"Don't forget to take the trash out before you go to school! And you'd better get a move on or you'll be late, Mister!"
Mom did have a way with words. It actually wasn't all that great; she just managed to say them when I least wanted to hear them. Don't get me wrong 'cause I love my mom. It's just that she could come up with the most inconvenient stuff, like take out the trash when I was surreptitiously watching Jackie through my mostly closed blinds as she was toweling her nubile young body off in her room across the fence from my house. She looked right at me without warning, I mean her eyes were looking right at the spot I'd made in the blinds so I could spy.
I asked myself, 'did she know'? 'How'? I fell back onto my bed in disbelief. I didn't have time to dwell on the occurrence because I heard Mom coming up the stairs. I quickly rearranged myself and finished just in time. Mom rapped on the door and almost immediately opened the door. I'd forgotten to lock the door!
"Mom!" I exclaimed, "Shouldn't you wait until I invite you in? That's what you always tell me when the situation is reversed, after all. Jeez, can't a guy have a little privacy?"
"You're right, of course, Eugene. I'm sorry. It's just that it's getting late and the bus will be here anytime. The trash has to go out; they pickup today and the bin is already full. It won't keep another week, so please hurry and get it done. Your breakfast is ready and on the table."
"All right, I'll do it now."
I slipped my Reebok's on and literally ran down the stairs. I slipped through the pantry and mudroom, and hit the garage door button. I grabbed the big bin and rolled it out as the door rose. I got it to the street and was back before the corkscrew mechanism of the opener finished. I hit the button again and the door began its descent. Back through the door into the mudroom, and I stepped into the kitchen from there. It took me about a minute to inhale the breakfast Mom had made. I gathered my backpack and headed for the door.
"Have a good day, today. Try to get along better, OK?" Mom called out from the top of the stairs.
"OK, Mom. I'll try," I replied, as I swung the big oak door open. I was out before Mom could caution me more.
I had been outcast at school for the longest time. I'm the nerd everyone picks on. They even made a movie or three about me. My problem is that I'm smart, extremely smart. Mensa smart, no even smarter than that, Einstein smart. Well, maybe not, or maybe so. Because I am smart, I know that I shouldn't let others know just how smart I am. I don't get straight 'As' because of this. I get mostly 'Bs' with an A once in awhile.
I found that I could outperform everyone in my class by the time I was in first grade. Billy Martin had failed first grade and was the biggest kid in class. I showed him up in class one day and he got even after school. He told me afterwards that he'd pound me every day if I did that again, and he'd do it every day we had school. I believed him. I'd seen him beat up other kids. I remained silent.
I had started reading at three. I was reading high school texts by the time I was in third grade. It was easy. It did give me lots of time to daydream in class since I didn't need to spend time working on third grade stuff. Math was just as easy, and I'd spend hours in the public library reading textbooks. I learned to read fast; I had almost a photographic memory and that made social studies a breeze too.
Dad died when I was in 4th grade. An automobile accident was the official cause, but I had my doubts. He was having money problems and didn't know I knew. He even hid it from Mom. His car spun out in the rain one day and crashed into the highway overpass support. His velocity was so great that the overpass support needed to be replaced. He must have been planning it for a long time, because his insurance policy had been upgraded months ago. The insurance check with double indemnity for accidental death had been quite large, but Mom still had to work. We didn't keep the house and were renting this one.
Mom always was smart. She invested the proceeds and we lived on her salary and the investment proceeds. In fact, the investment was gaining in value even though she withdrew monthly expenses. I think I got my smarts from Mom. She missed Dad and never did remarry. That was OK with me. I didn't want to joint the ranks of stepchildren.
We can continue now that the history is out of the way. One of the things I like to do is garage sale hopping. So I was out doing my thing one Saturday. I rode my bike all over looking at the sales from the notice list in the paper. It was a free listing so everyone that had a sale ran an ad. I had mapped my route out in advance so I could make one circuit and not miss out on any place.
Around two, I found that the next place was unusually far from the one I was at, and in a neighborhood I'd never been in before. I rode down the street and everything was becoming more unfamiliar with every turn of the wheel. I came to a point where I was completely out of my element. I had no idea where I was or what I'd find. I was soon to find out. I had just passed the city limits sign when I was there.
The place looked a little like 1313 Mockingbird Lane. There was a ragged little sign that advised 'beware of dog', although I didn't see one anywhere nearby. There was a table set up on the front porch, so I mounted the stairs to see what bounty I could discover. An ancient old woman passed through the doorway just then, the door having been propped open for the sale.
