They start early, getting a jump on the competition. Scanning the ads in the local paper, marking the good ones with a yellow highlighter, counting out the money in their change purse – hiding the big bills so as not to suggest they’re willing to pay too much. Pulling out the map book and planning a route for Saturday morning. Meticulously scheduled, their logistical prowess would humble the military.
Up and dressed before dawn, they set out in their beige Buick, tank full – trunk empty. Like tea-cozy predators, they move with fluid precision through the neighbourhoods, staking out their victims before the tables are even set up.
The scent of musty clothing attracts them like sharks to blood. Mixed with a fresh spritzing of rosewater, a frenzied, feverish rush comes over the seniors like a wave of Ben Gay joint rub, and it’s on!
The big Buick slows to a purr. Only the constant melodic ‘tic-tic’ of the left turn signal breaks the still silence of their stealthy patrol.
The best yard sale veterans know that you don’t stop the car unless you spot something good. Parking and walking around wastes valuable time and energy, so like gang-banging low riders cruising through East LA, they lower the power windows and ease up on the gas. She slowly reaches across the seat and without even looking, gently touches his hand. The silver-gray hairs on his arm stand up in excitement.
‘Stop’, she whispers, almost song-like.
He can’t hear and keeps driving…….”STOP!” she finally shouts.
The over-used brakes on the Buick creak the big boat to a halt, dead in the middle of the street. Motorists honk at the sudden stop in traffic, but their protests are in vain. The old couple have locked on to a potential find, set amongst makeshift tables made of wood beams and saw horses.
A treasured find usurps any traffic law.
“What do you see?”, he asks cautiously. She says nothing, but reaches for the door handle. It won’t open…he hasn’t put the car in park yet.
She throws a contemptible look at him. He will pay later for this blunder – after their nap.
“What do you see?” he repeats, now with the Buick safely in the park position.
“I can’t believe it”, she says. “Must be a fake”.
There on a rickety card table covered with a plastic checkered table cloth sits a set of clear blue candlesticks glistening in the morning light. Beside them is a matching 4-piece wine goblet set. The mother load!
Even with her advanced glaucoma, she easily spotted them from the moving car. Years of instinct and practice have paid off. The big wrap-around polarized sunglasses help, too.
She’s a pro, and offers the first volley as she approaches the display; “How much for the mugs?“, she asks, knowing that the answer is irrelevant. She’s not here for the mugs. She wants to see who she’s up against before entering the negotiating ring for what she’s really come for.
“$1 each”, the friendly seller replies.
“What if I want all 4 of them?” The crafty senior asks, testing the waters.
“Well, they’d be $4 total, but I can throw in a Disney movie or a book for free if you took them all”.
They’re good, she thinks to herself. Bundling to move more product. Very savvy. This person is a worthy foe, but all the best rewards are hard fought for. Her husband leans in to hear. He’s seen this seductive dance before.
“No thanks. I’ve already got too many mugs”, the old lady rebuffs.
While the husband distracts the seller with a shallow conversation about the cool weather they’ve been having, the old woman slides over to the table with the candlesticks and wine glasses. She doesn’t pick them up right away. She doesn’t want them to think she’s too eager.
“Hmm” she muses. “These tea cups are cute, but they don’t match my set”. All part of the carefully choreographed game she plays with the unsuspecting seller.
Now the husband moves in close to her, suggesting they should leave. This is her cue to reach for the blue ‘gold’ she’s after. It takes all her strength to keep from shaking. These are the real deal! She can tell by the weight and the markings on the bottom.
“What do you think of these, Herb?” She asks, with a doubtful look on her face. Betty Davis would be humbled by her acting abilities. He shrugs his shoulders in a perfect wing man tact – act like you’re not that impressed. In reality though, he shrugged because he couldn’t hear what she asked.
Now she’s ready. All week – the planning, the scheduling, the stops only to watch Jeopardy and eat some creamed corn on toast. It all comes down to this.
“I’ll give you $5 for those dusty old candle sticks…and the matching glasses”, in an uncaring manner, but her loins quiver and a bead of sweat appears on her brow. It could just be the heat.
“Well, I think they’re some kind of antique. I was hoping to get $20 for them”, was the quick reply.
Foreplay, the old lady thinks. This just makes the climax all the more intense.
“For those things? They’re not worth that much. How about $10?”. She tries not to blink as a curl pops out of her tight blue-rinsed weave. Her husband has moved in closely, just in case her bum knee gives out on her like last week.
“Okay, I guess so. SOLD!”
SOLD. The old couple have waited all week for that one brief moment of pure ecstasy on hearing those words. SOLD.
He looks at her, and she looks back at him. Their hands touch as they reach for their bounty. Her soft, nearly opaque skin glistens against his gnarled hands, but at that instant, they breathe deeply together.
He pays the seller, and she reaches for a tissue tucked into the sleeve of her blouse and dabs her upper lip. The big Buick barks back to life, releasing the traffic chaos it created.
Later, as they admire the new finds on their fireplace mantle, they fall asleep in each others arm chairs, while a rerun of Matlock drones in the background.
Next week? The Flea Market.