Aphelion Issue 255, Volume 24
October 2020
 
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The Yard Sale

by Dave Crerand



It had rained off and on during the morning and was supposed to rain more, later in the afternoon. I had been scheduled to play golf with an old friend but we had decided that due to the weather we would postpone.  That left me with a little time to kill and a few unexpected dollars in my pocket. As I was driving past a side street that lead into one of the older neighborhoods on the outskirts of town, I saw a ‘Yard Sale’ sign stuck in the ground. The rain had caused the magic marker ink to run and the address wasn’t all that clear but it had today’s date and an arrow pointing the way. I figured that the lousy weather might keep a lot of other bargain hunters away and I might find a genuine deal or two.


I took a left and drove slowly down the street, checking both sides for a house with the tell-tale card tables full of kid’s toys and kitchen utensils. There would be old picnic benches stacked with old coffee mugs and chipped dishes, towers of slightly used car tires, beat-up furniture and all the other typical treasures of a yard sale, lining the driveway. I made it to the end of the first block and had found nothing. I proceeded down the second block and met the same result. At the end of the third block the street ended and I hadn’t found the ‘Yard Sale’. I looked both ways for traffic on the cross street and noticed another side street about twenty yards up the road on my left. There was another sign stuck in the ground. It didn’t say anything, but there was the arrow in the same rain smeared magic marker.  I followed the sign.

There were a lot fewer houses on this street than there had been on the last, and they were a lot more widely spaced. They were older too, much older, though most appeared to be well maintained. I had been driving for several minutes and it began to sprinkle a bit. I was about to abandon the search and turn around when a house up ahead caught my attention. It was much larger than all the others on the street. It was in good shape but could definitely stand a fresh coat of paint.  It had a three-car garage and all the doors were up. There was an older woman, in her mid-to-late sixties, scurrying up and down the driveway moving things out of the rain, into the shelter of the garage. I parked my car along the curbside and without a word started helping her move the last remaining items under shelter.

“Thank you,” she said, as the raindrops became larger and fell with greater frequency.

“No problem, m’am,” I answered, and we finished up in silence. Just as we brought the last piece into the garage the skies opened up and the rain just poured down.

“Just in time,” she said with a laugh. “For jumping right in and helping, you deserve a reward. If you see anything you want, I’ll knock off another twenty-five percent.”

“That’s a deal,” I said, but as I looked around, I didn’t see anything inspiring me to take advantage of her discount. It was the typical merchandise. There was some sports equipment abandoned by children long ago, some glassware that might be worth something, a lot of old records and hi-fi equipment, probably worthless. There was a rack of dresses that at one time might have been glamorous, a typewriter from the early fifties with two old, “new stock” ribbons still in their boxes. There was furniture of various periods and styles and books, lots and lots of books. I wandered around the garage, making two complete circles even though I realized I was just waiting for the rain to let up a little so I wouldn’t get completely soaked on the way to my car.

“Not finding what you’re looking for?” she asked.

“Well,” I answered, “it’s never really wise to go garage sale shopping with a specific item in mind. You’ll just end up disappointed. It’s better to be surprised by the unexpected item that you do find.”

“I’ve never heard it put quite that way,” she said, “but I guess it makes sense.”

I kept walking around and, if anything the rain seemed to be falling even harder.

“How about a nice chair?” she asked. She came over and gently took my shoulder and turned me toward an old recliner in the center of the garage. “This used to be my husband’s ‘end of the day chair’, at least that’s what he called it. He always said ‘at the end of the day I want my ass in this chair’,” she laughed, a little embarrassed by her own comment until I joined in the laughter.

“That’s a good one,” I said, “I’ll have to remember that.” I let her lead me over to the chair.

“You’re about his size,” she continued, “sit down and try it out. It should be a pretty good fit.” With her hand still on my shoulder she turned me and gave me a little nudge and I plopped down into the chair. It was an old-style Lazy Boy recliner that both rocked and swiveled. It was covered with a soft, blue, brushed corduroy material that showed a few wear marks on the arms and on the seat itself, but there were no holes or tears in the fabric.

“Pull the wooden handle on the side there,” she instructed. I did as I was told and the chair tilted back and the leg support popped right out and locked in place.

“The mechanism is in real good shape,” she said. “Harry really loved that chair, so he took good care of it.”

“It is quite comfortable,” I said, already imagining myself with a beer in hand and a football game on television. I knew my wife would not be pleased. We had plenty of furniture, it was the wrong color for everything else that was in our family room, and I already had a comfortable, upholstered rocker with an ottoman that was in better shape than this chair. I rocked my shoulders back and forth, settling myself into the chair and glanced over at where the television would sit. It was then that I noticed it.

