Tuesday had finally rolled around, which meant the yard sale Vince had been dreading needed to be started. He lay perfectly still in his bed, watching dust motes swirl through the light beams that pierced the room. From what he could tell it was quiet outside. Though it was summer, the kids in his neighborhood seemed lazy, as they didn’t start running around outside until upwards of eleven o’clock. His bedside alarm showed seven thirty, which gave him enough time to have some coffee before setting up the tables for his advertised start time of nine.
He slipped out from under the covers and sat on the edge of the bed. His feet were hot, a feeling that made the rest of his body uncomfortable. Alexis, his soon to be ex-wife, constantly told him how she hated when his long toenails would scratch her during the night, so he got into the habit of wearing socks to bed. He never could remember to clip his nails. Even though she had been gone for six months, he still wore his socks to bed. Whether it was out of hope that she would come back or sheer routine he didn’t know.
The condo they lived in together was a little too expensive for him to stay in by himself, which is what facilitated the need for the yard sale. He planned on downsizing his belongings so he could prepare to move into a smaller apartment that would be cheaper. Since it was just him now, he didn’t need a lot of space. Looking around the master bedroom as he got up to start his morning routine, the emptiness where Alexis’ things used to be was just a reminder of how much he didn’t have without her around.
With a fresh outfit and a sour attitude, Vince poured a cup of overly-strong coffee to hopefully help get him in the mood to deal with so-called customers. No matter what price he wrote on the stickers the people who showed up would painstakingly try to talk him down, always wanting something for nothing. He figured if he put fifty cents they’d offer a quarter, and their incessant price-slashing barters would wear him down to where he would just say yes in order to make them leave. He decided not to price anything.
The first yard sale he and Alexis tried to have was after they moved out of their first apartment together and into their first home. She said he had too many cassette tapes that he never listened to and he said she had too many shoes she never wore, so they agreed to sort through their things and see what they could put up for sale. A few days later they reconvened and neither of them had more than a grocery bag worth of things; they weren’t the type to get rid of things. Vince told her he would get a new cassette rack if she got a shoe storage compartment and they agreed.
By nine o’clock Vince was out in the driveway with three tables loaded. He picked up each individual item and rolled it over in his hands; each and every thing was a moment in time of his marriage. Glass unicorns that Alexis collected but neglected to take with her. Magnets from their trip to Florida. All of the chicken-related items that they decorated the kitchen with. Alexis said it reminded her of her grandmother and Vince just went with it. He didn’t care what the kitchen looked like as long as it was functional. He picked up a plate with two hens that were displayed opposite as if looking through a kaleidoscope. It was a serving plate they got when Alexis’ parents came over for dinner the first time. He looked it over slowly, noting the chip the metal serving spoon left when he dropped it. Chipped or not, it had no real value to anyone but him.
While he stood with the plate in his hand his first customers rolled up. A dark brown Lincoln. Two nice-looking women got out and smiled. Nice-looking in a mannerisms and conversation way. They were older, much older than him; he couldn’t imagine either of them being active in the dating world.
“Well hello young ladies,” said Vince. He noted their wide smiles and nodded in kind.
“Oh, hello,” the one of the right replied, her eyes shifting between him and the first table of knick-knacks. “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
“You’re telling me.” Vince hated small talk, but he went with it in hopes to sell some of the things he no longer had room for. In his future one-bedroom apartment or in his chest.
The two women looked over each item carefully; if he knew anything about older women, it was that they loved their knick-knacks. His grandmother had possibly hundreds of glass cherubs. Something about naked baby-like men made him feel uncomfortable, but she loved them, so he made it a point to not mention it to her. Whenever he went over there it felt like they were staring at him, as if each figurine was a spy that would report back to her what he did when she wasn’t looking. He didn’t visit their house very often.
While browsing the knick-knacks the woman who had originally spoken to him lifted one up towards the sun and examined it with what Vince guessed was a trained eye. Probably looking for chips or scratches, he thought. She rolled it over in her fingers a few times, stretching her face in different ways to focus her eyes. Vince watched the faces she made and imagined she was in a play, a slapstick-style piece similar to The Three Musketeers where the faces she made would get a good laugh in response. He chuckled to himself and sipped his coffee.
