Yoharie: Yard Sale
The car pulled to the curb, engine running, a hand flashing up to the window. That, over there, the hand was saying to the driver. Well, okay, but why not? Kate grew antsy at Hibbler’s side. She said, tapping the frame of his glasses, an attention-getter Mat Busby used on people, “Who’s in there?”
He didn’t understand her at first. His wife picked up phrases…he’d thought this was one. Like “a penny for your thoughts”, only head-shrinker talk—the kind of thing, again, that Busby came up with.
But she said, “Did you ever see those people?”
Then one of them got out, and still the engine was going. It was a quiet car, maybe a hybrid. The taillights flashed, the noise stopped. The woman climbed the little incline on which the Hibbler house sat, and bent to check a price-tag…Sharpee scribbled on a strip of masking tape. Another woman got out and stood there, holding the driver’s door open.
“Is it ten dollars?”
Todwillow had been getting around all over, walking out to the back yard, disappearing into the garage, long enough Hibbler thought he would just go see what Todwillow was up to. Todwillow seemed next to have slipped inside the house, and left the front door standing open. He came back out, humming.
“Bahp, bahp, bahp, bahp!”
Doing an electric guitar, getting on the other side of the chest. The woman smiled up at him. People did smile at Todwillow, gave him the flat laugh, took a step away…as she was doing.
He’d come out and say, “Messin’ with your mind”, when he felt like saying it. This time he let her in on the joke—that there was one—hovering a finger over something.
“Well, I’m just going to refinish it.”
Kate said, “Do you need help, getting it in your trunk?”
“Are you buying that?” the other woman called out.
“Oh, I don’t know, ten dollars.”
“You know what would be great…if you like doing crafts…you said you were refinishing it?” He saw Kate search for a prop; he knew, all the Yard Sale Success checklists she’d been reading online, she was trying to boost another item. They didn’t have a lot of old furniture.
“I would let you have that basket for half-price, if you’re buying the chest.”
“Oh, I don’t want a basket.”
“Nine dollars and fifty cents,” Todwillow said.
“We have a lot of books. We have kids’ books. If there’s anything special you’re looking for.”
The trunk popped.
The other woman came up, and stood next to her friend.
“It’s ten dollars,” the friend said.
“Up to you.” She, like the first, bent to examine the finish. “Seriously pukey.” She gave Kate a challenging smile. But Todwillow laughed.
“Paint it white.” He grabbed an invisible brush from the air, swished this back and forth. The chest had been pink, magenta pink.
Magenta, a safe name, and crayon-y. Todwillow made that same type of croak, like a minute ago with the guitar, every time he had an occasion to say hot pink, and this in some way creeped Hibbler out. He didn’t call his daughter’s old toy chest hot pink. He’d painted it over in brown, before putting it on the street. The job was cursory. Pukey…maybe a fair call.
“No, ma’am,” Todwillow said. The woman who wanted to buy it had squatted down, testing the weight of the chest. “Hibbler’s gonna put that in your trunk for you.”
He’d done nothing for Cathlyn Burris, when she’d bought the rocking chair, and set off towards her house, bumping her knees, half tripping herself. He’d kept his eyes on her, watched every step, felt keen about this, in a way he didn’t understand; this awkwardness, a sort of punishment.
He could have carried it for her. He felt bad because it hadn’t occurred to him. Or not bad, but fearful of getting away with more than he could hope to. Todwillow was going to use it against him.
So, given the prompt to prove himself an okay guy, Hibbler jumped up, got a grip on, and shouldered the chest. By this inexorability, the bargain was sealed.
Both women edged up to the table.
“Nine dollars and fifty cents,” Kate said.
“No, I know he was joking.”
“No, I have to be fair.”
The woman frowned, heaved a breath, caught her friend’s eye. She put down a ten.
Kate gave her two quarters.
With a little whuff of sound, the car started, then revved, then drew away; the purchaser’s hand in the window again, sketching rationalizing circles.
Kate said, “Why aren’t people nice?”
Todwillow said, “Hibbler, you left a big thumbprint in that pukey paint job.” He pulled his phone out of his back pocket and feigned taking a snapshot of the chest that was no longer there.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)