A sign drawn with permanent marker on construction paper announced the yard sale that was set up in front of the brown house on the corner. The damp of the early morning had caused the ink to run, turning the event into a “Mand Bale.”
Candace didn’t care what the sign said. From the moment she spied the tables on the lawn and boxes emerging from the house, she was glued to the window. She saw the care with which some items were laid out and the haphazard way others were treated. The sight was exciting and she itched for the first few people to arrive so she wouldn’t feel like a vulture, descending before the family was ready.
Candace was a collector. She loved going to yard sales, estate sales, she even managed to find what she was looking for at flea markets once in a while, though, generally, those weren’t as reliable.
You see, Candace didn’t collect antiques. She didn’t collect stamps and she didn’t collect mailboxes. Candace wasn’t interested in acquiring the physical, the redundant, the objects left over. Candace collected the stories that went with those items.
There is a knack to collecting the kinds of stories in which she was interested. You can’t just walk up to anyone helping with the yard sale and ask them about the sentimental value of any old item on the table. You had to observe and feel out which person would be the best storyteller. Selecting the right item was just as important and just as difficult. Anything plastic, with the exception of some children’s toys, were best avoided. Wooden items were better. If anything looks hand-crafted, those were the best bets.
Candace started scouting before she walked over. She was pretty sure the woman with slightly graying hair would be the best target for inquiry, but she wasn’t decided about which item she would use. There was a birdhouse that looked like a good candidate. But then, last time, she had used a lawn gnome and wound up with one of her best tales to date. The lawn jockey was no gnome, but it might do better than the birdhouse.
She waited until after lunch before heading over. There weren’t as many people at that point in the day but family working the yard were primed and ready to go again after their own midday meal.
Candace took her time, moving slowly from table to table, looking over each item carefully. In her periphery she made sure to watch her target and gauge the woman’s reaction to her taking up each piece. The woman approached her when she had taken up a lamp with a hand-painted shade.
“We’ve marked everything down since this morning,” she said, pushing one of the thicker gray streaks out of her eyes. “Only five dollars now.”
“What can you tell me about it?” Candace asked.