Tag Archives: antiques

Relics

suitcases

“That man brought the log cabin all the way from Missouri, piece by piece, to rebuild the whole damn thing,” he told us, “right here in Arkansas.” The antique store where we shopped had ceiling struts with notched out places connecting beam to beam above our heads. The building was the real deal, and we looked up, gawking at its craftsmanship. Even the musty smell permeating the place lent to the authenticity.

“Do you know where it came from in Missouri?” He looked at me funny when I asked him. He exhaled to make a point, maybe perturbed at the interruption.

“Well, I don’t know. But, as I was saying, this guy had it rebuilt here and used it as an antique store. Built this one and the station next door. His wife sold antiques, but her stuff was too overpriced for people around these parts. Nobody would buy anything.”

We glanced over the bric-a-brac displayed on surrounding walls. The new proprietor’s wares encompassing these rooms were labeled “mid-century vintage” but hinted more at “old crap” instead. Dingy taffeta of a stained ivory wedding gown hung loosely on an androgynous mannequin next to my friend. Cracked Naugahyde covered the luggage pieces aligning the floor’s baseboard. The spout of an old Raggedy Ann and Andy watering can pointed me in the face, as I turned back to the storyteller. He seemed to revel in our rapt attention.

Our narrator rubbed his carefully-manicured Fu Manchu. Regardless of its resemblance to long, white Brillo pads on either side of the man’s face, he massaged the hair he must’ve spent considerable time working into its desired shape. All I could imagine was how scratchy it would feel, although I’d never deign to touch it. Maybe it was popular in that region.

“That ol’ fella got sick of not making any money. One day he finally taped his wife’s hands together and tied cement blocks around her. ‘Sgonna go down and throw her in the river.” He paused for dramatic effect and flipped his gaze between the two of us to gauge our reaction. We gave each other the side-eye when he quit looking.

My friend shook her head and said, “Must’ve gone off his nut.” The conclusion was obvious enough but perhaps not to him. He just shrugged, disappointed at our lack of bedazzlement, and continued.

“She didn’t fight back, nor nothin.’ She’s a little bitty thing.” He pursed his lips up and reclined his cane-back chair against the wall behind him. “Some other guy happened along and caught him in the act, though.”

The raconteur then pointed to his crotch, which gave me a jolt at what might come next, and weaved his fingers around in a figure-eight motion. “He tied those cinder blocks all around her waist. Six of ‘em! ‘Sgonna go down and throw her in the river.”

We nodded quickly, still gawking around the walls at such a strange assortment of objects, if not in bullshit disbelief. He went on. “So this fella called the law, and they came and hauled him away.”

He circled his index finger around his lap again and used the short break in his diatribe to draw attention to the action. “‘Sgonna go down and throw her in the river!” We got it.

Both of us finally looked at him straight on and emphatically wagged our heads and up down. “That’s nuts,” I finally conceded. “I hope that dude does a long time.”

We left the building, and my friend whispered, “It must’ve been a slow day for business. I don’t know if he just wanted somebody to talk to or what.” She nudged me toward the car. “Come on. We need to get some gas.”

Once inside the convenience store, my friend proceeded to pay the cashier who looked so bored he could sleep standing up behind the counter. Maybe we were the only customers all day.

He yawned and pushed some register buttons. “Ya’ll come from shopping next door?” My friend handed him the money and replied, “Yeah. Odd place.”

“Huh. Surprised he’s open back up already. Just got outta the pen for tryin’ to kill his wife.” He shook his head. “Kinda funny, huh?”

We didn’t hear the last of what the guy said. We were already out the door and halfway to the car.

 

Image: Rebecca Matthews via Flicker

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Antiquity – Studio30+ writing prompt

You live by the sword, you die by the sword was somewhat his motto. Until he got sick. Funny he never mentioned the saying again after his diagnosis. Bravado displayed in earlier times must’ve become the clique only when his vice turned into a death sentence.

He’d never meet three of his five grandchildren and only really knew one of them, as the boy was a toddler but the little girl only a baby when their grandpa died. Oddly enough, the boy would later make up a song about his Grandpa John while strumming a toy guitar and wailing away about things they’d done together in the short span of two years. The final refrain was a blunt, And he died.

They’d gone on rides in the truck, the carseat tied in with a rope, and the little one’s frantic mother noticing him missing only after they’d long been gone. Grandpa created a stir by goading him to point at a storybook Cruella DeVille and call her Mama. There was no love lost between the two in-laws, and her dig was dubbing them outlaws.

Few pictures remain of the boy and his granddad in those good days of — perhaps not sobriety, but at least being dry.  The man smiling in the foreground of one, with the boy staring back at his thick glasses and reaching out to touch the stiff bristles of his funny mustache. He had become the man he wanted the boy to know instead of the drunken daddy his own son had known, as he claimed from the hotseat at an AA meeting.

Cancer not only attacked nicotine-damaged lungs from 40 years of smoking but a cirrhotic liver weak from another other sword’s abuse over time. He’d never get to watch the kid mature into a 6’ 3” man in uniform, much like his own in the ’60s, with an acoustic guitar in hand instead of a play one. Or see the other four kids grow up to have their own adventures and accomplishments.

ImageHis grandchildren stood to learn a lot from him. Maybe not about video games or sports as they might like but how to bait a hook or safely use a 30.06. He’d done so much for the brevity of his short but hard-lived 55 years and physically aged far beyond that span.

He wasn’t an educated man or world traveler but knew the ways from before, when there was no money to throw at problems, just hard work and doing for yourself because you couldn’t afford otherwise. A world gleaned from well-earned experience. One daughter eulogized him as knowing the name of every bird in the trees and plant in the woods.

An old black-and-white Polaroid showed him standing atop the saddle of an Appaloosa stallion named Cloud Chief on whom he honed his farrier trade.  Weathered chaps covered his worn Wrangler jeans, probably stiff with the sweat of a long day in the sun and horseshit pried loosed from hooves shod earlier.

He had a perspective on the world not likely found much any more. They’d have known the man he wished them to know, different than the one who raised their parents.

This post follows the prompt “old” from Studio 30 Plus, on an online writing community.

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