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Fiction Friday: Part 1

Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This i...

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Their mottled hands each clutched a blue marker and scratched out the words Rumage Sale on old pieces of cardboard that had once been a box. The sound eked out like screams from a trapped animal. Concentration evident on the faces that had seen more than some and less than others, they  printed the letters that had once filled pages of primers. Hair the color of melting trod upon snow cascaded down their bent backs. The younger of the two was less plump than the  other.
“Are you done yet?” Judith  asked  Gertrude as she let out a series of coughs that doubled her over and made the  other woman wince.

“Yes,” she said. “You can go drop them off at the corners and I’ll finish rearranging everything.”

Judith left and over the next ten minutes, Gertrude set about to put like items together. She picked up costume jewelry, wicker baskets, dolls, sports equipment and other things. She held them in her hand for a few moments, then set each item back down in a different place.

Gertrude was giddy with excitement. Summer had not yet arrived, but the day was hot, with a cool breeze ruffling the trees. She knew this type of weather drew people outdoors. She had trouble waiting for the first potential customers to pass by on their way to or from somewhere else. On Friday afternoons, she saw many parents on their way to the nearby elementary school to collect children, often with babies or toddlers in tow. Closer to the evening would bring passengers departing the bus around the corner. The weekends were usually a mixed bag as far as who stopped, but it was always exciting.

And so it went for the past few summers, Judith and Gertrude had set up their wares, in hopes of attracting people to their garage. The neighborhood was younger, with more families. The houses were being updated and sold to a new type of dweller. This change provided hope for the aging women, who had experienced more downs than ups over the recent years. The medical clinic around the corner that Gertrude visited had a newly built senior development adjacent to the grounds. Restaurants and coffee shops were more abundant and frequented by visitors both within and outside the area. This year, however, the rummage sales would be different.

For one, Judith contributed more complaints than constructive comments. In the beginning, she was just as eager as Gertrude to help the two earn a little extra money. It was Judith who had the idea after her father died for Myron to close off the front stairs and create separate entries so that they could rent out part of the house. Judith also spurred the rummage sales. Gertrude’s expensive tastes wore on her nerves. The two bickered about things like cheese, wine and bland food, the latter of which Gertrude accused Judith of having too much of. The tension in the house grew so uncomfortable between the two. It even followed them into the musty garage full of yesteryear memories and disappointments. Sometime when Bill was taking his last breath, they too were taking their last breaths of tolerance for each other; although Judith’s came out in fits and spurts filled with phlegm and smoke. It was a wonder that they still lived together, or that they were mother and daughter. But in both matters there was little choice. They agreed  that this year during the rummage sales, they would work in shifts, so as not to frighten off potential customers with their frequent spats.