A Pound of Flesh…
The email for this estate sale, alleged my allegedly industrious wife, alleged that there’d be “tons and tons of the very best books.” Having thus far stood in line on a sidewalk beneath a house on a hill for 10-15 minutes, and having seen none of the shoppers departing from that house carrying even a single book, we’d begun to juggle a few theories about this “tons and tons” allegation.
“Sometimes they say ‘tons’ and there’s only one bookcase,” observed my cynical consort.
“They ought to have an estate sale regulatory commission,” proposed I, observing another half-dozen souls emerging from the house sans literature, “that reviews absurd claims. Make the bastards weigh their books, I say. Short a ton, pay a fine. Books not ‘the very best’? Whack’um upside the head with the very worst, nay, the very hardest books.”
We watched a driver, indubitably noting the lack of legal parking spaces in her myopic future, park her car in front of a driveway across the street. In Boston, the local philistines double and triple park; In SoCal, we impede the entrance to thy neighbor’s domicile. This particular depositor of poorly parked vehicle crossed the street to where my allegedly empathetic wife and I stood near the front of the line, and anon chose to address the half of us who appeared somewhat more amenable to stupid questions.
“Is this the line to get in,” she asked my wife.
“To get in what?” retorted the spouse.
“Hey,” I nudged my surly bride, “that’s a good one.” Everyone thinks she’s sooo nice.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend…
My previous encounter with Alice of Alice’s Estate Sales (see article below) inspired me to eschew estate sales for a year. ‘Twas a peaceful epoch lacking only in churlish bargain hunters, hoarding book dealers brandishing witless scanners, & long lines which never move. We’d been standing at the front of this here line for 20-25 minutes now, staring up expectantly at Alice who in turn stared down at us from atop a horseshoe shaped driveway in the foothills of Arcadia, looking a lot— what with her sunglasses and shillelagh-like walking stick— like the angry bastard child of the sheriff in Cool Hand Luke. Initially, for every 15 people I counted exiting the estate sale, Alice would grudgingly allow 5 from our line entrance into the house. For the last 10 minutes, however, she’d been restricting all immigration as if she were Donald Trump patrolling our southern border and we a swarthy horde of antichrists here to steal her jobs. Meanwhile, the funny parker who did not know how to identify a line was stealthily entering the estate sale behind Alice via the far side of the horseshoe driveway. I began to signal to Alice to turn around and look upon a truly illegal border crossing.
“Don’t do that!” snapped the woman behind me, smacking down my upraised hand. “Make Alice mad and we’ll all be standing out here for another half-hour.”
“You don’t think she’d want to know that people are sneaking into her crowded estate sale while we wait out here in line?”
“You sad, pathetic clown,” said the hand smacker, shaking her head grievously at this sad, pathetic clown. “You think this is about fairness? About how much space there is in that house? This is about control, you lanky buffoon. Give Alice the idea that she might not be in charge, why, she’s liable to close down the whole shebang and send all of us home empty-handed.”
“I forget,” I said, turning to my wife. “Why are we not in bed enjoying a hangover or two?”
“Tons & tons of books,” she reminded me. “The very best.”
Absence of Malice
A perusal of the interior informed us that tons & tons are mathematically equivalent to three bookshelves. As I inspected the books one-by-one, placing some in my box while leaving others on the shelves, I felt a gentle tap upon my shoulder.
“Excuse me,” said the deferential tapper. “When you get a chance, could you pass me that red book on the top shelf? Unless you want it, that is. Then I don’t need it.”
As I apprehensively handed the shoulder-tapper a red book, the aporetic little man in my head wondered why this shoulder-tapper was shoulder-tapping instead of estate-sale-jostling. Where’s his book scanner? His pile of hoarded books? Why is he being all civil & friendly like? Say what’s this guy’s angle?
Deep in contemplation, exiting the room, I nearly ran into a woman in the doorway who scooted aside to let me through. She said “pardon me sir” and did this weird, upward curling, sliced watermelon effect thing with her mouth. Sent shivers up my spine. Upon entering the second (and last) book room, an old man asked me: “Find anything good to read?”
“Say what are you getting’ at friend?” I squalled. “Don’t push me buddy!”
By the time my wife found me culling through the last row of books, I was, not unlike a stupefied mental patient, softly serenading myself: “Where have all the book dealers gone? Long time passing, where have all…”
“Notice anything strange about this set-up?” she muttered. “Something decidedly askew about this screwy shindig?”
“No book dealers,” I grunted. “Absence of hoarders & scanners. A glut of people with decent manners.”
“Weird, huh? Whattayuh think happened to the usual crowd? Did they somehow suspect that there really wouldn’t be tons & tons of the very best books? Have they all been banished by Alice? Self-banishment? Are we the last of a dying breed of booksellers? I feel like Burgess Meredith at the end of that Twilight Zone.”
“Yeah I should throw your glasses on the floor and step on them,” I said. “Teach you a Twilight Zone lesson.”
The woman at the check out table in front gave us a fair price for our box of books, and some more of that friendly civility stuff. Alice was still guarding the line, now stretching two blocks, from her perch on the north side of the horseshoe driveway. Inside the estate sale, there appeared to be enough room for another 20 people to shop in relative comfort.
“Okay!” Alice commanded. “Next three!”
A group of four elderly women began to mount the driveway. Alice shook her pale paw at them: “Three! All four of yuh deaf or what?”
One of the ladies attempted elaboration: “ We’re all together. These are my…”
“Next three! Four deaf ladies to the end of the line! Think you can tell me how to run my estate sale, huh?”
Meanwhile my business partner & I tramped downhill on the south side of the driveway, past a group of five entering the estate sale sans the inconvenience of a two block line. We carried our one-ton box of books, the very best books, back to our car.