Short Story Of the Day, Yard Sale by Bill Chance

It was a bizarre and weird agglomeration of stuff. Right off the bat on a table of old, worn, and useless kitchen gadgets (none of which looked exactly clean) he spotted a single, ordinary spoon.

—-Bill Chance, Yard Sale

Graffiti in Deep Ellum. This warrior is nothing if not well-muscled… plus he is carrying off his prize of war.

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#4). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Yard Sale

Ever since his family had left him to move to California, Marcellus had been walking Margie farther and farther from the house. Margie was old, deaf, and blind but could still cover distance if they walked slow enough. They began to know their neighbors better than they ever had before.

On the outer edge of the territory was a house with a couple of ex-hippies in it. They must have always been at war with the neighborhood association because the trim was painted an odd purplish color. On certain evenings Marcellus heard loud rhythmic drumming from the backyard, floating over the privacy fence.

One Saturday morning, Marcellus and Margie were walking by and the couple had a big yard sale going. His curiosity was irresistible and he decided to take a good look at all the goods spread out on the various card tables or blankets on the ground.

It was a bizarre and weird agglomeration of stuff. Right off the bat on a table of old, worn, and useless kitchen gadgets (none of which looked exactly clean) he spotted a single, ordinary spoon.

“Who sells one spoon?” Marcellus said to Margie, “What horrible thing happened to that spoon to make them say ‘just sell it!’.” Margie couldn’t even hear him, let alone answer.

Marcellus needed a belt and had discovered that new ones cost more than he had thought they would so he decided to look for one at the sale. A box looked like some sort of belt-like strap and buckle jutted out of the top and he thought that would be worth a closer look. As he dug around he realized it wasn’t a belt but some odd harness. The box contained some rings and chains festooned with fur, some long curved objects and some smaller bullet shaped ones. Marcellus jumped back when he realized it was a box of sex toys.

He almost left right then – he didn’t judge – anybody could do what ever they wanted – he had what he thought was an open mind. But owning stuff like that is one thing, and selling it used was something else altogether. The prices seemed reasonable, though.

He was distracted by a woman with short, bobbed hair who began arguing with the couple at the main table.

“Hello, my name is Karen,” Karen said, “And I was wondering if you could sell me this for a dollar?”

“What’s it marked? Twenty? That’s a collector’s item, I really can’t come down on that – not to a dollar.”

“Well, I think people come here looking for bargains. I think you are asking too much.”

The argument went on, but Marcellus turned away and tugged Margie around looking at such things as:

A deer head, spray painted purple,

A planter made from a doll’s head with the top broken off, holding a dead fern,

Six ash trays, obviously made by children as art projects,

An abstract sculpture, four feet tall, made from glued toothpicks,

An old silver artificial Christmas tree used to display at least twenty bras, all obviously used,

A half bottle of salad dressing over a year out of date,

A small corked ceramic bottle labeled “Dead Flies,”

A bottle of shampoo (it was opaque and he couldn’t tell how much was in it),

A stack of large paintings:

-A naked man chained to a rock beside an eagle,

-Jesus and a dinosaur,

-A naked woman against a sunset, embraced by a man who’s lower legs were a building under construction,

And of course:

-Dogs playing poker,

-Elvis on black velvet,

-A well-muscled Aztec warrior carrying a woman off somewhere,

-Cats with big eyes….

He looked up from the paintings to see Karen glancing around furtively. She didn’t spot Marcellus and he plainly saw her pulling 25 cent tags off cheap kitchen items and swapping them onto items marked several dollars which she had in a box she was lugging around.

At that moment Marcellus found the stash of old clothes and fished through the belts which were hanging on an old high-backed chair. He pulled the longest one, a plain leather belt, down, stretched it around his middle, and was surprised to find it fit.

He walked up to the table where the couple were going through Karen’s box of stuff – adding everything up. He felt he had to say something.

“Excuse me, but I saw her….”

Karen turned, eyes wide, angry, “Shut up old man! It’s not your turn! Can’t you see I’m doing cash business here. And keep that damn dog away from me.”

“But, I saw you…”

“Nobody gives a damn,” Karen said, “ Leave us alone.”

“Uhh.” Before he said anything else the woman running the sale caught his eye and gave him a slight nod and a bit of a smile. Marcellus decided to shut up and stood there, feeling stupid. The woman received her change and without a word glared at everybody one last time and marched down to her Mercedes where her husband was waiting behind the wheel. Marcellus walked up to hand the woman the belt he had picked out.

“You know, she was switching prices. She was ripping you off.”

“Oh, yes,” the woman said, “I know, of course. It just isn’t worth it. We don’t really make any money off all this junk. We just want it to find somewhere useful, someone that wants it more than us. If she wants to rip us off, it’s her problem. Karma, you know.”

The woman and the man smiled at Marcellus as he paid for the belt. He had the exact change.

“It’s a hot day,” the man said, “Let me get some water for your dog.”

“Oh, that’s all right…” but the man had already gone into the kitchen through the garage. Marcellus saw a pyramid of various drums stacked up on one wall.

“We see you walking your dog around here every now and then,” the woman said, “She’s a good girl.”

“Yes, she is. Her name’s Margie.”

The woman bent over to rub Margie’s head as her husband came out with a plastic bowl. Marcellus noticed it had a couple of ice cubes in it. Margie began lapping greedily.

“You know, every Saturday night we have a drumming group, a drum circle,” the man said, gesturing at the garage wall, “it’s a lot of fun, you should come.”

“I don’t know… I don’t have any musical…”

“That doesn’t matter, you could just watch if you want, and bring Margie.”

“Well, she goes to bed early… and, umm, I usually go to be early.”

“Oh come over tonight,” the woman said, “About eight. The sunset’s nice.”

Marcellus nodded, said goodby and then turned to walk home.

“You’ll be alright alone for a few hours won’t you Margie?” he said as he walked. “I think I’ll come over. And wear my new belt.”

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, As the North Wind Howled by Yu Hua

I shrank back to the corner of the bed, shouting desperately, “I’m not a philistine—and I’ve got the books to prove it.”

—-Yu Hua, As the North Wind Howled

The Sweepers
Wang Shugang
Cast Iron (2012)
Crow Collection of Asian Art

I have been collecting playlists of writing related YouTube (hints and interviews) videos and watching them while I ride my spin bike. An hour a day. One video was a (long) list of things that distinguish an amateur, begining writer. I remember one was, “Don’t start your story out with your main character waking up in bed.” Well, Kafka would disagree.

So would Yu Hua – that’s how today’s bit of flash fiction begins.

Read it here:

As the North Wind Howled by Yu Hua

From the New Yorker