Maxwell was certainly not surprised by the sort of people who came to his yard sale Sunday afternoon.
They were the sort of people you’d expect to come to a yard sale on a Sunday afternoon: retired people in khaki shorts, tucked shirts, velcro sandals, and calf-high socks who would ask about the price of every item and leave without buying a thing. Predictably, there was also a large turnout of deadbeats who came in thrift store clothing, who had hungry eyes and bloated stomachs, who were just as comfortable pawing through his former possessions as through a dumpster behind Sears.
“Sure is a hot one today,” an old woman said. Her face was shadowed by a pink sun visor. A pink sun visor. Simply absurd.
Maxwell was standing on his doorstep with his hands on his hips scrutinizing the customers.
“Sure is,” he agreed.
She was standing right in front of him, blocking his view of the center tables where the most valuable items were displayed. In the corner of his eye he saw a man holding up an old toaster to his ear and rattling it violently. Scavengers.
He gave the man a warm smile. “Yours for three dollars,” he said.
“Just lookin,” he said.
* * *
One evening, not too long ago, Maxwell was at home reading the newspaper. He sat in his chair by the large bay windows that faced west and caught the light from the setting sun. As he put down his paper, a strange shape suddenly caught his eye. He froze. It was on the floor. It was the shadow of something behind him—something animal. Something alien. In an instant, the outer, higher levels of his brain switched off and released control over the primitive, reptilian core of his mind. One minute, Maxwell was reading about current events, the next, he became a wordless creature, stupefied by an overpowering fear. It wasn’t long before the circuit breakers of his mind flipped back over and rational thought was restored. And it wasn’t long before he came to the realization that he had merely seen his own silhouette mingling with the shadow of a lamp, a curtain, and a coffee table.
When he stood up, the monster vanished and a new one was born. He made a quiet sound that was like a laugh and involved puffing air through his nostrils. He walked around and turned his living room into a menagerie of horrifying creatures. Try as he might, he couldn’t isolate the outline of his own shadow from those of the objects around him.
That night, he turned on all of the lights and lamps in the room and fell asleep watching the television.