Good Silver

by Dan Sanders

We bring out the good silver for guests. Sometimes it gets put out on paper towels next to the IKEA plates, but it’s out there.

Her parents gave it to us as a wedding gift.  It came in a heavy mahogany box, the inside lined with red felt.  It opened and closed perfectly on gold plated hinges, the top rested snugly into place when closed and opened silently. It is meticulously crafted, a near perfect thing.

We figure it’s expensive. We bought this horrible polish once, it smelled like poison. Chemicals and alcohol sunk in a grey mud to stick to the curves in the spoons, the filigree in the handles. It worked, but we stopped after two knives and decided we’d rather eat whatever’s in the tarnish than whatever’s in the mud.

Her parents got it from one of their parents. It came in the same heavy, quiet brown box. It was the biggest gift they opened after their church basement reception. It was something to be pulled out on special occasions for five years and then forgotten about for fifty. The box got dusty in their care, a ceremonial thing to pass on later, dug out from the basement closet after enough time had passed.

Her grandparents bought it with the first check after they bought the car. Car for him, silver for her. Over time they’d fill a china cabinet, an ornamental thing kept in the dining room. A display case for dishes, to look at while they ate. For special occasions, and possibly as an aspirational tool for whatever guests visited the dishes, but did not eat from them.

Her grandparents bought the silver from The Longshore Silver Company, which had a storefront downtown, next to the Sears, where people wore suits, carried briefcases. They bought it from a bald man wearing gold rimmed glasses and an expensive, sparkling, silver watch. Why, we have just the thing, right this way.

The bald man was strictly front-of-store help. He had a calm, pleasant demeanor and had a slight New England accent. It suggested he knew what he was talking about in upscale matters. He almost didn’t get the job due to the baldness, but he was old enough that it seemed earned. Like he’d been terribly stressed by how rich he was. So he was hired by the younger man who ran the store for his family, who’d made a fortune in the silver mines. This was the closest he could get to being a successful city-type business man, and as far away from the mines as possible. He hired enough people that he didn’t have to do too much and his main difficulty in life was how much the showroom sparkled through his hungover mornings.

His Grandfather left his large, imposing, farming family and went west and dug holes and found impossible riches. Just sitting there to get pulled up and melted down and spun and twisted into appealing shapes and sizes and sold.  He bought some land when his family said he shouldn’t, bought mining equipment when his family said he shouldn’t and walked under the earth just for the cool, dusty peace and quiet and walked out reborn, a wealthy man. When he found silver, he showed it to them and gloated and accidentally started a rush. People came by the dozens, left their homes and families sometimes hundreds of miles away to come and try to share in the wealth.  They came and ruined his quiet and got more than they deserved for what he’d found. But he got enough and moved on, built a bigger house further out west and started again, and found more fortune, started a family, and  kept them at a considerable distance and when they got too close sunk his mind into the future where he saw what he created being used for generations, or kept in museums or in the hands of the finest people. He’d risked his life to pull riches from the earth with his bare hands and a pick. Hours digging, chipping, risking cave ins and robbery. He’d sleep there by the mine to protect it with a gun that didn’t work in a tent that let in the rain, for months until he saw just the faintest sparkle of a silver vein. Two years gone. But he’d found it, and he’d rip it from the earth in a fever greed just to prove to everyone who he was afterall. He was important. What he’d done was important. He held his first nugget over his head in the rain. It was the size of a fist and everything from this moment would be different.

“Hey, do you think this is supposed to go through the dishwasher?”

“I don’t know. It’s probably fine.”

 

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Next Week’s Prompt: Begins at Sundown

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