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