Published 26 November 202111 January 2022 · Friday Fiction The auction Gareth Morgan will is standing the closest to the auctioneer (ian.). it is spitting. it is hot, then cold. wearing jackets of duck down. edelweiss. eight dogs mark their way around a spool of buyers. it is a buyers’ market. it is 3 hazelnut court. it could be 16 cherryberry drive. it could even be 92 foregone road. we are on the hill, jolly like a dog, watching will. it is the pete murray days, it is the salad days. we are about to hit the major turning point in our lives. it is hard to be happy. there is oil slick in the gutter water. life can be so easy. we are on a vacation. we have worked hard, we have pressed the treat button, and duly received a treat. will is on the phone, holding the phone out in front of him like a strange fruit. palm up, his other hand a fist above the palm, the phone, grinning ahead. he is wearing all black: corduroy pants and a tough denim top over a black t shirt— and dirty white skate shoes. the dogs are in and out. we put our hoods on, that crisp black sound. later will is called ominous and powerful by a bystander wielding a vb. we were emerging from the woods, shaking leeches from our sneakers. she shares a story about a leech she found once in her CRACK and turns around to show us her ass thru thick black tights, not as if we might not know, but like a cartoon character. she is the bugs bunny of the coastal victorian hills. her pink hiking boots suggest money and a happy go lucky attitude. she has bad teeth but something about the quality of their badness gives us the feeling she has all the money she will ever need. she has a house in the buyer’s market. some people are like buckets. she has the gumption: she was out to suss the buyers’ vibe. hers was the golden labradoodle in the mustard raincoat, she lets us know. it was her dog who was fucking one of the other dogs at the auction. will is the best-looking person at the auction. there are a handful of people who have made the drive down and a handful of people who are spectating. it is a thinking space, a church, and we hear some prayer thru the slender air. there is a kindly fat woman in crutches and flats with her family and a few groups in puffer jackets as i have said and family and the sun is out now. the auctioneer as some of you may know is a theatrical man. ian. he has a leech on his breast. his ironed shirt white with blue pinstripes, his regal blue tie. he is saying this to us and you have all seen it, and i think you understand why it is such a unique and special place and what makes it so different to where we stand today. and this lovely K_____ weather! so typical [thinking of microclimate, and truly it is beautiful, soft and wet like a photo of a beautiful woman’s face] and can i start the bidding may i at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars… will is the handsomest person at the auction. three groups of people on the fat side of the road seem like they have nice jobs in the city. people who like the shore of routine, to say ‘i’m such a nanna’ and plant themselves on the couch at night. people like water tanks. resourceful, digging into oneself in an elongated moment of need. life. this too can be beautiful. i think you know these people too. on the fat side of the road people are spying the water, it’s everywhere. look down the road, it’s pregnant with opportunity. will is holding the phone for a friend of a friend of his mother’s. he has been strong-armed into being their body on location at the auction in K______ while will is on vacation in the coastal location nearby K_____, with us. will is our friend, it is his birthday weekend and we love him. but now that he is here at the auction, and so are we, he is having fun. we are having a good time at the auction. the blackberries over yonder have been sprayed with insecticide. will has this power, he can raise his hands and spend a thousand, five thousand or ten thousand dollars of a virtual stranger’s money. is that a bid ma’am on the hill or you just calling the dog ok and if we’ll just happily pause the auction to let this car pass………. and just like an ad break some four wheel drive does pass and everyone is looking at ian and then the four wheel drive and the water and the sun which are one across the precious film of my eyes. three blind mice, lucy, anna and lachie are down the hill at the general store buying fudge and tying their shoelaces. they are testing their athleticism by jumping over ravines. they are waiting for us, like when are we going HOME it’s COLD i’m BORED they are sitting in the car doing the saturday quiz, peacefully delighted with themselves, their bodies and their spot on the side of the road. * i am not ever really properly sad, as i constantly choose to live in the moment. i drink a lot of coffee to remain alert to the present moment. right now i am at an auction. there is a perfect muss of trees to frame the auctioneer, and the roar of water, and the coo of the river. there is a grey-haired man with a blue jumper flecked with paint marks watching on. i live in the ecstatic tradition. little flutters. i look like i am nothing, i am at an auction. i am watching people buy a house in K______. is this an isthmus? the whole affair is par cooked. ian is just plugging it in. there’s an art to this microwaving. and i love it, it’s so interesting. we are approaching the moment, we are doing it, three blind mice i think, have you any wool yes we do, three coats full and have you any idea what lies on the other side of the mountain where you have parked your trust in the australian government? the girl in the puffer vest carries an empty glass artisanal juice bottle. she walks like a dandelion. twirls like a bumblebee. dad when are we going HOME i’m COLD it’s RAINING. we are watching the footy later on tv and it’s RAINING. we’ve been wearing trackies for days, but the footy’s been on for days, the bombers are playing well but the demons are just too good. * it is at this point that we exchange personal looks regarding the fact that we could actually afford the three hundred and fifty k, especially split between us, especially given that some