He talked me into it. It was C.W.’s idea all along. Please let the record read that he talked me into it.
It started this way.
We were going to do some carpentry project. I don’t even remember what it was now. We met a little after sunrise, me as myself and he as Dan the Handyman, complete with carpenter’s belt.
We opened the door to my shop, and he was crestfallen. The shop is 40 feet by 60 feet and there was hardly a foot of it that was free from stacks of ju…, of things.
“What in the world?” He turned to me and shook his head like a schoolteacher who had just been told that the world was flat. I fidgeted.
“It’s just things we have collected over the years,” I said.
“You couldn’t have collected this much over the years,” he said. “Maybe centuries but not years.”
“Flea Market Fever. It’s a common malady among Americans.”
“Whudafreeksdes,” he said.
“It roughly translates into ‘someone has slipped off the behavioral tracking mechanism,’ and it is considered a serious malady on Fallonia.”
He studied the mess for a moment. “Well,” he said after this perusal. “Let’s get a path cleared so we can work.” He headed for box loaded to the hilt with National Geographic magazines.
“Wait,” I said. “This stuff doesn’t belong to me.”
He walked over to the partial remains of a small outboard motor from the 1950s. “What’s this?”
“It was on sale for three dollars at a yard sale.”
“Where is the rest of it?”
“Waiting for us at another yard sale? She’s sure that she’ll run across the rest of it someday and can get the thing running.”
“How long have you had it?”
The question took me by surprise. “Let’s see,” I said. I remember moving it from our house on Broadway and that was, …” I did some mental ciphering. “We’ve had it about 30 years.”
He said nothing. He just looked at me and shook his head.
“It’s got to be good for something,” Yes, I said it in a rather weak voice, the one I reserve for explaining why the housework I do doesn't turn out right.
He walked a little farther, kicking short pieces of lumber aside. Spying something of interest, he walked over and picked it up. It was a lightweight ball composed of small pieces of steel wire. He didn’t ask, just held it toward me and cocked his head.
“Pieces of wire,” I said. “Too small to use for anything so far, but they could come in handy someday.” He didn’t move. “You just never know,” I added, again in a weak voice.
He laid it aside. Kicking his way a bit farther, he picked up a photograph in a cheap metal frame. One corner of the frame was loose, and the glass covering the photograph was broken. “Want to explain this one?”
“Sure,” I said. “All it needs is a couple of screws and a new piece of glass.” He didn’t move. “I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
“And when did you come in possession of this treasure?” He said it kind of sarcastically and I considered withholding the information. Instead, I said, “Five or six years ago.”
He looked more closely at the photograph. It was a young man in a navy outfit and hat. A nice looking fellow, I might add.
“No,” I said. “We have no idea who he was. You just thought he looked lonely.Don't you remember?”
“Let’s clean some of this mess up,” he said, ignoring me. “We need some room to work.
“I’m not sure we oughta.”
“Nonsense,” he said, looking through a box of magazine from early 1980s. “Come on. There’s twenty years of dust on these. It’s been at least that long since someone touched them.”
The next afternoon, we sat watching Casablanca, me for the hundredth time, he for the twentieth. Bogart was about to mention Paris, and C.W. always cried at that point.
I heard someone calling my name from the vicinity of the shop. I told him I would be right back and that he could fill me in on the plot.
The credits were running when I came back. “Come on,” I said. “We’ve got to go to the dump.”
“We went yesterday. Don’t you remember?”
“I do. That’s the problem.”
“We’ve go to find the October 1982 edition of The Rural Housewife Magazine.”
“Mind telling me why?”
“There’s a recipe for cornbread gravy in it that someone wants, and that someone is plenty mad.
“I told you we shouldn’t throw her stuff away without asking.”