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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 29 - Bright Shiny Objects

Susan collected toothpick holders.

Every time she traveled to a new city, she visited a souvenir store and found one with that city’s name on it. When she got home, she placed it carefully in the three-shelf glass cabinet in her living room. She ordered them by location, all the cities in one state in one place, countries and their cities together.

The older ones, toward the back of the cabinet, had collected a thin veneer of dust. The last shelf was almost full.

Still Susan collected more toothpick holders. Now they were from more obscure places. Some were more ornate and thus more expensive. She had no idea how many she had. Collecting them had become less a passion than a duty. Friends who knew about the collection sent her toothpick holders when they traveled. She guessed that many of them were duplicates.

Still, she collected.

One morning when they were standing in the living room, her husband Milton asked, “What are you going to do with all the toothpick holders?”

She glanced at the cabinet, surprised. Nobody had asked that question before. “I just like to look at them,” she said.

“When was the last time you cleaned any of them?”

Milton walked to the cabinet and opened the door. He reached into the back row on the top shelf and picked out one of the holders. He blew into it. A puff of dust floated into the air. “You used to enjoy them,” he said. “Now all you do is file them in here and never bother with them again.”

Susan looked away from him. “Years ago, when this started, and I never said anything to you, years ago, I thought I might, maybe, well, sell them.”

“I never knew that,” Milton said. “It’s a good idea though. Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“I just thought,” she said. “Well, it’s crazy but if I could collect enough of them, get more from more places, then I would know more about them and I would be a bigger expert and people would want to buy from me.”

“So they sit here on the shelf. How much have you learned from them?”

Susan said, “I know the city they came from and what they look like. At least a few of them. Well, maybe a very few of them.”

“If you really want to sell them, don’t you think it’s about time to stop collecting and start selling?”

“You mean my collection?” Susan asked. “Oh, I can’t sell these. They’re all unique and valuable. Every one of them is worth … something.”

Milton turned the one he held in his hand around several times. “Los Angeles, California, with a picture of city hall. Any idea how many of these there are out there?”

“No.”

“Guess?”

“A lot.”

Milton said, “Look, you’ve been collecting these for years. I can’t image how many thousands of dollars and hours you’ve spent looking at them, arranging them, cleaning them (except lately) and thinking about selling them. Yet, you don’t have even the most basic clue as to what they might be worth or where you could sell them.”

Susan sat on the couch, her eyes averted. She sat in silence for fifteen minutes. Milton waited. When she finally looked up, she said, “I don’t know what to do. Where can I get help?”

He motioned with his hand and walked out the room. She followed. He turned on the computer. “Let’s see if anyone is selling them and for what,” he said. He brought up Ebay and typed in “toothpick holders.” Over 4,500 were for sale at prices ranging from $5 to $20. “Looks like a good start.”

He leaned back in the chair. Susan stood, looking past him to the computer screen. “Oh my,” she said. “I’ve been so stupid. It thought that the more of them I bought, the closer I would be to creating a business.” Silence for a moment. “It’s just the opposite, isn’t it?”

Milton said, “Think about it. You have a random collection that’s not worth much of anything. Maybe a few pieces have value but not many. Are you ready to make a business out of this?”

“Yes,” Susan said.

“Then do some research, find out what’s worth money and what’s not. Auction off a few of yours that have value to test the market. Learn from what others are doing.” He paused a moment. “And don’t collect any more until you know what you are doing.”

“But I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Did anyone ever learn to drive a car in a classroom, to ride a bike by listening to dad tell you how? You find out how by acting. Take baby steps, fail a few times and then start succeeding once in a while until you do know what you’re doing. Then keep doing what works.”

“I learned to cook by cooking and burning everything in sight,” she said. “I learned to drive by driving and hitting every curb in sight, I learned to walk by falling down lots of times.” She walked over to the chair, grabbed his hand and pulled him out. “Okay!” She sat in the chair. “I’m going to fail as many times as I need to succeed. Just watch me!”

Milton grinned and walked out of the room.

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