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Strange Beads

Issue 81, Summer 2013

"Self Portrait as Tender Mercenary" (2006) by Julie Heffernan.

Virtually anything can become an amulet, depending on beliefs and resources.

—Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience


The pain in my midsection felt like a dull routine by the time I came across the Vintage brass Made in India red and white mother of pearl bracelet, a pretty little scallop-edged bangle that caught my eye as I was idly scrolling around on eBay. There was something charismatic about it, winking out from its dark tiny cell of a thumbnail photo. It seemed to appeal to me personally, like a particular kitten or puppy at the pound who makes eye contact. It gave me déjà vu, reminded me of some dim, distant place I couldn’t quite identify. It recalled, suddenly and vividly, the doomed Pier 1 Imports store that opened a block away from my childhood home in the mid-1970s, not yet a brightly lit corporate clone but a dark warehouse full of a thousand genuinely foreign trinkets and uncategorizable tchotchkes, with aquariums of live tropical fish and hermit crabs lining the back wall. My sister and I stopped in daily to peruse, buy, or shoplift small mysterious items—worry dolls, Belgian gum drops, incense cones—before the store’s roof collapsed under the weight of wet snow in the Chicago blizzard of 1979. I was twelve that year, haunted by those fish and crabs freezing to death in the ruins. When spring came, the building was torn down and a nice new public library constructed in its place. No one said what happened to the hermit crabs.

The bracelet on eBay looked like something from the ruined store. But I never bought jewelry from eBay; I hardly even wore jewelry. Or hardly wore it anymore, I should say, since I never went out anymore, since I’d undergone five surgeries in five years’ time, each leaving behind its own new circuitry of pain: damaged nerves, a colon held together by titanium clips, scar tissue where muscles used to be, tendinitis from premature attempts to exercise my way back to wholeness. All of these remained long after the cancer that started it all was eradicated. The invisible knife in my gut was not psychosomatic; my nerves had simply been cut too often, the doctors explained, and had regenerated new branches that went nowhere, a Möbius loop of pointless synaptic signals. Thus “recovered,” months after my last operation, I could no longer remember what it felt like not to spend most of each day in wary negotiation with pain. I missed birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Many days it hurt to wear clothes; jewelry seemed beside the point. On the worst days, my body itself seemed beside the point.

Just before the last of the surgeries, I’d learned my ex-fiancé had recently died—in late-stage alcoholism, he had “bled out” through his esophagus, alone in a residential hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona, far away from me and my narrow life as a professor in North Carolina. I was, by choice, not speaking to him at the time. I couldn’t save him; I was putting on my own oxygen mask first. Jim had pulled me out of the dark again and again over the years, even after our engagement ended. Once, when I was stranded in a bed-and-breakfast in a strange town after a disastrous cross-country move—AWOL moving van, shyster landlord—Jim told me on the phone: At least you’re in a beautiful room. It was a line I thought of often now, after his death, as I lay around waiting for my body to quit hurting. No day passed during those long months in which I did not think of following him. I lived alone; no one else was around to argue the point. A sentence floated to the top of my consciousness: Ever since Jim died, I’ve had one foot out the door.


There was no further description on eBay of the Vintage brass Made in India red and white mother of pearl bracelet besides its unwieldy title, its starting price of 99 cents, and a boilerplate backstory that appeared on all of the listings posted by that seller, someone with the user name Bergbay310:

This is one of many individual pieces or lots of vintage/costume jewelry I am listing every week over the coming months from a huge old collection. There are thousands of necklaces/sets and more bracelets earrings brooches charms than I can count that I am just getting to and all are in near perfect condition and more is coming. . . . The collector frequented estate sales in Pasadena California for years and these items have sat safely in boxes. . . . There is so much!!

I was struck by that breathless exclamation—There is so much!!—as if Bergbay310, whoever he was, had stumbled upon the treasure chest of the collective unconscious itself, the portal to those magical extra rooms that appear in our dreams, full of impossible abundance. Those rooms had been closed to me for a while. Shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, I’d even had the opposite dream, in which I couldn’t reach the real rooms of my real house. Only recently had I begun again to have the magical-extra-rooms dream, always the same house, familiar yet no place I’d ever seen in real life, with vast airy wings and corridors I would discover and realize I had neglected, sunken drawing rooms with vaulted sky-blue ceilings, ornate gilt furniture and grand pianos, oversized arched doorways leading to still more rooms—stretching out lavishly, improbably, a little scarily, in all directions. There is so much!!


