The Antique (Ben Carmichael)

Dust. It settles on the old things. It drifts through the air in a thin shroud, a grey curtain across the eyes. Slowly, it settles. On the tables, the chairs, the simple finery of antique cutlery, forming furrows beneath forks, spoons and knives. The tables are laid out with cups and saucers fifty years out of fashion. Price-tags peel. Arranged on an oak dresser is a regiment of tin soldiers, eyes forward and redcoats tarnished.
The owner cannot recall their arrival to her store. She cleans them anyway, even if they do look strange to her, she who once knew every item in her possession with ludicrous detail. She cleans those tin soldiers the way she cleans everything else: slowly, with care, without hurry. She continues to a wall of clocks, no two hands the same, each ticking to former masters’ days. She cannot reach those furthest up the wall, but her movements below dislodge the dust in brief cascades that sift down into her hair, her clothes, the lines of her face.
Every so often she blows quickly over a choice object – maybe an engraved steel plate or marble figurine – a quick jet of air, a short whoosh from her mouth like a sneeze, and in response the dust rises lazily like languid bees. She bends over, blows, bends and blows, blows and bends over again. It is the only sound in the store, these short, desperate breaths, as if she might return to life a mansion under the mausolean dust.