"Oh," she said with a start, "I thought everyone was gone. I'm sorry, but everything's been sold."
She noticed the pained look on my face. She must have taken pity on me. "Come inside, I have some fresh lemonade."
I thanked her as I followed her inside. Her house was the typical old lady's home. There was tons of bric-a-brac all over the house. For someone who just had a sale, I wondered just what had been sold. She showed me to her parlor and went on to the kitchen. She told me to make myself at home. It sort of reminded me of the old phrase, 'Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly', and we all know how that turned out.
I was looking at the curio cabinets filled with all sorts of stuff. She had a truly amazing thimble collection. I looked at her glass statues of unicorns and the clocks on the walls were really neat. There was a large fireplace in the room and I checked the mantle out. She had all sorts of stuff there, but I was interested in something tucked behind a picture. There was an old pocket watch on the mantle. The case was tarnished, but I thought it would clean up nicely.
I had just put it back when she re-entered the room. She handed me the glass of lemonade and indicated for me to sit on the divan. She seated herself in a beautiful cherry Queen Ann side chair next to a matching tea table. I respectfully listened as she talked about this and that. Some of her stories were quite entertaining. We laughed and cried together. We could have a thing together if she were only about seventy years younger.
I never made it to the rest of the sales on my list. I spent the rest of the day in her company. She made us some sandwiches. I don't know what the meat was, but she used Miracle Whip, and they were delicious. She made just enough; three for me and one for her, and there was more lemonade with it. Best-darned lemonade I'd ever tasted and I considered myself a connoisseur of fine lemonade. I learned a lot about her. Her name was Jessica Alice Tandy, and she's retired. She said that she had appeared as an actress on stage and in films, but I hadn't seen any of her work.
"Well, it seems that we've spent the entire day chatting, young man. I'm sure you could have found better things to do than to keep an old woman company. Now, how can I reward you for making my day of lovely?" she said, pondering her options.
"Oh, it's quite unnecessary," I cheerfully replied, "I immensely enjoyed myself. I wasn't bored at all. Your stories were so lifelike, so believable, so..."
"Oh posh!" she exclaimed, "I have never been 'interesting', even I know it, but thank you for saying so. Your manners are impeccable. I should thank your mother for that, shouldn't I?"
I nodded with a smile on my face. Mother had taught me manners and I remembered every one. It actually made my heart glad that I had made her day a little less lonely. I looked at her face, studying it. It seemed like the years were stripped away as I gazed at it. She took on the appearance of a young woman, younger than Mom, but definitely older than me. She was beautiful. Her hair was golden, her eyes the deepest blue, and the swell of her bosom gave shape to her simple dress. She was more beautiful than anyone I had ever seen, both in person or in magazines, movies, or on TV. A sound interrupted my séance.
"Eugene? ... Young man? ... Are you alright?"
My eyes focused again, and she was as she had been when I first saw her, but I could still see the beautiful woman of my vision under the age worn wrinkles of her face.
"You're beautiful," I whispered in awe. I had been granted a vision of the past. It was a vision of Jessica and I don't think I would ever forget it as long as I lived.
"What was that?" she kindly asked, "My hearing isn't as good as it once was and I missed what you said."
"Oh, it was nothing important, Ms. Tandy. I do want to thank you so much for the sandwiches and the lemonade. It's the best I've ever tasted. Could I maybe come over again sometime and listen to more of your stories and have more of your lemonade?"
"Yes, of course you can." She smiled at me as she showed me to the door. I turned to wave to her as I pedaled away, but the house was closed up again. I quickly pedaled home. I judged the time to be around five o'clock and that's about the limit for me being out. Mom was in the kitchen working on getting dinner ready.
"Oh good, you're just in time to help. I made meatloaf, and was about to start the mashed potatoes, but you can peel them while I work on the salad. Just peel up about five good-sized ones and cut them into cubes. Smaller is better, they'll cook faster."
I already knew that, of course, but I just smiled and said, "You got it!"
She went to work getting the salad ready while I made short work of the potatoes. Mom already had the pot boiling so I just added the diced potatoes and set the timer for 6 minutes. I'd calculated the time as I worked. The potatoes would be cooked just perfectly for mashing. I got the big green Pyrex bowl and the hand masher out. We don't whip potatoes around here. We mash them to death, add a bit of butter and a dash of milk, and we would be good to go.
