a short story

Garage Sale

Appeared in The Malahat Review at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Spring 1981

Those pots is from my Aunt Irene’s. She used to keep her geraniums in them, but then she got old and stopped taking care of them. They was so pitiful-looking, they looked worse than anything I’d ever seen. They was just sick-looking, you know? She died last winter. She turned the heat off in the house to save money and she got pneumonia and died. I don’t know why she done it. She wasn’t poor. She just didn’t want to spend it. I don’t mean or junk or anything. She didnt buy food If we’d of knowed, we could of loaned her money or cooked for her or something. But she kept to herself. She never told us. We’d go over and see her every now and then in the last few years — she lived just over here to Fifth Street 00 and she looked kind of puny, but all right, you know. And then that terrible snowstorm came and Daddy was snowed in up at G.E. for three days and Lisa and me was here all alone and couldn’t get the car out. It was a week before we finally got over to Aunt Irene’s. She’d turned the heat off and was all curled up in a blanket in the downstairs bedroom, shivering. And it looked like she hadn’t had a meal in I don’t know how long. She had the money; she just didn’t spend it. I ‘magine she thought she was being thrifty like Uncle Bert would of wanted her to, but I think it was just foolishness.

That big one’s fifty cents.

I’m not really selling this stuff to make money. We’re not moving. I wish we was. Daddy and the kids, whenever they’re home, is always after me to get rid of some of my junk, and so they picked this weekend – the girls did – so we could have a big garage sale and clean out the closets and the basement. But when it comes to someone setting here and watching things, they leave that to Mommy. Daddy’s working day shift this weekend and the kids is off to the show. No. Yeah. Lisa’s at the show and Angie and Becky and Mike’s up to the T,G & Y, that’s right. I get stuck with it.

Every time Angie or Becky and Mike (that’s her husband) come to visit, they’re always after me to get rid of stuff. I keep telling them, you don’t live here any more, you got no right to tell me to throw things out. But then Lisa and Daddy get after me, and I just feel like crying. Sometimes I do.

One time last spring when Angie was here, I was out at Club, and she’d been after me about all my junk, and all during the time we were playing cards, I was saying to Dura Lee, now, Dura Lee, you just watch. She’s up to something. And sure enough, when I got home one of the closets in the front room was cleaned out. I got out the flashlight and looked out back here in the pit and there was all her and Becky’s old clothes from high school. Lisa says she don’t want them cause they’re out of style, but they’re still good clothes. They might come back in. You could at least use the material for a pillow cover or for a quilt. There’s no need to waste it.

Somebody might want them some day, you never know. And so I carried it all back in and put it back in the closet.

I have washcloths to match those if you want to see them. They’re in the house. It won’t be no trouble at all to get them. I don’t know why I didn’t bring them out here too. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m so forgetful. I’d forget my head if I had to remember to put it back on. I think these are real pretty, with the flower patterns and all. I got them in some detergent a while back and I think they’re prettier than the ones they give you now. The one they’re giving out now is purple, and I hate purple. I guess it’s cause when I was a little girl I had my favorite uncle, Uncle Noble. When Uncle Noble died, they held me up to look at him in his coffin and his coffin was lined with purple satin. That night it rained and I woke up screaming. r woke the whole house up. I couldn’t help thinking about Uncle Noble under the ground, getting rained on. I’ve hated purple ever since.

You sure you don’t want them?

If you like books, I got more of them inside. Those is just some old schoolbooks the girls wanted me to get rid of. I got some inside that I’ll sell if you want them. You know that man that writes so much? Mitchner? I got a whole box full of his. My son, Lewis, he’s the only one that ever done much reading. He just loved those books. He tried to get me to read one, the one about Hawaii. I just read and read and I thought it would never end. I never did finish it. Lewis used to sit at the kitchen table and read to me out loud while I was fixing supper. I liked them more when he read to me. He went to college and got his master’s degree and all and now he’s got a job out in California. He don’t get back here too often, but Daddy calls him once a week. We haven’t seen him in two years, but we’re praying he’ll come home for Christmas this year. The last thing on earth I ever wanted was my kids to move away from me, but Lewis said he’d be crazy not to take a good job wherever it was. I don’t know. I would just die if Angie or Becky moved too far away. Mike’s always looking for a new job, and he’s kind of tired of Indiana and wants to go somewhere new. I hope he don’t. I might never seen them again. I might never see Lewis again. He tells us to fly out and visit him, but I never want to get in an airplane. Too many people get killed that way.

Those are some of Daddy’s old pipes. He gave up smoking about ten years ago and we thought he gave all his pipes to Poody Faulkenburg. They work together up to G.E. But we found these in a cabinet above the potty. Poody grew up on a farm out in the country. He had four brothers and three sisters, and his sister Zelda married my cousin Elmer Kruger, who got killed in Tunnelton in the mine cave·in. Anyway, when Poody was fifteen, or maybe it was when he was sixteen, he got his hand caught in a thresher. He couldn’t get it out, so with his free hand he took out his pocketknife and cut off his fingers. There wasn’t anyone around that could help him. He got his daddy’s car – he didn’t really know how to drive all that well- and drove himself into town. He passed out, and the car run off the road and hit a tree. He was in a hospital a long time, and he wasn’t no use on the farm anymore. At least not what his daddy wanted him for. I don’t know how he’s got on all these years without his fingers, but Daddy says he carries his weight up to the plant.

