Origins

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

I found it in an old carpet-bag at a yard-sale. The bag was a horrid thing, moth- or worse-eaten.

'Don't reckon you'll hev much use for the contents, mister.'

The stall holder had the baggy mouth of a tobacco chewer, but he didn't spit after he said it.

'Why's that?'

''S jest some old journal and a vest. Playin' cards all over it. 'Bout the most awful thing I ever saw.'

This time he did make as if to spit, but then remembered he didn't chew any more. He didn't have eyelashes or eyebrows and I saw that the back of his hand was as hairless as a baby's, when he made my change.

I'd pulled off the I-95 just after the Saco Ramada, followed the roads into Maine and stopped at the smallest town I could find. The only horse had left town a while ago. Main St took 5 minutes to walk along because I stopped at every hydrant like a dog. A left turn by Tony's Place took me into a street with paint-peeled clap-board houses. The broken down picket fences looked like a wino's teeth.

Right along the end of Pardoner Street was a two story affair; perhaps a hundred years older than the rest, although in no worse repair.

The yard sale was presided over by the hairless man. There were no customers except a small boy and an older girl who may or may not have been looking after him. Depending on whether the toddler had a cell-phone too. He had both kinds of goods for sale: bric and brac. Junk if you want to be cruel about it. I spotted the carpet bag half-jammed in an elephant's foot umbrella stand. There were no umbrellas in it, perhaps because there was no room.

The old man wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.

'Ten dollars.'

I laughed. ' 'T'aint worth 50 cents. I'll give you a dollar.'

'Five.' he said, one side of his mouth turned up and it looked like he'd had a stroke, although I took it for a smile.

'I'll give you two, and darn you for a thief.'

He held out a hand and said, 'I been that too.'

 

Back in a fob-key hotel half-way to the interstate, I opened the journal. It was written in that writing nobody knows how to do know, all loops and slanted over like it's trying to escape from the page.

'I had no sooner buried my wife than I received a summons to the reading of her late Uncle’s will. Truth told, I was not...'

 

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Published
Publication date: January 2017
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