I was ready before the potatoes, so I looked at Mom as she worked. I tried to imagine what she had looked like when she was younger. Try as I might, I couldn't duplicate the afternoon's feat. The timer dinged and I went back to work. I drained the water using the colander and dumped the cooked potatoes into the waiting bowl. Taking up the trusty Mirro potato masher, I went after them with a vengeance. Only a little milk 'cause I like my mashed potatoes lumpy. You know, so that there's something to chew. You won't sip my mashed potatoes through a straw, that's for sure.
I don't know, maybe there's a shrine to meatloaf somewhere. I'd like to go there someday and take a sample of Mom's meatloaf with me. Whoever made the sample that was there would have to admit that Mom's really was the best, and would have to take theirs away, making room for the sample I'd brought. I stuffed myself full, along with the English peas, mashed potatoes, and salad. I let a belch out as I pushed back from the table. It was at least fifty decibels and lasted a good ten seconds.
"Eugene!" Mom scolded, "Excuse yourself! You know better than that. Where are your manners?"
"Now you know full well ... Ahh, excuse me. You know full well I can't resist your cooking and especially your meatloaf. It's just the best, Mom." I said, trying to placate her with flattery. "They ought to build a shrine to your cooking. I can see it now..."
"Oh, quit," she cut in, "Flattery will get you everywhere and you know it. Just watch your manners or you won't get any of the girls!"
"Aww, Mom," I whined.
It wasn't like they were beating down the door to get to me. They weren't even chasing. I wasn't a jock, and I did have standards. There were a few girls I could relate to mentally, but most of them weren't appealing to me. Now there was Sara McLaughlin, a sweet, plump Irish lass; she could easily arouse me. She measured in a five foot six and a hundred seventy five pounds. Most of it was muscle; she worked on her father's farm and could throw hay bales better than any of his hired hands. Most of the boys at school thought she was fat, but I could tell the difference even through the camouflage of the loose clothes she wore. I could also tell she had a major league rack on her chest. I would bet on at least fifty inches and somewhere around a G or H cup. It was a damn shame she and I weren't on the same wavelength.
Anyway, I still had Jackie just a short space and two windows away. She'd been giving me free shows for three years now, which was before she grew those melons on her chest. I looked forward to our next encounter.
For the next two weeks, Mom had plans for me each Saturday, so I couldn't go garage sale hopping. However, I was free on the third Saturday. It was the day after school let out for the summer. A troubling ad presented itself as I checked the ads Friday to draw out my route.
It read: Estate Sale,
Due to the death of the owner, Miss Jessica Alice Tandy, 92, the contents of her house will be sold at auction starting at Noon Saturday. Everything must go. Bidder enrollment begins at 9:00 AM, and contents examination begins at 10:00. A bidder deposit of $100 is required to obtain a bidder number, and there is a 10% bidder premium on successful bids. J&R Auctioneers, Col. Dick Johnson, auctioneer.
I was saddened at the realization that my new friend was dead. Then I thought of the watch. I would go to the auction and buy the watch if the bidding was slow. The prospect of being able to get it made me a bit giddy. I had trouble going to sleep because of the excitement. I finally drifted off.
I was lying there contemplating my navel when all my eyes flashed open of a sudden. I sat straight up, remembering that I wanted to get to the auction. I glanced over at the clock, and discovered it was 8:55. I leapt from bed. I dug the old lunchbox out from the bottom of a box stuffed into my closet. Yes, I did do business with the Bank of Johnny Quest. I opened the heirloom and counted out two hundred dollars in twenties. I hoped that would be enough. I could return if I needed more. There was still over two thousand dollars in that bank. I was saving for a car and every cent I made buying and selling the stuff I found at garage sales went into the bank.
I ran down the stairs and was outside in a flash. I pushed my bike forward and made a flying leap onto the seat. I almost lost it as my family jewels nearly got smashed on the saddle. The bike wobbled slightly as I pulled the nuggets in a bit. I started pedaling like a bat out of hell after I caught my breath. The house was almost five miles from my house and I was already late. I rode into the yard of the little cottage at nine fifty five. I parked the bike against the tree on the left side of the house and wrapped my cable chain around the tree and the bike. Once secure, I headed for the registration table.
"I'd like to get a bidder number, please," I addressed the prim looking older woman seated at the table that was in the shade of the large sugar maple tree just in front of the house. The cement sidewalk curved around the stately old tree.
"I don't think you want that," she said, in a condescending tone, "It costs a lot of money, you know."