Poody’s got a knack with engines, too, and his back yard is always full with neighbors’ cars. We buy the parts and oil and Poody does all the work on our car and the kids’ cars, when they’re home. Poody uses his boy for his other hand. And he only charges half of what Zuelly Brothers would charge.
I got that at Aunt Irene’s, when we closed up her house. Kids seem to like those things these days. But the last thing I need is a big pie safe crowding up my kitchen. Becky said a lot of kids like them. They stick coats and books and all kinds of things in them. No one uses them for pies anymore. They’re pretty when they’re all fixed up.

I’d kind of like to keep all of Aunt Irene’s stuff. Someday if we’d get a big house, I’d have room for all of it. It would be sad for her things to get out of the family. But Becky dun got a pie safe and Angie and Lisa don’t want it. Daddy keeps talking about buying a house or moving to a big one closer to work. He has to drive sixty miles to Evansville to G.E. every day, and since he’s on the night shift, he don’t get home ’til nearly one in the morning.

We’ve been talking about moving for nearly ten years, but now he’s sixty and he’ll retahre in two years and it don’t seem like such a smart thing to do now.

We lived here all our lives.

But I’d still like to move, in a way. I don’t like living on Main Street anymore. The bank bought Ike Deckard’s house next door and made it a drive·in. An the kids park their cars there and yell and smoke marijuana all night. Then Doctor Allen’s house on the comer was tore down to be a Seven·Eleven. Kids is out all night, running their motors and dragging Main. It seems only trash hangs around Main anymore. This used to be a nice neighborhood. Lisa’s at home for another year and I don’t like her around such foolishness. When Ike was living and Doc Allen still lived on the comer, this was a pretty nice place to live. But now they’re gone and we’re all that’s left.

We looked at houses. We found this big one over to Grandview that was so nice. It had five bedrooms and a nice big yard and a building so that Daddy could have a shop to build his Christmas presents for everybody. (He’s working on a dining room table for Becky now.) But after we talked about it a while and we finally decided to buy it, Daddy called the real estate agent and he told us the house was sold. We could of got it for twenty·four thousand then, but we thought it was too much. And I saw in the Blade a while back where it was going for eighty·thousand.

It seems like that’s happened to us a lot: just when we finally decide we want a house, after thinking about it for a long time, we find out it’s been sold. That must of happened at least four times. Finally I said, Daddy, God must not want us to move. There must be some reason for it, I figure. We’re good people. Daddy’s never gone a Sunday without mass in his life, even when he was on GuadaIcanal. He went to the chapel there. We never tried to hurt anybody, so there must be some reason why we’re supposed to stay here.

Now there doesn’t seem to be much point to moving anyway. All the kids is moved except Lisa and when she goes, we won’t need a big house. I can put my junk in Lisa’s room and I won’t have to sell anything anymore.

One thing I can’t understand is why Daddy got after me too. He’s getting as bad as the kids about wanting me to get rid of some stuff. You never know when you might want something. I have copies of the Blade back to 1945, the year we got married. I bet I haven’t missed a single issue in all these years. I got a lot from before then, too. You never know when you might want to look something up. I lived here all my life and when I look at the papers, it helps me to remember things. I can’t remember too much on my own. People are always trying to find out things. The Blade doesn’t keep a file of all the issues, and they even called me once to ask about something in an old issue.

But I just don’t understand why Daddy gets after me. It’s his life too. When he was getting stuff together yesterday to sell, he found this ash tray kind of shaped like a frying pan with an orange in it, and it said “Florida.” It’s kind of stupid and silly-looking, but I like it. He said we should throw it out since he doesn’t smoke anymore. I told him no, cause we got it on our trip to Florida when we was first married. He said he didn’t remember but he didn’t care. It kind of hurt my feelings and I said, how can you not care about it? And he said, we don’t have any use for it and we should sell it to somebody that needs it. And I said, Daddy, there’s lots of things we have that we never have any use for and I hope you don’t want me to get rid of them because some of them’s the things that matter most.

He’s just getting old. Like me. It seems we get older faster, living on Main Street. It’s so noisy at night, with the kids dragging Main and the shouting in the parking lot next door. It’s just an aggravation.

You like those? I always liked lacey curtains. They’re so cute. They always reminded me of curtains for a window in a little country cottage. Those belonged to my mother. She died in 1971, and those have been down in the basement, in a box, ever since. It just broke my heart when Daddy told me I had to sell them. I don’t have no place for them. No one does. They all want new things. They don’t want the old clothes, even though they’re coming back into style. They don’t want anything of their grandma’s. They want new things. I’m asking a dollar a piece for them. I’m hoping no one buys them.

I guess I’m not a very good salesman, am I? I’ve been at it since nine and I’ve only made four dollars. No. Four dollars and a half. But that’s all right. I’m happy I haven’t sold much. I really don’t want to. I only put out one sign, out on Main, and then another one at the corner of the alley. Not many people have come. I can take it in for a little bit, and put it all back, and then I can tell Daddy and the kids that they finally had their way and it didn’t work too good. They’ll probably want me to have another sale or give it away to the Salvation Army or something. I guess I could.I know it just sits there in the basement and I don’t get any use of it. But even if I don’t, I like having it in my house.

You like those napkin rings? I always liked them. They look nice with a white tablecloth. I hardly ever use a tablecloth anymore, and I use paper napkins most of the time. They were my mother’s. Sometimes I think: Mama was younger than I am now when Daddy and I got married. And she’s dead now. It don’t seem too long ago that Lewis was just a baby. Now, Becky and Mike are going to have a baby. Angie’s away. Lisa’s leaving home soon. Time’s gone so quickly. I can’t hold on to my family, so I got to hold on to these things. And now they want me to give them up. And I can’t sleep at night, worrying, until Daddy gets home from work. I’m so scared something might happen to him. I guess we just have to try to hold onto the things we can hold on to.

That’ll be a quarter.