heyermans ... never heard of him," I said.
   "I think he was Belgian ... anyway, Ellen said that a painting by him was recently appraised at ten thousand dollars."
   "I'll bet the lion goes for more than that," said Billy.
   We both looked at him.
   "I'll tell you what," he continued, "if it comes in at anything more than five thousand, I'll buy everyone dinner at Reggie's."
   "Everyone?" I asked.
   "Well, you and Clara ... and maybe Eb and Hank, too."
   "How about Becky and Dottie?"
   Billy winced. "Well ...  okay ... if they order hamburgers."

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