It was hanging on the garage wall and didn’t have a price tag on it. Evidently it was not part of the yard sale inventory. It was an old oil painting, from one of those old paint-by-number sets. It was about eleven by fourteen and was in an overly ornate wooden frame that had no doubt previously held some other painting of much greater value.  Whoever had done the painting had meticulously stayed within the lines of all the little areas and in those areas with light colors you could still faintly see the numbers underneath the paint. It was a seaside scene that reminded me of my childhood summers at my grandparent’s place on the Jersey shore. There was a wide expanse of white sand beach leading down to a gentle surf with three to four-foot breakers. There were some bathers and beach umbrella’s dotted along the shore but the beach wasn’t crowded. Off in the distance a boardwalk lead towards a pier that held an amusement park with a Ferris wheel, a rollercoaster and several other rides and attractions.

Outside, the wind made a subtle shift and the rain began to blow into the garage and some of the things in the front started to get wet.

“I hope you don’t mind,” the woman said, pushing three buttons on the wall alongside the door that lead into the kitchen. The three garage doors began to lower automatically. She flicked another switch and several florescent light fixtures hanging from the ceiling flickered to life. I said nothing, but sat, still staring absently at the picture.

As I stared at it the harshly defined lines of differentiation between the colors began to soften a bit and blur so it took on a more natural appearance. I felt myself being drawn into the scene and I rose without standing and walked without moving until I was right at the edge of the picture. I paused for just a second, then took that final step forward and felt the sand, warmed by the summer sun, beneath my bare feet. I heard the laughter of the children splashing gaily in the shallows, and beneath one of the umbrellas a small transistor radio played a Beatle’s song, the sound tinny and thin. I could smell the ocean salted air and the sweet aroma of cocoanut oil suntan lotion. I broke into a run and slashed into the surf. With knees high I kept surging forward until the water was at mid-thigh level and then dove into the oncoming face of a building wave. I floated on my back, letting the gentle rising and rolling of the waves envelope and caress me. I body surfed the breakers for what seemed like hours, laughing with the rest of the children around me. After a while I left the water and walked up onto the beach to a familiar looking towel spread on the warm sand and knew that it was mine. I sat on the towel, facing the surf and, reaching behind me, picked up the sunglasses that I knew would be there. They were old aviator shades and they were hot from the sun when I first put them on. I stared out at a couple of freighters that were steaming north toward the framed edge of the picture.

I don’t know how long I sat there like that, but suddenly I felt a presence standing on the beach beside me. I looked up into the eyes of a beautiful young girl who was probably twenty years old at the most. She wore a Catalina style one-piece bathing suit that showed off her spectacular curves, a pair of flip-flops, and carried a vinyl cooler bag, her towel rolled underneath its strap.

“Hello, darling,” she said, “have you been waiting long?”

“Only forever,” I said with a laugh and she sat down beside me, close, the way I liked it. She opened up the cooler bag and took out two bottles of Coca-Cola and a bottle opener. She opened them up, handed one to me and we sat there peacefully, contented, sipping our sodas.

Later we swam and splashed, and laughed, and beneath the surface of the water my hands teased and explored as she alternately blushed and flirted. An older couple sitting side by side in the shade of their umbrella looked at us and nodding their heads, shared a whispered joke and smiled knowingly.

As the afternoon sun began to fade into dusk we rose from our haven on the beach and began to walk toward the boardwalk. As we climbed the steps from the sand, I realized that I was now wearing a pair of khaki shorts, a blue and white striped T-shirt and a pair of penny loafers with no socks. She wore a simple, yellow strapless sundress that billowed gracefully around her knees in the gentle breeze coming in off the surf, and sandals. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and seemed to sparkle in the last rays of the setting sun. There were other couples strolling the boardwalk and, occasionally a kid on a bike, even though bicycles on the boardwalk were prohibited. We walked hand in hand, just enjoying one another’s company until the aromas flowing out into the night air from a little Italian restaurant alongside the boardwalk, overpowered our senses.

 A red candle was stuck in an old Chianti bottle; its sides coated with multicolored layers of wax from countless other candles, in the center of the red and white checked tablecloth. The legs of her chair scraped loudly on the worn wood board floor as I pulled it out for her to sit. She ordered spaghetti and meatballs.

“What are you going to have?” she asked.

“Veal parmesan,” I answered.

“But you always have veal parmesan.”