"Yes, I do know," I curtly responded. "Here's the hundred dollars in cash to cover the bidder guarantee. I'd like a receipt for the funds and a bidder number."
That turn of events flustered the spinster (no ring, I checked, and no wonder! Her demeanor would preclude any man having interest in her). She gave me the bidder contract, which I read while it was still in her hand. Standard stuff. I signed it and handed over the one hundred dollars. She completed the bidder card and handed it back to me. She instructed me to show the card to bid, and then went back about her business, tacitly dismissing me. I shrugged and went inside. Her bric-a-brac cases had all been moved to one side of the room, and the furniture to the other side. Everything had a number tag on it. I looked on the mantle but found it bare. I guess they moved the watch so I'd have to keep a lookout for it.
Noon arrived, and there were about a dozen people with bidder cards. The auctioneer came forward and called the first item, the entire contents of the house. Then he announced the minimum bid. Seriously? The whole house? Nope, there wasn't a single bid at the starting offer.
"Alrighty then, we'll do it the hard way," the auctioneer intoned, "The first item..." and so it went as item after item was sold almost for pennies. Oh, there were exceptions. The unicorn collection drew over two thousand dollars. Another big seller was the collection of snow globes which were offered as a lot, but then sold separately. The old lady who purchased all of them would have been better off taking the lot price. She paid six hundred dollars more buying them as single items. The thimble collection was practically given away. I kept an eye out but I didn't see the watch. The auction was winding down. The furniture had been sold and they were down to odds and ends, and still no watch.
It was soon just the Colonel and me.
"I have here a box of whatnots. Junk really, but I have to sell it, so how much, son?"
"Fifty cents," I responded.
I was disappointed about the watch, but I'd win this bid, anyway.
"Sold," said the Colonel, "To number thirteen, and now the final item..."
I had just turned to leave when he spoke those words.
"I now offer this house, with the remaining contents located in the basement and in the attic, the contents of the garage out back, and the barn at the end of the lane, along with four hundred acres of prime farmland, including the accompanying equipment, etc. This is an open auction, no minimum. What am I bid?"
I looked around. There was no one else there.
"Eighty nine dollars and fifty cents?" I said, remembering the 10% bidder's premium at the last moment.
"Are there any other bids" he asked, "Going once (pause), going twice (pause), sold to the young gentleman in the front for eighty nine dollars and fifty cents. Now if you will follow me, we can see my assistant and get the paperwork going."
Dumbstruck, I followed him into the side parlor. The paperwork was all set out. He kindly suggested I call my parents to have them come do the legal documents, as I was too young to actually be listed as owner. I borrowed his cell phone and called Mom. It took her about five minutes to calm down after I told her what I'd done. She finally got the idea. She said she'd be there in a couple of minutes. She wasn't wrong about the timing. She was there and running up the steps before I knew it.
"Did you really buy this house? I don't believe it. This is beautiful. How did you do it?" The questions flowed out of her mouth in a steady stream. I was hard pressed to keep up with the answers. The Colonel interrupted her and she ceased her line of questions. He then explained that the will stipulated the auction be done the way it was, including the auctioning of the junk and the holding back of the stuff in the garage, barn, attic, and basement. The offer was to go to the person who stayed and bought the box with the watch.
I'd forgotten about that in the excitement. I looked in the box. At the bottom of the box, underneath all the assorted other junk, was the watch. It was the very one I saw on the mantle three weeks ago. I recognized it by the markings.
Mom insisted that my name go on the title along with hers. We would be joint owners with right of survivorship. There already had been a title search done, and everything was clear. The property included four hundred acres adjacent to the back property line of the house, which extended back into the woods behind the house. It included two barns, two sheds, tools and implements for the machinery, two freestanding garages, and the house, which had ten bedrooms and four baths.
It was way better than the place we were renting (except no Jackie). It also included the mineral rights for all the property, and the cattle that were grazing on the four hundred acres. The name of the man caring for them was included in the paperwork. He was paid until the end of the year, as well.
The Colonel gave us the nickel tour of the place. We were awed by it. It finally was time for the Colonel to leave. He gave me a large ring of keys to the place and started for the door. I thought of something I needed to ask him, and stopped him before he reached the door.
"Oh, one question, Sir. When did Ms. Tandy die? I talked with her before, and she seemed so nice. I think she was an actress or something," I said. "Do you know what happened?"
"Yes, Son, I do know. She died of extreme old age. It was on the 24th of March of last year."
Final Edit by Pepere