040 Tin Box, Cameos

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Most old cities have a proliferation of junk shops and antique stores, places to jettison the detritus of an old life or shape the beginning of a new one. In a dark and shadowed city like Chicago, a city made of layers and hidden meanings, built of secrets and watered with blood, junk shops and antique stores can yield amazing finds.

Some shops carry tinware, brightly painted cannisters and boxes with hinged lids that once held candy, face powders, soaps, medicines. It’s rare to find one in pristine condition; usually they are dented, dinged, spotted with rust, the paint fading from exposure to sun. Look for them. Sometimes they contain secrets, artifacts, hidden things.

Look, in particular, for a tin box roughly the size of a cigar box, with rounded corners. It was once a dark, cobalt blue but the paint has faded to a lighter tone somewhere between sky blue and turquoise. There’s faded filigree in tarnished gold and silver, a rose or a chrysanthemum painted in a now-sickly-pink on the lid. Pick it up. The dented tin is cool to touch, and something inside rattles and shifts when the container is moved. If you pick inside, you’ll see the tin contains cameos, dark pink and pale white. You can’t quite make out the faces.

Buy the tin.

It will be slightly more expensive than you thought it would be. The cashier won’t notice the clicking cameos inside.

Take it all home.

Once home, look inside again. Take the cameos out. The backs are slick, cool and hard, but they warm against your hand. The faces are round, smiling, beautiful; cherubs, perhaps, or small children.

They are your children.

You hold, in your hand, all your potential children.

If you time it right, you can select the next to be born.

Or you can destroy them, or trade them, or sell them.

An unborn soul is worth quite a bit, to the right buyer.

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