More potential buyers showed up one by one. Some cars had couples, some had kids. He watched all of them as they drove up, parked, got out, perused a table or two, looked at each other and then left. Some of them, the ‘professional salers,’ or so he called them, would slow down and survey from the car, sometimes without getting out at all. Those ones he watched with a special interest, wondering what it was they saw that would incite a stop-or-go response. Maybe it was the lack of electronics or the abundance of kitchenware and clothing. Alexis wasn’t the yard sale type and he wasn’t either, so he wouldn’t know.
“How much for the plates,” a voice behind him sounded. A young woman held one of the large serving plates, a different one with chickens on it, surveying it from several angles like the old woman with the knick-knacks.
“Uh,” Vince started, not entirely sure what to price it at, “how about two bucks? That’s a nice plate.”
“Would you take a dollar fifty?” she asked, searching through her purse without waiting for an answer.
Vince looked up toward the sun and the brightness stung his eyes. It took everything he had not to sigh in her face. “I suppose. Not like she’s comin’ back for ’em, anyway.”
The woman stopped and turned to face him with a look that said she was fighting an internal battle over whether or not she should say something comforting, and if she should, which words she would use. Vince just smirked and shook his head a little in a non-verbal way of telling her it was alright, and she was off the hook. She smiled warmly and gave him the dollar fifty, took her plate with a quick ‘thank you’ and shuffled off.
He noticed the pants she wore were the same style that Alexis liked, the wide-legged culottes. He knew what they were called from a time she asked him to stop at a store and pick up a pair that had been back ordered. Once he told her that they made her look like a gypsy and she decided that she liked that, picking up several more pairs over their years together. She had taken most of them, but a few pairs that were old and worn through in some spots were on the second table with the rest of the clothes.
For three hours or so people came and went, but it wasn’t until Alexis herself showed up that Vince was actually interested in anyone in his driveway. She looked over the items as she walked up toward the garage, her gaze eventually falling onto Vince. He stood completely still, arms hanging awkwardly at his sides while he waited for her to speak. She chewed on her bottom lip without looking at him.
“Kendra told me you were having a sale.”
“Yeah,” said Vince, looking just over the top of her head and out to the road. “I’ve been thinking about relocating and it’ll be easier with less stuff. Moving’s a bitch.” He didn’t want her to know he was struggling financially.
“Tell me about it. I still haven’t recovered.” They made eye contact but the cold breath of estrangement cut it short. “I won’t keep you long, I’m just here because, as I said, Kendra told me you were having the sale, and I was wondering if you found my graduation cap by chance.”
Vince watched an older gentleman with a cane survey his collection of cassette tapes. He would pick one up, look at both sides, and decide whether it went into one of two piles; buy or not.
“I didn’t see it,” said Vince, his head tipped back slowly and his eyes closed. “It’s probably in the stuff you grabbed out of the storage unit.”
“I went through those boxes and didn’t see it, but I guess it’s possible I overlooked it. I’ll check again.”
Alexis put her thumbs through her belt loops and watched the other people looking through the tables. The sun was moving overhead and the long shadows of the morning were disappearing, leaving little space to escape the heat. People fanned themselves with their shirts and carried bottles of water. A mommy walking group that passed the house had all of the kids in shaded strollers. Vince drummed the edge of the table with his right hand, tapping rhythmically from pinky to index finger and the sound was the only thing between them.
The tapping sound, as it turned out, was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. They had been sitting silently in the living room with the TV on while he stared aimlessly out the window and Alexis read a magazine. He tapped his fingers on the table in the same rhythm, the marching roll you hear on a snare at boot camp. He had never served so he wasn’t sure why that particular rhythm was the one he chose, but it was always the same one. Right when the squirrel he was watching was about to make a leap for the neighbor’s bird feeder, Alexis got up wordlessly, headed to their room, resurfaced ten minutes later with a packed bag, and didn’t come back for over two weeks.
When she didn’t come home the first night Vince let it ride. Sometimes she would go over to her mother’s house and end up having a bit too much wine. But when he didn’t hear from her the next day, he called. She didn’t answer. He called again a couple hours later. Still no answer. It wasn’t until the morning of the third day, when Vince was considering going to the police station to file a missing persons report, that she finally called and said she was staying with a friend in the city. He figure she was just taking some time away, but when she returned to the house with a moving truck, he just left and went to the bar until she was done.
“I guess I’m gonna head out then,” said Alexis, breaking their silence. “I need to be in Overtown by two for a lunch.”
“Alrighty,” said Vince. He crossed his arms and Alexis walked away without saying anything else.
She got into her car and pulled away without looking up the driveway, and Vince decided that the rest of the stuff would go for whatever price it took to get it gone.