I start the day early because I didn’t put a time on the signs. I figure the sale will start when I’m ready to drag all my shit out and lay it across the lawn. But I’m wrong. The rummagers come early and while I’m partially set up by 8:15, one seriously- seasoned expert in the yard sale field starts rifling through the side of a black hefty bag still tied up in a knot. “Help yourself,” I say, nodding toward the heap of god-knows-what. Go on, find the hot ticket while I add some more sugar to my first cup of coffee.
The lawn is a nice shade of green across the big patch of space by the dumpster (above which, conveniently, I reside.) The green leather rug, what I consider my prized possession for today’s pickings, looks rather camoflaged against the blades of grass, but the fringe is shaggy and erratic and makes an noticeable impression, kind of like green grass gone wild. Still, I need to look closely to see where the grass ends and the shag begins so we put out a red construction paper sign: “Leather Rug, $20”.
And we start laying out our shit on top of it.
The thing about yard sales is, you never think your shit is actually shit. You’ve worn it, read it, drunk great wine out if it, put it up on your walls for years and listened to it over and over. My rogue friend Jonathan told me I should sell all the CDS for $15.99. Plus tax.
As it turns out, whatever you’ve loved and valued isn’t worth much more than $2 to the general public. Around 11:30, we decide it’s time to ramp up the snacks and beer portion of the promotion and Autumn goes to fetch margarita fixin’s and hang a couple more signs, just in case – in their mad dash to catch of glimpse of “live girls in bikinis” – our target demo’s taken a left, when they should’ve taken a right.
While she’s gone, a rather weathered, worn-in looking man ambles across the lawn. “Hi there,” I say, with a smile. ‘How’s it going?”
“Oh, you know, just seeing if you got anything I really need.”
“Well, this is America. You don’t really need anything, but maybe you’ll find something to brighten the day, ” I say, amiably.
He walks toward the table and chairs – yes! – and points to my friend’s faux-flower vase on top. It’s the kind that would sit nicely on a bedside table or a windowsill and a few wannabe-wildflowers are sticking out the wannabe-soil.
“How much you askin’ for that?”
I laugh. “I think she’d be good with $2”.
He stares at it for awhile, then walks around the other side of the table. He cocks his head, then squints, apparently trying to size up the flowers from a different angle. “Huh. I live in a studio. I don’t know if I have room.”
I’m not sure how to respond to this quandry so for once in my life, I say nothing. In truth, I’m not sure if it’s worth another sales pitch.
“You got any furniture?” he asks. I bite my lip. There may be no room for fake flowers but dammit, he might be able to squeeze in a loveseat! We walk upstairs and I show him the nice heavy over-stuffed loveseat. He spreads out his arms, stretching them to the estimated width of the sofa and then carefully holds the tension, from elbow to elbow, as we walk back downstairs. “I’m gonna go measure my apartment and then I’ll come back with some money.”
“Great, we’ll be here!” I say and then I wave, hoping I can get him to wave back and lose his measurements – just for fun – but he holds his forearms taut and teeters down the sidewalk, all concentration.
About 10 minutes later he comes back, shaking out his wrists, arms once again at ease. “Don’t think it’ll fit.”
The vase, or the loveseat?
“I’ll take the flowers though.” He peels two one-dollar bills from his pocket and pauses, eyeing the flowers one more time, checking his measurements. “Yeah, these’ll work.”
It was a big decision so I’m glad he took his time; there’s nothing worse than the feeling of regret over $2 ill-spent at a rummage sale.
I keep talking up the bookshelves, the table and chairs, the green leather rug but they were destined to become the main remains of the day. For some reason, the bizarre random items – the pie plate, the fish coffee mug and the magic 8-ball (no surprise there, really) are quick sellers, along with a stack of salad plates that have become the apple of the neighborhood girls’ eye, which were snatched up like fresh-baked bread from an early morning, just-opened bakery.
I don’t want to drag everything upstairs at the end of the sale or, please no, haul it somewhere else to get rid of it, so it’s time to encourage any and all offers. A little girl runs back and stares at the dishware, telling me she broke her plate. Huh. Well how bout you buy a headband and I’ll throw in another plate?
Autumn laughs but the little girl chews her lip, thinks, then nods in agreement. I throw in another headband – Customer Appreciation Day on the lawn.
We both have tables, rugs, vases. Hers go first, while mine watch with envy like red-headed stepfurniture as Cinderella tries on shoes.
Should we try again tomorrow?
A neighbor comes by to chat and asks about my 50+1 CD player and speakers, which have given me much pleasure and bass over the years. He heads back to his place and then returns with a printer of his own. He puts his box on the sidewalk not far from my own printer and catches a potential buyer’s eye. The man walks away from my printer, moves towards his printer and hands the lawn-poacher a twenty.
Whoa! Get your own yard sale, my friend. No usurping my blades of grass, my hours of sign-hanging and strategically-worded facebook posts.
“You get half,” he tells me.
We return to the topic of my stereo and he says he needs to make sure it works. “Oh, it works,” I tell him. I plug it into the outdoor outlet and wipe off the droplets of rain that have suddenly appeared. I grab Gladys Knight and the Pips and fast- forward to Track 5. We waltz, dance, sway to Midnight Train to Georgia and I press the Groove On button. The sidewalk shakes and Pips serenade the dumpster.
Sold, for $10. Maybe my luck is changing.
Alas, the rain picks up and we ponder the potential damage to the cashmere sweater and the Miller Lite wife-beater (surprisingly still up for grabs) and the scantily-clad leather rug, now that the pie plate and the backpack and the stretchpants have been stripped from its surface.
A few minutes later, the sun comes back out and we sit down on the lawn to collect ourselves. Suddenly, we’re exhausted. Too much commotion, too much wheelin-and-dealin’ and really, too many margaritas too fast. It’s been a long day of fending off street urchins trolling the salad plate section and honestly, we sort of don’t care anymore. Or I should say, we care more about lying down in the sun.
I stretch out across the green leatherness while Autumn lies down on the hanging carry-on bag positioned between the Doc Martens and the martini shaker. The sun sinks into our willing shoulders and at last, the bikini tops feel like a good idea. We doze off and a perfect amount of peaceful time goes by. I awake to the sound of birds and a cool breeze and an extremely sad sight: everything is still there. Even the salad plates.
Autumn softly snores – it’s been that kind of day – and I look around, assessing the picked-over trappings of my life. I consider making the street urchins a salad.