of us most of us come from money, especially given that some of us have good jobs in the city, especially as we are approaching thirty and are somewhat like some of our parents and in that they did a similar thing in the 80s or 90s but yes it was a different time and some of us are moving to the other side of the world and some of us have other priorities but wouldn’t it be nice in any case to have the keys to 3 hazelnut court. where some of us could live and work on our laptops, some of us could visit on the weekend, maybe even most weekends some of us could even bring the dogs and maybe someday the kids. what does our generation believe in? leeches, beeches, [like cos we don’t believe in the culture we live in or something… lack of sincerity?] my generation of iphone men who, had we become auctioneers, it would have been such a tragic and pathetic path… we want fully automated luxury auctioneers i wanna go home I’m BORED it’s raining there’s a leech on his breast and it’s RAINING. i saw a coffee cup declare itself post-paper, a prayer for the future of technical prowess. salvation. burrowing down into thought. declare my heart post-half-moon. shut up now the auctioneer is speaking, i am in the moment like a turtle, all cylinders firing. will is the nicest person at the auction. he has nice curly hair and a nice beard and is kind and good to talk to and believes in land rights for first nations people and the need for radical political action if we are going to get out of this MORASS and we are staying at his house down the coast. he is taking care of us, we are living in a society, this weekend, everything this weekend is smooth sailing even being strong-armed into attending this auction in K_____ is smooth sailing that phrase ‘smooth sailing’, too and it is raining and the dogs are fucking and ian is modulating his voice like a star on the las vegas strip, and we hear murmured between the theatrical lines the word ‘scarcity’ and murmured the words ‘bloody mary’ and even, if we squint, ‘history’, even ‘live exports’ tho we think that last one might be a memory, or was it a meme. this comes thru as a prayer, is indeed the function of prayer. peeling back the surface. the trees are wet with history. and the rain gauge is full to the brim because no one ever bloody bothers to empty it, that’s just commune life for ya i guess. three blind mice gleaning the crab traps at dusk. the auction is the kind of auction that you know. today is my first auction and as i am of the ecstatic tradition i am riding home the sale of the property in the mouth of the auctioneer (ian) like an old man riding home the horse he has placed his money on, riding it to the finish line, hinging at the hips bent forward with a newspaper aloft in the right fist and the left clutching the imaginary reins of the imaginary horse, half-resting on the left thigh and hissing ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss come on ssssssssssssssssssssssss come on ya bastard riding the sale in (ian:) FIRST CALL (there are several of these FIRST CALLS as people’s nerves are tested and ian’s theatrical flair is tested) ssssssssssssssssssssssss slapping my thigh with the newspaper at strategic intervals and will with the phone betting other people’s money on a house we can’t quite see from where we are standing but which we can be assured and safely presume contains some element of magic yes the hills the landscape the river the leeches in the ferns ssssssssssssssssssssssssssss…………………… we watch the girl with the juice bottle bend over to take her fill of the oil slick gutter water and have at her new green juice with straw, tonight we read a story of soldiers dying by drinking leech water, the leeches got stuck sucking at the esophagus and inflated with blood to block the drinkers’ airways what a shocking way to die tho not quite a leech death not strictly a leech death just thirsty men, just tragic circumstances. it would be hard to die a leech death even if you wanted to but still we panic when they mount our shoes and we worry about the girl but ian was chill as a butterfly. he’d seen it all before. the auction as a gathering place? no. i am thinking about history. i am thinking about a death that brought this to life. and the odd spectacle of this auction where all the buyers look like us, then about the building of the great ocean road, that bronze statue of men in hats, dead men, then carsickness, then bidding, $500 k going up and up in smaller and smaller intervals, ssssssssssssssssssssssss and again the history of the land which i just don’t KNOW and won’t as i stand about watching the auction in the ecstatic tradition and the sun comes out behind the drizzle and i feel like a bottle of white wine, simple and young like a dog in fog, a sign on the great ocean road ‘this is wadawurrung land’ ‘you are entering wadawurrung land’ three blind mice in a midnight blue suzuki talking about european novels, the 90s, the 80s, the internet, east timor, ticking timebombs, emigration, vermouth the internet great ocean road the water – how cold it is, especially at night, and so big – at the end of the auction (just shy of $600 k, still affordable had we really decided to pool together, and win) a couple kiss, appear in love, dad pats on the back, grey hair, butterflies, three blind mice, shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife we all killed ourselves laughing as the road tripped away behind us like a major artery. Image: Pat Whelan Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. Gareth Morgan Gareth Morgan is a poet and co-director of Sick Leave. His chapbook ‘Dear Eileen,’ was published by Puncher and Wattman as part of the Slow Loris series. More by Gareth Morgan › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 8 December 2023 · Fiction Fiction | The Victims Emma Jayne Willson Every morning I checked the Director’s calendar to ensure there were no meeting clashes, no opportunity for her polished façade to slip. Once I’d made the mistake of booking two meetings without leaving ten minutes between them, thus forcing her to run across the sprawling campus. 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