Salespeople are supposed to operate on the principle of scarcity—Only a few left in stock!—but Bergbay310 seemed to be employing an opposite strategy on eBay, or no strategy at all, freely offering the key to Ali Baba’s cave. Someone else had already bid 99 cents on the Vintage brass Made in India red and white mother of pearl bracelet, but I bid $1.04 and won. I sent my electronic payment to Bergbay310’s PayPal account, which was registered under the name of a man I’ll call Archie, with a Los Angeles P.O. box address. When the bracelet arrived a few days later, it did not disappoint; its colors were brighter than they appeared in the photo and had more depth—nothing obvious or easily definable, but you looked for a few moments longer than you might at some newer piece of jewelry. The brass had patina, which gave the piece a kind of authority. It felt good in my hand, a nice cold heavy little thing. 

I logged back onto eBay, clicked on Bergbay310’s page—and the portal swung open.

How can I communicate the vastness, the cognitive dissonance, the essential weirdness and sheer impossibility of Bergbay310’s collection? As promised, he had hundreds upon hundreds of items for sale, but they were not lumped together in a big junky pile, the way most people sell off a grandmother’s stash of costume jewelry. Rather, the goods were offered for our consideration in pages and pages of single-item listings, even though none of the items appeared to be remotely high-end (if there even is such a thing as “high-end” junk jewelry). Furthermore, none of the objects seemed to go together. There were brooches, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, sweater clips, scatter pins, cigarette cutters, tie tacks, scarf clasps, lapel pins, perfume bottles, pill boxes, hair combs, belt buckles, lighter holders, hundreds of pairs of cuff links, and dozens of items so obscure that their purpose could not be determined. No two items were the same, nothing looked new or mass-produced, and there was no common thread or organizing principle I could detect. Every conceivable style, design, aesthetic, and time period was represented, and every region of the U.S. and world, from ancient Greek to Gilded Age glitz to mid-century regional Americana kitsch. A Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin GOLDTONE THREE GRACES CAMEO WITH HOOK was listed alongside a Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin GOLDTONE AIRPLANE PROPELLER NEAT!, a Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm egyptian style cat head SUPER COOL, and a Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin Gold tone Totem Pole VANCOUVER GREAT! Every item, large or small, antique or recent, had a starting price of 99 cents, from Vintage/Antique Set Earrings Necklace silvertone pink gems rhinestones FABULOUS to Vintage Brooch wooden head missing an ear still neat.

The items ranged from stately and elegant to exotic and bohemian to bizarre and indecipherable. Each item had just one accompanying photo, underexposed against a black background, poor quality even by eBay standards. Some photos were so dark you couldn’t see the item at all. The listing titles, such as Vintage/ Antique clip of some sort orange plastic roses bakelite..??? suggested that Bergbay was not a jewelry expert or even a connoisseur. Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm 4 in long ostrich silvertone & lasso..??? appeared to be an obscure kitchen utensil, something in the whisk family, or maybe an ancient Roman sex toy. Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm of octopus style dangle silver bells? looked like a pile of chains and beads in the process of metamorphosing into a small octopus. Sometimes the title and photo were clear, but the object itself was inexplicable, like the Vintage Antique Pendant Charm Miniature Real Tested Silver MOOSE TRAIN (a moose hitched to a steam engine train), or the Vintage/ Antique Real Tested Silver bracelet 7in marked sterling fish traffice, which was a charm bracelet with only two charms, a fish and a traffic light. Some items did not seem to fall under the category heading “Vintage Jewelry” at all, such as Small lot old Vintage one inch greenish rocks NEAT, or Large lot old Shark teeth each measures approx 1 inch long mixed grey brown NEAT. (Like all of Bergbay’s items, these teeth were automatically categorized by eBay as “pre-owned.”) Many listing titles ended with smiley faces, as if Bergbay were simply shrugging his shoulders, with a wink, and giving up.

