Chapter 8

About ten days after he had been visited by the rug gods, he arose from his desk and raised all his prices by half.

Holden sat at his roll top desk chewing on the meaning of life. He had gone unnoticed for three years in the rug business, then wham! Ulysses Pope, the most famous rug collector in the world, appeared from nowhere and discovered him. So had Avery Deane—who seemed important, if Holden could only figure out who he was. But, though he had been discovered by the big boys, and though Pope had even bought a rug from him, no one else had. He was as close to bankruptcy as ever.

On the other hand, it did seem as if he had been dusted by some of the magic that trailed the famous Ulysses Pope. In trying to put together a meeting of local collectors so Pope could enlist them for his Ali Babba Society, Holden had called everyone on his customer-list plus all the collectors he knew who bought their rugs elsewhere. They had all been surprised to hear that Holden had some association with Ulysses Pope. About a week later, Holden’s phone had begun to ring. Some were just calling to confirm that they would be at the meeting, but others wanted Holden’s advice about this and that. “Hey Holden,” a collector named Griff Norton asked him, “you know that Caucasian rug I bought at auction lately? You know the one I mean?”

“Yes, I do,” he said. Holden had been there. He had watched the collector buy a rug and pay good money for it—too much money—when he knew Griff could have bought a better rug for far less money in his own store.

“Well, what do you think it is? I mean, I can’t really decide.”

“Really? Isn’t it a Shirvan? With those cotton selvages? Cotton wefts. That’s what it looks like, too. It’s a Shirvan. What else could it be?”

“Uh, well of course that was my thought, too. What else could it be?”

“Right.”

“Hey Holden, what’s this I hear about you showing Ulysses Pope around?”

“Yeah.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool.”

Phone calls like that. Suddenly rug dealers and collectors wanted his professional advice and some wanted to get themselves invited to Pope’s meeting. Holden, as he had already noted, had been invisible for the past three years in business. Now everyone was calling him up. But they weren’t buying his rugs.

About ten days after he had been visited by the rug gods Pope and Deane, he arose from his desk and raised all his prices by half. It went against his grain, but, he told himself, “What do I have to lose?” Then he had an anxiety attack and actually had to go out to the sidewalk and pace as fast as he could in front of his store, and pant like a dog. His breath turned to steam in the cold February air. But he got so worried that he might be missing an important phone call that he had to return to his showroom, where he continued his rapid pacing and rabid breathing.

A lonely week later, during which many people phoned but no customers walked through the door, Avery Deane breezed in. So did Griff Norton, just moments later. Griff collected Caucasian rugs and he popped in about once every three months and never bought anything. Instead, he always described to Holden in excruciating detail the rugs he had bought from other dealers, dwelling especially on minute details of their borders. Holden was always terribly glad for him, congratulating him on his good fortune. This time when Griff walked through the door, Avery Deane went right to him and shook his hand.

“Pleased to meet you,” he said. “My name is Avery Deane. Turkish rugs, am I right? You collect Turkish rugs.”

“Caucasian.”

Avery suddenly pulled his hand back and seemed uncomfortable. Then he cheered up. “Well, lucky I got here first.”

“Why?” Griff was puzzled and seemed annoyed.

“Ha! You dog. You thought you’d buy Holden’s Kuba before I could get a crack at it, but I got here first!”

“What Kuba?”

Avery looked surprised. Then the light seemed to dawn on him. “Right,” he said, “what Kuba? Lot’s of good rugs here. Why focus on the Kuba? Did you see Holden’s Marasali Shirvan? Or the Karabaugh?” Avery began trying to call Griff’s attention to a Karabaugh mounted on the rear wall, but Griff ignored him and began a quick prowl through the showroom, searching. “Or this Kazak?” Avery called to him from across the room. “Did you see this Karachopf Kazak?” But Griff didn’t even glance his way.

Holden looked from Avery to Griff, from Griff to Avery. He watched as Griff stopped before a late 19th century Zeykhur Kuba with an ivory field and two medallions that looked like galaxies radiating in bursts of energy. Griff peered at it as though he had never seen it before, though Holden knew that he had often walked past it with indifference. When Griff examined the rug’s price tag, Holden had to look away. He had just raised the price from $2000 to $3000.

From the other side of the room where Holden now couldn’t see him, Avery Deane shouted, “Holden, I do have first crack at that Kuba, don’t I? $4,000, right?”

Holden didn’t know what to say. If Deane had wanted to buy his Kuba why hadn’t he done it before? Anyway, it was a magnificent rug. He had never before realized just how good a rug it was. Its “running dog” border was full of graceful motion. Finally he responded, awkwardly. “It’s $3000 and I guess it’s whoever wants to buy it.”

“I do,” Griff said. “Sold.”

“You do? You want to buy it?” Holden couldn’t help sounding surprised.

“I do.”

“What? What did you say?” Deane shouted.

“Uh, Griff just bought it, Mr. Deane.” Deane didn’t answer, but in a moment he appeared.

“Beg pardon, Holden?”

“Griff just bought it.”

“The Kuba?”

Griff faced him and said, “Yes.”

“But that’s impossible. It was for sale just a moment ago, before you came in.”

“Well, it’s not for sale now,” Griff said. “Maybe you should have been a little more decisive.” Griff smiled at Deane, not kindly. Deane began to protest, then he seemed to wilt, and he slunk out of sight as Griff wrote a check and Holden accepted it and wrote a receipt. A few minutes later, Griff Norton walked out the door, a rolled Kuba under his arm. When he was gone, Avery Deane seemed perfectly happy. Holden was surprised. He had thought the small man with the wonderful voice would be disappointed.

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When a Dragon Winks

  • A novel by Emmett Eiland

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