or, The Predatory Habits of the Midwestern Jumble Hoarder

Open season is coming to an end. We got up early this fine Saturday morning and drank coffee together, preparing ourselves for the hunt. I wore my comfiest sneakers and put in my contacts, so sunglasses could shield my eyes from the bright of the sun. Today smelled of victory.

We left the house feeling unbeatable and climbed into a convoy of one car. Scouring the streets, we glanced shrewdly at anything the least bit suspicious. And then--the battle cry:

"There's one! 117 Edwin Ave! Turn right!!"

The grace of a steed, the stealth of a... bomber, we pull onto the crowded street and invade the neighborhood. Before making any advances, we survey our surroundings. "It looks like they've got some furniture."

"Oh, look. Baby clothes. Yeah, okay let's stop." It has begun.

Random strangers peering over secondhand dishes, toys and clothes. Two old men, like bulls locking horns, position themselves to haggle over the price of a dining room table with mild water damage to one of the legs. A third man joins in, interested in the table for himself. This is the call of the wild; let the fittest man survive to claim the prize.

Home owners mark their territory:

                                Not for Sale

$1 a piece / $3 a set

                 COUCH AND FOR CUSHIONS: $50.00  $5.00

                                                            Make us an offer!

There are beanie babies, Jane Fonda workout videos, macrame roosters and gaudy costume jewelry. "What a bunch of chotchke!" Gramma says. Tables of old clothes, once-loved shoes and forgotten knickknacks as far as the eye can see.

I sift through boxes, hot on the trail of my own white elephant. A Roald Dahl book for fifty cents, Christmas ornaments 3 for a dollar, a vintage copy of the Care Bears board game for a dime. I hunt these treasures and reign victorious, carrying my success away in a rumpled plastic grocery bag.

Having conquered my neighbors and their junk, I return to the car. I root through my bag, delighting at my pillage like a Viking after attack or an eight-year-old on Halloween night.

Days from now, the fat man that won the dining room table for only twenty bucks will still be bragging to his friends about how the best man won. When people come to see my trinkets, I may smile proudly and tell them about how I got that at a garage sale for a dollar and can you believe someone wanted to get rid of this?

I am full of pride, a feeling that will last through the winter. But when the flowers start to bloom and the last snow melts, I'll feel my spirit stirring. People will clean out their homes after the winter's hibernation and I'll hear the call to hunt again.

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