Most people who inherit or otherwise acquire large collections of stuff they don’t want and on which they are not experts—stamps, postcards, costume jewelry—simply get an appraisal and sell the lots in their entirety. On eBay one can find huge lots of almost everything for sale, but it’s rare to find a seller with more than, say, a dozen single-item costume jewelry listings, because why bother? Fifty is the maximum number of free listings eBay allows each seller per month—above that, the seller pays a listing fee—so why didn’t Bergbay just put the whole huge lot up for sale at once and be done with it? Was the collection more personal than he was letting on? Did he care if his stuff sold at all? Maybe the display itself was the point, like the famous, possibly apocryphal Theatre of Memory, constructed by sixteenth-century Italian scholar and/or charlatan Giulio Camillo in an attempt to gather together and display every facet of the entire universe, seen and unseen, via allegorical representation, in a wooden cabinet.

Some of Bergbay’s item titles were so off-puttingly cryptic they appeared to be anagrams, or code—Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm old goldtone with man woman scene needs, Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm Miniature carved glass reverse paint hands pray—and it occurred to me that English might be Bergbay’s second language. Maybe Bergbay himself was the fabled anonymous collector of his description, a world traveler and importer of international antiques. But what kind of obsessed collector expresses such sincere-sounding bafflement before so many of his own items, doesn’t recognize a simple jade horn charm (Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm green polished jade “tooth” or “fang”!), consistently misspells amber as ember,yet is obscurely educated enough to describe a pendant as a Tetragram astral zodiac planet? Maybe, I thought, Bergbay was actually two people, an importer and his assistant. Maybe the assistant was his wife, or maybe there was a wife and an assistant. One of them, Bergbay, wife, or assistant, obviously did not speak English very well, and one of them kept calling everything NEAT!


Finally, though, I couldn’t believe Bergbay himself—or Bergie, as I had begun to think of him—was the original collector. Because of the proximity of Hollywood and the theatrical nature of so many of the items—Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin INCH MAGICIAN HAT AND WAND GEMSTONES NEAT, Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm Miniature baby grand piano top opens NEAT—I imagined some crazed celebrity behind it all. Someone famously eccentric, like Phil Spector, or secretly eccentric, like Nancy Reagan. Someone desperate to remain anonymous. At one point, I had the thrilling revelation that the entire collection could very conceivably have belonged to Sid and Marty Krofft, creators of H. R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville, those druggy, trippy ’70s children’s TV shows. Support for this hypothesis grew with each new round of listings—brooches shaped like mushrooms, like pipes,Vintage Brooch pin strange twisted silvertone spoon rock quartz crystal sugar, Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm Miniature goldtone mother of pearl cuckoo clock. But Bergie’s collection was so large and wide-ranging that ultimately I couldn’t believe it came from a single source, one person (or even one pair of whacked-out brothers) with a single set of aesthetic tastes.

Not that I cared. By now I was so infatuated that I bid on every item that even slightly appealed to me. Not long after I bought the red and white bracelet, I managed to win a Vintage 3 in diameter old clasp bracelet handmade in Greece brass & multi color and a Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm 1.2x1 inch flower lucite block So Dakota NEAT!, which was a clear cube with a tiny dried brown flower preserved inside, engraved “So. Dakota.” I had never even visited South Dakota, but I no longer had any doubt that these items were meant for me.

Unfortunately, Bergbay310 had quickly developed a devoted following. Soon, so many bidders were fighting over his items that it became difficult to win anything for less than $10. His photos had improved—he now used a white background and possibly even a flashbulb—and while everything still started at 99 cents, a glass bead costume necklace might now end up selling for $30; anything with rhinestones went for at least twenty. A plastic Scottie dog brooch sold for $44, and a garden-variety locket—not precious metal, no stones, nothing special—went for $84.68. Most astonishing was the tiny silver “Flown Snoopy” lapel pin, a service award NASA has presented since 1968 to thousands of its employees. (The Snoopy pins are all flown on space missions first; there are Snoopys flying around up there right now.) Does not have back or any paperwork, Bergie noted in a rare addendum to his boilerplate description. Collector said he acquired in San Diego and has had for while in Pasadena. It sold for $355.