“It’s the perfect meal,” I explained, “for what has already been a perfect day.”

“And it’s still quite early,” she said, with a mischievous glimmer in her eyes.

We sat long over dinner, chatting about every subject under the sun. We talked of dreams and aspirations. We talked of hopes and wishes. We talked of children and grandchildren. And when dinner was through, we shared a small bowl of spumoni and once more, hand in hand, went out into the night.

By now the sun was long gone, but darkness didn’t stand a chance in the flashing, swirling, glowing kaleidoscope of colors that were the lights of the amusement park on the pier. We rode all the rides, screaming together on the rollercoaster, enjoying the view from the top of the Ferris wheel, chasing each other frantically in the bumper cars and getting rammed by other patrons because we only had eyes for each other. In the mirrored room of the funhouse I experienced the great joy of being surrounded by fifty of her and the excitement of finding the one that was soft and yielding to my touch. The tunnel of love became one long embrace and kiss and I would be hard pressed to describe any of the attributes to the ride itself. But, my favorite ride, which I always left until last, was the merry-go-round. I don’t know why the merry-go-round is my favorite ride. Perhaps it is the simple innocence of swirling with the music. Or maybe it’s the personal little envelope of space created around you and that special person that you share the ride with. It might be the artistry of the brightly painted horses and carriages that draw you into their seamless unending parade. For us, in that moment, it was all of those things.

As we left the pier and the amusement park behind us and continued our stroll on the boardwalk, the prevailing light source became the moon and the countless stars sprinkled across the black velvet of the night sky. We walked in silence because there was nothing that needed to be said. We both felt complete within each other. The reflection of the moonlight upon the surface of the water beckoned like a glowing pathway to eternity and we were drawn once more down to the sand and the surf.  Hands clasped, while also carrying our shoes, we walked in the wet sand, letting the expiring waves wash up around our ankles as we went. The water, though much cooler than it had been that afternoon, was nonetheless comforting and soothing.  The beach was quiet and empty and ours.

We moved back up from the waters edge and tumbled into the sand and one another’s arms. Our kisses, no longer gentle and playful, became urgent and purposeful. In our eagerness, she tore my shirt, and though she apologized, in her voice there was just the faintest tone of triumph. As my hands moved over her body, I committed every square inch to memory. Her breathing became ragged as she yielded to her passion and her submission was generous and complete. Soon, our cries drowned out the noise of the surf around us.

Afterwards, we lay side by side, tightly tucked into one another. Passion’s sweat was now chilling on our bodies, yet we were reluctant to part. I gently cradled her chin in my hands and gazed into her wide-open eyes and for the first time understood what it meant when I promised that I would love her forever. I wished that the world could stop at that very moment and leave us frozen in the little bubble of a universe we had created.

Suddenly my reverie was shattered by the sound of electrical motors engaging. I turned my head sharply to my left and saw the three garage doors going up.

“It seems the rain is finally letting up,” said the woman in whose garage I now once more found myself. I pulled the handle on the chair, lowering the footrest, and stood, not sure how much time had elapsed since I had sat down. I looked out the door and realized that it was still mid-afternoon and it seemed only moments had passed. The rain was letting up but the sky was an indication that more rain would be coming.

“What do you think about the chair?” she asked.

“Oh,” I said, “it’s very nice, but I don’t think I have a spot for it anywhere in my house.”

“That’s too bad,” she said, “you looked like you were quite comfortable.”

I let her comment slide and looked once more at the wall.

“How about that picture?” I asked, pointing to the beach scene.

“Oh,” she laughed, “that old thing? I couldn’t part with that. My husband painted that for me many, many years ago.”

“I understand,” I told her, “well, have a nice afternoon and good luck with your ‘Yard Sale’.” I started to walk down the driveway when she called out behind me.

“Feel free to stop by anytime if you ever want to see that picture again.”

I wanted to turn back and ask her what she meant by that remark, but she was already going into the house, so I let it drop.

Back at home, I was settled into my own, familiar, comfy chair, had a beer open beside me and golf on the television. I made the last concession to comfort and untied my sneaker and then stared in amazement as sand spilled out onto the floor as I pulled it off.


THE END


2017 Author

Bio: Mr. Crerand has been writing as a hobby for a long time, but now that he is retired, He is looking forward to developing his craft, improving his abilities, and finding an audience.

His work has previously appeared in "Lost Worlds," "Crossroads," "Dogwood Tales," and his serial "The Village" appears in the first four issues of The Dark Sire

E-mail: Dave Crerand

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