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The market was always busy, and always loud. At every turn, stallholders were competing for the attention of the crowds.

Some shouted; extolling the virtues of their wares, or announcing unbeatable prices at the tops of their voices. They barely paused for breath, and would often continue bellowing out their advertisements while customers stood right in front of them. They drew in customers all right, but their customers would never browse for long for fear of being deafened.

Other stallholders sang. Some used recognisable tunes with the words altered to sell their product, others sang entirely original songs. They often gathered a crowd, especially if their voice was good, but the crowd was often too entranced by the song to pay much attention to the product.

Other stallholders, too shy to shout or sing, relied on brightly coloured signs, banners and posters with persuasive taglines and attractive images. A few set up astonishing clockwork automata, elaborate contraptions that clattered and clanked as they danced, to which children would often drag their long-suffering parents. These were quite effective – while the child watched, entranced, the bored parent would browse through the stall and inevitably pick up something or other.

There was one stallholder, however, who did none of these things. She didn’t shout or sing; in fact she barely even spoke. Her stall itself was the most basic thing possible; a simple wooden table, with a plain black and white banner that bore one word in plain font and no images at all.

Despite this, every day she had a long queue in front of her stall. People would stand in line for hours to reach her; yet she never took a penny. As each customer in turn reached her stall, she would look at them quietly, and in a soft voice state her price. It was always something of the highest possible value, yet something utterly intangible. For one customer it might be the memory of his or her first kiss, for another it might be their sense of taste. A man may be charged his strength; a woman her beauty. A few would shake their heads and turn away, the price too high after all, but most would nod and sign her contract.

By the time the bell tolled four in the afternoon, she would have a tall stack of signed contracts, and every day at that hour she would stand up, tuck them under her arm and walk away, no matter how far the queue stretched from her stall. She knew that those she hadn’t seen would return another day, to stand in line for the stall beneath the black and white banner that simply said “Riches”.

Ā© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: This week, the Three Word Wednesday selection is Loud, Persuasive, and Riches. An interesting selection, I think, and I hope the results are interesting too!)