I resorted to trying to get the oddest, ugliest, or most inexplicable items, things nobody else would be likely to want, but even then I was almost always outbid at the last moment. After engaging in and losing a short bidding war over a Vintage/ Antique NECKLACE strange beads shells acorns DIFFERENT : ), I realized I needed to step up my game and start sniping, the eBay term for lurking silently, bidding only in an auction’s final seconds. In this manner, I successfully snagged the Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin 2X.5INCH GOLDTONE CLOWN VERY DIFFERENT!, a creepy smiling wicker-like creation with a cone-shaped hat and glittery blue rhinestone eyes, and a Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin UNIQUE orange splatter pain wooden? NEAT!, which looked like a larval creature designed by Jackson Pollock. I had never once worn a brooch, nor could I recall ever saying the word “brooch” in my life. I came to understand that I was collecting the collection: Anonymous collector, c’est moi.


As a reality check, I started e-mailing select links from Bergie’s eBay page to an old friend in Chicago, a consummate thrifter and expert on all things vintage. She wrote back: That is seriously the most wacked out jewelry I’ve ever seen. The next week she wrote: So, I try to steel myself for whatever it is I’m about to see because it’s definitely going to be bizarre, and yet, I’m still never prepared for what I actually see. Then she wrote:Bergie’s subtitle for every piece should be: THE most bat-shit crazy jewelry man has created. Finally, she wrote: I think he’s some kind of jewelry wizard and he’s conjuring it up somehow.

It wasn’t like this thought hadn’t occurred to me. There were a large number of magical- and mystical-themed items in Bergie’s collection (Vintage antique miniature charm pendant neat hieroglyph key, Vintage charm pendant or miniature king titan sea god, Vintage Brooch Pin VERY INTERESTING serpents eagles upside down cross crest COOL), and while I still nurtured my Krofft Brothers theory, I now strongly suspected Bergie’s entire story about the collection’s provenance was a fabrication. This was eBay, after all, where there is no limit on how many dead grandmothers you can have, or how much jewelry each might have left you. I noticed that as the number of Bergie’s listings multiplied by the week—he now had as many as 1,700 items for sale simultaneously—he kept updating his boilerplate. The mythical collector who had frequented Pasadena estate sales was still in there, but Bergie now claimed to have over 3000 more signed brooches FEW THOUSAND MORE signed necklaces/sets and more bracelets earrings boxes full of undiscovered stuff than I can count . . . I have hundreds of pounds coming a week . . .

Where in the known universe could anyone collect, steal, buy, or otherwise procure hundreds of pounds of antique costume jewelry per week? There were not enough little old ladies in the world, not even in Pasadena, to account for it. I thought of that scene in the movie Poltergeist in which a stream of dusty watches, bracelets, and brooches suddenly pours out of the living room ceiling, dropped by the dead from their world into ours. (Theliving room, get it?) There was a name for that stuff, according to my Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience: apports, defined as “object[s] certain mediums and adepts claim to materialize from thin air or transport through solid matter . . . including food, precious jewelry, religious objects.” While most apports were small objects, the Encyclopedia said, some could be “large and quite unusual, such as flowers, books, serving dishes, and live animals, fish, and birds.” I had in fact recently encountered a large peacock jogging on the sidewalk alongside my car past blocks of low-rent apartment complexes, on my latest trip to the post office to pick up a package from Bergie.

It was obvious from the comments on Bergie’s Feedback Profile that I was not alone in my bewitchment:

Seller offered best price, quick and secure delivery magical item.

My totem animal is the elephant. I love these guys.

Unique dragon, great service. Thank you!

Thank you I lost a brooch just like this & finally found it again.

Not sure what it is, but love it!

The beads do look like a rainbow.

Even the negative reviews sounded like they came from other magicians matter-of-factly shopping on eBay for tools of the trade:

Ring shattered within 20 mins of putting on my finger, wrote one customer.

So sorry- will send you another one!! Bergie replied.

Old but not “neat,” beads missing (a lot) on one earring, wrote a customer with user ID “ma2gical.”

Hi! That is the design : ) replied Bergie.

The person who outbid me on Vintage/ Antique NECKLACE strange beads shells acorns DIFFERENT : ) wrote: this was weirder than expected and not useful—in his or her spells, presumably—which I found perversely satisfying. I was the rightful owner of that necklace and we both knew it.


