Madison cursed to herself softly. She hated the walk from the parking lot to the shop. It was a short walk, but she had to go past a number of trash containers full of spoiling watermelons, cantaloupe and grapes. The Vietnamese who had a shop nearby made things unpleasant for the rest of them. On the other hand, a lot of people who came for the cheap vegetables and fruit invariably stopped out of curiosity to visit her store as well. The City Market had been good to her, her parents and her husband up until now. The place was flooded with rich people from the adjoining wealthy suburbs during the weekend, looking for good deals. There were none, of course. They had cleverly learned how to repackage the fruit from California and nearby states. They could pile three peaches on a cardboard box to look like there were ten more inside; when what you saw was all there was.
People loved to walk their expensive dogs around the outdoor market. Young couples who lived in apartments or condos nearby didn't have yard work or car repair to do.
The River Quay City Market was a revitalization of old warehouses and buildings along the Missouri river where merchants of past centuries stopped to trade, exchange merchandise with other traders. It was now a trendy place to buy unusual antiques and fruit.
Madison had gone as a child with her father, and sometimes with her mother to many small towns across the country looking for oddities to resale. When her parents had died, she had reluctantly inherited the small shop. Her father had stocked it with museum quality wall clocks, hand made furniture from early American craftsmen and even vintage French furniture.
It was through her buying and trading she had come to meet her husband, Joe Swallow, who was a skilled furniture refinisher. He was a professor of English at the local University. She had been a student in one of his journalism classes. He had been an older divorced man who refinished furniture at home as a hobby.
Her father had first used him occasionally. It was somewhat of a coincidence when she ran into him as her professor in one of her classes. He didn't recognize her right away. She had been so shabbily dressed when she went in with her dad, and now in the first day of class she was differently dressed.
She had high heels, a light green summer dress and her long reddish brown hair hung down to her waist behind her. He was so focused on the way her dress rode up, he never looked at her spectacular face. When he read the attendance roll and saw her name he was startled and confused: "Was the skinny little "Maddy" that he had been used to seeing the same "Madison Will" that was sitting in the front row all dressed and grown up?
"Maddy?" he said as he put his thumb on the roster and looked up over the top of his reading glasses.
"Here sir." She said, trying to act like they had never met.
Joe caught on, and read off the rest of the names for attendance.
Joe was a good twenty years older, and it was not really romance when they first met. Over a period of time, they had spent time together because of her classes, and her father's interest in furniture.
They had married when she was in her mid twenties. She had never really been overwhelmed with his romantic skills. "She would grow to love him." She told herself.
She was forty now, childless and a little disillusioned with life. She had taken her fathers business: "The Peddler's Daughter," and modified it a little from its heyday. Where it had been totally antique furniture, she had more of an interest in clothing.
She had collected period dresses from her trips to France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. She had immaculate lace from Belgium and Burano, Spain.
To say things had not been going well was an understatement. Her husband had taken an early retirement he did not want because of the drop in enrollment during the recent recession. He had started his own refinishing business a few years before that, but it too had been a victim of the recession.
He was struggling to make rent payments on his refinishing shop, which was in a space just next to hers. When they first got married, it was handy to be so close together. On the other hand he was usually in class until the evening or weekend, so she had lots of time to herself. When they were busy, they would help each other out.
Their sex life had never been grate; now it was getting progressively worse. She was never an adventurous or uninhibited when it came to sex. She had been told it was a wifely duty, but it was for procreation only. This had become a sore point with her husband. Needless to say, she refused to give up her name when they married. She absolutely was not going to be called: Madison Will Swallow. She didn't get it at first, but her bridesmaids were aghast at the new name.
Joe had continually brought up the issue their long-term leases on their spaces. He was not making anything on his business; certainly not enough to cover the rent now that he was retired. He had been pressing Maddy to sell some of her top end collection.
One day, Santana Battle, a man constantly in the news, showed up in her shop to look around. He had several other men just the same size as him close by. Maddy did not like the look of these men.
Santana was a big black man; probably 6'-6" his hair on the sides was cut close to his head. There were streaks cut in it like it had been corn rowed. The top was cut in a Mohawk. It was a thick curly Mohawk that had been braided so that the braid was about an inch high and braided down to the base of his neck. He had a leather vest that wasn't buttoned. His Levis had a wide leather belt and the cuffs were a boot cut that fit over his lizard skin boots. The boots made him a couple of inches higher. From a visual standpoint, the unbuttoned vest, with no shirt, made him look even taller. His dark Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses made his expression impossible to read. His smile was like the Mona Lisa; you could interpret it to mean whatever you wanted to.
Joe was in her shop to help out. He knew who the man was. He walked briskly over to the man and introduced himself to the sinister looking man and his friends. He turned to look in the direction of his wife. "Mr. Battle, I would like to have you meet my lovely wife, Madison. Madison, honey this is Mr. Santana Battle. He is a businessman here in town."
Businessman was a gracious term for what he did. Most law officials knew he was importing drugs and women. "Nice to meet you Mr. Battle." She said from across the room. She waived graciously to the sinister man.
He tipped his Dolce and Gabanna glasses down to get a better look at her. He could see her fine; he just wanted to let Joe and his wife he found her interesting. He walked around the shop and looked at all of the stuff.
Joe walked with him, explaining the history of many of the items. Santana was especially interested in the walnut
Armoire. It was about 11'-0" tall. It was about 8'-0" wide and 32" deep. The double doors opened from the center. It was heavily carved with figures, flowers and all kinds of decorations. The carving was not applied to the thin wood panels. The wood had started out about 8" thick and the figures were carved to stand out from the main panels.
The drawers, mirrors, and hidden secret drawers were a work of art. All kinds of expensive jewelry could be hidden inside of secret panels. "What do you want for this Armoire?" Santana asked.
"There is only one more that we know of that was carved by the same artist. It was sold at Sotheby's about ten years ago for $250,000.00. I don't think we could take less than $300,000.00 for it now. You are welcome to have it appraised. You can email a picture to any appraiser you want. We have a sheet of its history you can send with it."
"I'll think about it." He said as he turned to get a closer look at Madison.
Maddy was standing near the display window, adjusting a black lace dress on a mannequin. That is one fine looking dress. I bet it would look spectacular on you." He said in an obvious flirt with the forty-year old married woman.
"I got this in Burano as a part of a collection I bought many years ago. I have refused to sell it. My husband is putting pressure on me to consider selling it." She said wistfully as she brushed some wrinkles from the length of it.
Santana turned to look at another object. "What the fuck is this?" he said, almost in shock.
It is Achille Gaggia's patented espresso machine. This is the first one he made.
Madison went on to tell how her affinity for good coffee began when she went with her father as a young child on late night forays to the coffee houses in Harvard Square on Boston's North End. He found this gorgeous machine in a defunct restaurant. After years of haggling on a price, he became the owner this large brass and copper coffee machine. They spent months restoring the machine. The coffee press consists of a tall stack of filter paper sheets that act as a gasket/piston. The press had dried out from disuse and the fittings were corroded. The machine was a vintage design made by Achille Gaggia.
One of the aspects that defined the coffee produced by Achille Gaggia's patented espresso machine was the thick crema produced by the pressure brewing process. Rich crema has since become a desirable aspect among modern espresso drinkers, but what exactly is crema? In truth, crema is foam, created by suspended solids and CO2 in a phenomenon that only occurs in espresso, which was originally dubbed "caffa crema" (cream coffee).
.... There is more of this story ...