Plummer Cobb is a writer and communications consultant based in Arlington, Texas.

Garage Sale — Everything Must Go

I can't resist a good garage sale. 
Or a bad one.

       Garage sales, 
       estate sales, 
       open houses. 

When I see one, I have to stop and look around, 
       glimpse into the lives of others, 
       sift through the cast-off skins and empty nests. 

I rarely buy anything.

Mostly, I gather memories of the things being sold, 
       and of the people browsing and selling. 
    
Occasionally, I’ll bring something home: 
       an old record too scratched to work,
       a broken-spined novel I’ve never heard of, 
       an untitled amateur painting. 
    
One Saturday morning in the spring, I was cruising neighborhoods and spotted
       a house with the usual items on display, 
       a dozen people checking out the seller’s wares, 
       an older man overseeing purchases. 

I expected to find nothing I needed. 

As usual, I stopped to peruse the remnants of a family’s years
       and watch the people who might want it.

On display for sale:
       a tan corduroy jacket, 
       a purple duvet cover, 
       eleven wine glasses, 
       three boxes of crayons (unopened), 
       sixteen pairs of shoes (men's and women’s, no kid sizes), 
       a rack of dress shirts (blue, white, gray), 
       an electric screwdriver, 
       a circular saw, 
       a tool box of various tools (including
             several screwdrivers, 
             two hammers, 
             electrical tape, 
             duct tape, 
             a bubble level, 
             a ratchet set in its own case, 
             a crescent wrench, 
             a small box of nails, 
             a handful of small tools I couldn’t identify), 
       an old computer with monitor and keyboard and mouse, 
       a yellow rotary dial telephone, 
       a stack of books about woodworking, 
       a stack of paperback romance novels (all read, apparently), 
       a box of picture frames (photos still in place — 
             a young woman with two children at the beach, 
             a family posing by a Christmas tree, 
             a young man in military uniform). 

There were other items, too. 

“Take your time, if you wish,” the old man told me as I looked around. “But just remember, at the end of the day, everything must go.” 
    
I nodded and continued looking around for a few minutes before moving on.
    
Later that day, I passed back by. 
What I saw made me stop again. 
I pulled into his driveway. 
Nothing was there. 
Not even his house.
All that remained was
       a concrete slab (a solid, empty promise)
       and exposed pipes (dead trees in a forgotten lake). 

The old man was still there.

He was wearing only
       a t-shirt, 
       shorts, 
       sandals. 
He carried a walking stick. 

I got out of my car and approached him. 
“You were serious,” I said. 
“This is serious business,” he said. “List the days and you will find them gone.” 

He joined the sidewalk and headed west, 
       a lightness in his step, 
       a faraway look in his eyes. 
 

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