By the time I finally worked up the nerve to contact Bergie, he had come to seem like a celebrity; when I saw his name on the reply in my inbox, I got that frisson you feel when you see a friend in person whom you normally only ever talk with on Facebook.  In my e-mail I’d said I was a fan and frequent buyer of his items, and that I wanted to write a story about the collection. The response, which came within a few hours, was not from Archie but from his wife—a cheerful young woman I will call Veronica. Her e-mail—and all her subsequent messages—were, like her thousands of listing titles, punctuated by smiley faces and multiple exclamation points. I too am still totally shocked by the size of this guys collection and I have tried hard to get as much info as I can from him too but don’t have a ton of “facts” ha ha, she wrote. I started selling this stuff off on ebay part time last summer and thought I would be done by now but it seems his collection is endless. Her background was in real estate, she told me, and her husband had nothing to do with the operation; she only used his name on the account. His only involvement was to help her haul the heavy boxes she picked up every week from the mysterious collector. Yes, there was really a collector. He was a Hispanic man in his sixties (she referred to him as “elderly”), a retired jeweler who had lived in Mexico for twenty-five years and possibly also in Argentina at some point; she wasn’t positive. He didn’t speak much English, but Veronica happened to speak Spanish, so they communicated in both languages.

It all started at an estate sale in Altadena, where she and her husband went to look for art—and also, she said, she just liked looking at “neat old homes.” Some of the collector’s family members were at the sale, and they suggested Veronica meet their relative and check out his wares, which he was looking to sell off. She herself rarely wore jewelry, she told me, besides her platinum wedding band, but after viewing some of the man’s collection, she happily negotiated to purchase the entire lot, paid in advance by the pound—and thus began her relationship, her conscription, with the collector. He knew she intended to sell the lot piece by piece on eBay, and that was fine with him. She didn’t know anything about costume jewelry, but she bought a few books so she could start researching it. Every week, then, he began delivering the goods—hundreds of pounds packed neatly in huge, moving-size cartons. They conducted these transactions at a public park, Veronica said, because he did not want his neighbors to see him moving so many boxes out of his house. (She also believed he kept a storage unit—there was simply too much to fit in any house.)

Seriously, a park? Argentina? Drugs had to be involved somehow, but I couldn’t quite work it out. Smuggling cocaine inside a . . .  Vintage/ Antique Brooch Pin teeny miniature goldtone mouse green gems one gone?  A fence operation made no sense either, unless there was a black market for 99-cent costume jewelry.  Anyway, I could not believe someone as open and seemingly wholesome as Veronica would involve herself in such a sketchy business, let alone tell a complete stranger the details. And then there was the problem of posting the thousands of pieces of evidence online, in plain public view. Plus, Veronica sounded as bewildered by her story as I was. She felt like Scrooge McDuck, she said, shoveling through the mountains of jewelry in her house, trying to keep up with the supply, get it sorted, photographed, labeled, listed, sold, packed, and shipped. Archie was growing annoyed because he kept stepping on pins and rhinestones. Her father was worried about her. Veronica had enlisted her sisters to help, but there was still no end in sight. He just dropped 1800 pairs of cufflinks (matching sets with tie tacks) off Sunday, she wrote me in an e-mail. UNBELIEVABLE - I almost had a heart attack - no more room in my house ha ha It just keeps coming…

No matter how fast she worked, how much she sold, she did not appear to be making a dent. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, she might even have been making things worse. Did I tell you he gave me 900 collectible old photo negatives of trains ships and trolleys?, she wrote to me. And that he has over 200,000 collectible civil war time documents? We were supposed to have gotten to those by this summer but jewelry isn’t ending and he hasn’t said when it will! I ask him and he just exhales and laughs and says “OOHH LONG TIME MORE”.........


Of all the jewelry I purchased from Bergie—I still think of Veronica that way—the Vintage brass Made in India red and white mother of pearl braceletremains my favorite, though I’ve never once worn it. It sits atop a stack of Powell and Pressburger DVDs on my coffee table, an objet d’art keeping me company while I watch the 1947 movie Black Narcissus for the fiftieth time. The bracelet matches the movie’s hyper-saturated reds and creamy, nuanced whites, colors the film’s designers obsessed over and won Oscars for. “Vermeer was the sort of painter I had in mind on Black Narcissus,” cinematographer Jack Cardiff said; he modeled shots in the film after Vermeer and Van Gogh paintings, which he liked to copy by hand in his free time as a hobby. “It’s great art, and then it will be kitsch, and then it will be art again,” said contemporary director Alan Parker about the film, in 2009.

