There was a card by the coffee table.
"The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay kept this coffee table in her bedroom as a child; it was given to her as a given by a travelling circus when they disbanded in her town. It had been stolen from a Georgia plantation at the turn of the century, and was used by fortune-tellers from the circus for decades before the company split up and donated all their furniture to children in the area where they settled, in hopes of winning the respect and love of the community. Edna herself wrote three poems about this coffee table, but it was later stored in her family's attic until it was found and auctioned in 1997. It was originally purchased by a Boston cryptozoologist in exchange for six unicorns, but the cyptozoologist sold the coffee table to our distributors in 2001 to support his crystal meth habit. It is available to you for $149.99 plus tax."
Then I discovered that someone had scratched "ALICE COOPER IS COOL/JAMES 1978" on the bottom of the table. Incensed, I went back to the antique store to return it.
They offered an exchange program. I found some other items there.
"This lamp was briefly lost in the Caribbean in 1988, where it was worshipped as a god. When it was traded for silver and ammunition, the dealers sanded down the totem-like paint and replaced it with the fine finish you see today."
"Every summer for thirty-two years, a philosophy professor would demand that her students prove that this podium truly existed. None were able to do so, making this the most convincingly nonexistent podium available for your home decoration."
"This breadbox was constructed during the French revolution as a testament to Pure Reason. It was intended to be the perfect breadbox according to the philosophies and ergonomics of the time, but Napoleanic reform led to its disrepute."
"During the late 1920's, the iridescent frog became a countercultural icon of some repute. Some believed that this frog represented a rejection of older cultural principles, and the promise of new, more enlightened forms of love. An example is this chair. Originally purchased from a manufacturer in 1918, the owner commissioned the chair to be embossed with arrow frogs in mother-of-pearl. The chair ruptured under the weight, the frogs were sanded off, and the chair was rebuilt and used for military purposes during World War II. Traces of the frogs can still be seen along its legs."
"This coffee set is pure and ideal. You need never consider that it might have faults. It will not fail you. It was made when things could last. It will make you virtuous. It was sent to us by someone who swore she spoke with angels who taught her its secrets. No one ever proved her wrong, but she was committed to an asylum one hour after sending us this coffee set."
.......and when I saw that every item was polished with such fancy, I felt like I'd been a short-sighted fool.
The antique shop manager, one John Boring, apologized for the scratch on the coffee table, but not for the story. He said that it was part of the appeal of the antique store. The stories. Customers were buying vignettes as much as they were buying household items, he said. He said that sometimes being a part of such a beautiful story is worth it.
I said that the fiction was exciting, but eventually the simple truth was what would make the items worthwhile.
He asked me if the coffee table was worth the money, without the story, even with the scratch. I had to admit it was a comfortable and sturdy thing, and a fine table, well worth the money no matter what had gone on before, but I wasn't sure I could feel happy with the table in my home anymore.
Then I went home and ate some cherries. I need to think about this for a while.