Automotive Fiction: Mercury as Fine Art
(Editor’s Note: This is the first story in a semi-regular series of automotive fiction.)
Last summer, because it’s Facebook and we both happen to be on it, Hubert Carmichael friended me.
I should clarify. Hubert Carmichael is a guy I went to grade school and high school with but only knew because he was in my older sister’s class and liked to pick on her. She hated him.
In fact, it was Hubert R. Carmichael Fine Art Auctioneers™, LLC, that friended me. And because it is Facebook, I accepted, and there I saw Hubert’s squishy dumb face right in the header image beside swooping, almost illegible golden calligraphy: Hubert R. Carmichael Fine Art Auctioneers™, LLC.
My entire adolescence spun around my brain for a second and I came out of it staring at his page with my teeth clenched. Hubert Freaking Carmichael.
Then I was over it in that way Facebook brings us all together, and I remembered I was in the middle of an internal audit of my company’s 2012 charitable donations. I muted notifications on my phone and I forgot about Hubert Carmichael in that way Facebook also lets you forget.
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Until yesterday, that is, when I got a direct message that Hubert R. Carmichael Fine Art Auctioneers™, LLC, had announced its “1st Ever Inaugural Atlantic City, New Jersey Auction™” auction, to be held May 16. While A.C. is not far from here, I have no plans ever to see Hubert Carmichael. Or A.C., for that matter. But I was again made curious by Hubert’s squishy dumb face, so I clicked through. (An aside: I am in the middle of that same yearly internal audit, only for 2013 giving. Apparently Hubert and I are working off the same convoluted calendar.)
I had an apple in my hand and the chance to stop tabulating receipts for five minutes, so I spent some time on the page, curious to see what Hubert had in the way of fine art. The posts were all for the upcoming sale, photos and descriptions of featured lots. I’m not sure I’d call it “fine art.” But it was chain motel over-the-desk landscapes and lobby still lifes. Plenty of things that also are not fine art, but are maybe artsy, or even craftsy, but I’m not the best person to ask: yellowed stamps and tattered suits of armor, absurd 19th century necklaces, a saber-tooth tiger skull, old maps that sort of look like the world, an alarming number of Aztec pots, and a small collection of war memorabilia from the Persian Gulf, including a Lamborghini LM002 seized by an American contractor, which had previously been seized by Uday Hussein from a Kuwaiti Minister of Oil during the first week of August 1990.
I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled, the time it takes to sort of eat half an apple at your desk during a break from accounting — which can be years on Facebook. And looking through all the gilded flotsam upcoming at Hubert R. Carmichael Fine Art Auctioneers™, LCC, I was just about to get back on the horse when I came to this:
Lot 489: Photograph [15″ x 15″] on Kodak Bromesko paper dated Oct. 15, 1946. From a scrapbook from the estate of the late Ford Motor Company designer Eugene Turenne “Bob” Gregorie. This photograph has been authenticated by Ford historians as genuine and the only image extant of the 1947 Mercury Model 70X concept. While faded with time, it is in excellent overall condition with no tears, scratches, stains or other blemishes. A note handwritten to Henry Ford II in blue ink on the back reads:
I wish you’d reconsider 70X. I still believe there is a future for a small, European-style personal luxury coupe — it’s something your dad and I discussed at length. A Merc of this sort could do quite well. Not every man wants or needs to carry a family, after all…
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My dad is a Ford guy, and my grandpa was, too. For a while when I was growing up, Dad still had Grandpa’s black shoebox Ford. Grandpa told me once he earned it in the war, and I remember not knowing what he meant and saying, “You did?” Eventually it was just Grandpa’s old car, which ran great by all accounts but made my sister and me think we were poor. Dad sold it eventually, for another used Ford, and then another, and eventually he sold that for a new Mercury. Now he has three.
My dad would cherish this photograph.
As I said, I have no interest in attending an auction put on by the corporate personhood of my Facebook friend, who also happened to torment my sister. I don’t have to attend, though. I can register to bid online on May 16 and buy the thing, if it comes to that, but I’d rather not. Instead I click the tab that says “CONTACT” and I draft an email.
# # #
From: Aaron Quincy [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 11, 2015; 2:51pm
Subject: ATTN: Hubert — Hello fellow Bridgefielder!
You may or may not remember me, but we attended Woodgate Elementary and Armstrong High School together in Bridgefield (Go Rockets!). I think you were in my sister Kelly’s class.
I hope you are well!
I’m writing you this afternoon as a fellow Bridgefielder, but also as the philanthropy coordinator for Sellhurst-Lynd Insurance. We are hosting a silent auction to benefit children affected by trademark law, and I would love to include Lot 489, the Mercury picture. There is one boy in particular who would love it. I’m prepared to transfer $200 to your account this afternoon for that photograph, if it suits you.
The very first inaugural Atlantic City auction looks incredible, and I will certainly try to be there to bid on some of the Austro-Hungarian daybeds, but our auction falls before your own, so I’d miss out on this particular piece, which, as I said, would make one boy’s dreams come true.
Can we strike a deal? (I’ll owe you a beer!)
Aaron Quincy (Class of ’98!)
Internal Audit Services Manager
New York / Chicago / Seattle
# # #
It is technically the minorest bit of corporate fraud — lying about my position and using the company for my own gain. But it worked.
I’ll pay for the thing, of course; I’m not a complete crook. Even though I am quite capable of hiding $200.00 paid to a “Hubert R. Carmichael Fine Art Auctioneers™, LCC” on next year’s audit.
In that way Facebook lets you break things off, I’d begin by unfriending Hubert’s squishy dumb face.