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12/24/98 The Parking Lot
12/10/98 Mountains
12/01/98 Garage Sale
11/12/98 The Car Salesman
10/29/98 What Is Money?
10/15/98 Sick People
10/01/98 Baseball
09/17/98 Dollars and Sense

Garage Sale

My wife sent me to the small closet for a long-lost hat. Everyone has a closet like this, a place to store belongings that don't belong. Excavating the jumble within, I uncovered relics of my existence, items that had been lost or forgotten or banned from view.

"Oh, there are those jeans I wanted to return to Macy's last Christmas..."

"And there is the remote control that I just replaced for $75..."

"Honey, your Uncle Mario isn't missing after all-he's right here."

Clearly, it was time to have a garage sale.

Saturday morning. The Big Day. I sat in my garage before a sea of doohickeys and thingamabobs. There was nothing of intrinsic value, nothing I wouldn't throw away but for conscience. Overseas they're killing each other for toilet paper, and here I am trying to jettison my load.

People trickled into my driveway and poked at the wares. They inquired about items, and I'd sell them for a fiftieth of their value. I mostly wanted to go inside and watch Barry Bonds hit a home run. I had nearly sold everything in sight when a dirty orange van pulled up. My grandpa said, "Never trust a man who drives a van." It made sense.

A mass of bodies piled out of the van and filed toward my home. They had already hit 50 garage sales and expected to hit 50 more. They were professionals. They knew were to look, what to touch, and how to haggle. I smiled at the driver, but he didn't understand English. So it goes.

The driver inquired about the cost of a book.

I shrugged and said, "I don't know, a dime."

The man laughed like I was crazy. A dime?! That's robbery.

What did I know. I was just the guy with the junk.

Then I noticed something that confirmed my grandpa's suspicion. Four men convened around the CDs. They weren't good CDs, but that wasn't the point. The largest man stepped into my line of vision. He was big enough to eclipse the sun at high noon. The driver inquired about a stool that wasn't even for sale.

"Ah, what the heck. A dollar."

He laughed again. I could get 300 stools for that price where I come from.

When I looked back, the four men were gone. I turned to the driver, and he too had left. That was one orchestrated unit. Like a guerrillas, they wasted no motion and spared no sound. They didn't leave empty-handed either: half of my CDs were gone. I wondered if Aaron Neville was in there: Everybody plays the fool...

From his van, the driver glanced over his shoulder. Our eyes locked like the horns of two rams. Time stood still. I fixed my gaze to say, "I know what you did. I would have given you those CDs had you asked. You perpetuate a stereotype that your countrymen don't deserve. And the music you stole is even worse than polka."

As you might imagine, it took a long time to communicate all that with my eyes. The man must have thought I had a nervous tic. He did not reply but sputtered off to the next garage sale in search of a CD player...


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