Based on Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel, Black Narcissus is “a story about the disorientation of European nuns in India,” according to Wikipedia, which is like calling Alice In Wonderland a book about a girl who takes a nap and has some dreams. The escalating hallucinogenic beauty of the remote, half-ruined Himalayan palace to which the British nuns are sent drives each of them slowly mad in her own way. One secretly mail-orders a bright red dress and lipstick from the city, another is haunted by relentless memories of an emerald necklace and earrings she gave up years ago, and the no-nonsense sister in charge of the garden finds herself surreptitiously planting beds of exotic flowers instead of the vegetables they all need to survive.There is no escape from beauty, the film seems to say. “There’s something in the atmosphere that makes everything seem exaggerated!” exclaims one character.

I watched Black Narcissus for the first time in 2011 and quickly discovered it worked better than any drug or therapy to break my mind and body out of their ever-constricting room of pain. All of Powell and Pressburger’s films worked on me this way, alchemically, like great art, larger than the sum of its parts. I especially loved The Red Shoes, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a girl who gets her wish for magic shoes, then can’t take them off and dances herself to death. “Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by,” says her Svengali, Boris Lermontov, in the film, “but the red shoes dance on.”

I could so relate. In 2001, I was thirty-five years old with two published books and a tenured teaching job. I had never spent a single night in the hospital in my life. Then, overnight, it  seemed, the warranty ran out. To quote Joy Williams’s short story “The Route”:

A worn battery cable shorted out on the frame, setting fire to the engine at the same time an electrode from the spark plug fell into the combustion chamber, disintegrating the piston. The tires went flat the transmission fluid exploded the gas tank collapsed an armature snapped shooting the generator pulley through the hood the brake shoes melted the windshield cracked and the glove compartment flew open spilling my panties into the street.

In The Red Shoes I found a literal, practical kind of sustenance, watching perfect bodies move perfectly, knowing how much pain each had endured, tortured over a period of years in the interest of producing a bit of beautiful ephemera. “It was 1947,” wrote Red Shoes director Michael Powell in his autobiography. “A great war was over and a great danger to the whole world had been eliminated. The message of the film was Art. Nothing mattered but Art.” There wasn’t much else left to care about at my place either.


When Jim, my ex-fiancé, and I met, I was still in high school, and he owned and ran a successful comedy club and experimental theatre—a sort of circus I hoped to run away to—but his true love had always been art. He attended design school before I knew him, and one of his last jobs, before his death, was at a Lucite studio, where he designed housewares and jewelry. By that point I was so busy working toward my imagined future that I had little time for his increasingly bitter phone calls, which seemed to come from my past. Now my body was failing and Jim was dead, the doors to both past and future closed and locked, and I was missing most of the present.

A few years before his death, Jim sent me a Lucite jewelry box he’d made for me—a simple, clear rectangular box with storage drawers, clean lines, nothing elaborate. Because I didn’t wear much jewelry and already owned many other items he had given me over the years, and because I didn’t know he was dying, I unthinkingly donated the box to a thrift store. It wasn’t until I realized I was collecting Bergie’s collection that I remembered the jewelry box and wished for it back, too late. Like everything else about Jim, the gift seemed prescient and miraculous—as if he had known someday I would need it.

“Cherish anything that wakes you up, if even for an instant,” Joy Williams once wrote to me, a line which brought to mind a poem by Rumi: People are going back and forth across the doorsill/where the two worlds touchThe door is round and open./Don’t go back to sleep. I still place bids on Bergbay310’s offerings from time to time, surprised with each new round of listings at which items I win, which I lose. Like horoscopes, they are always uncannily, perfectly relevant. The latest shipment from Pasadena included a Vintage/ Antique Pendant Charm Miniature mother of pearl clown. For some reason I was the only one who wanted it—nobody else even placed a bid. Inside the package Bergie had added a tiny folded Post-it note that read: To: The Home for Orphaned ClownsAttn: Wendi.

Like pain, like art, the collection is infinite.  It has woken me up; I won’t go back to sleep.

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Wendy Brenner

Wendy Brenner is the author of two books of fiction and the recipient of an NEA fellowship. Her work has appeared in The Best American Essays, in The Best American Magazine Writing, and on National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts. She is a contributing editor for the Oxford American.