|Chilmark Hay by Thomas Benton (via Magpie Tales)|
It's a crap shoot, yard sale-ing on Saturday mornings with my boys. Sometimes snake-eyes, others sevens and elevens. Passing quarters for treasures until the coffee chills or we run out of change.
The barn sits down a short dirt, gravel and grass driveway off a t-bone of two back roads where counties meet. A white house sits to the front of it, tin roof, spindle rail porch. A dog asleep at the end of a ragged rope. Chimney smoke. Fields as far as the eye can see, which ends at the wall of mountains in the distance.
We park in the grass near a ramp that leads up to the door of the barn. There are no other cars. Three people congregate at a table, jawing with one another, not bothering to break as we slip beyond them. The interior of the barn is lined with tables, tables piled high with anything you can conceive.
Glass vases, tool of wood and metal-hammers, sickle, hand drills, unidentifiable instruments. Trinkets-one of those drinking birds, As seen on TV specials. Books, cloth dolls with worn staring eyes & stretched seams. Relics of lost civilizations, animal pelts. Hooks. Clothes hang on a pipe. Dust.
We maze through seeking ball cards and Star Wars. We limit our scope to that or my boys would bring home most anything unusual. No luck today, other than a VCR game, but our broke last year, so we pass. Animals lived here once, you can smell them in the damp air. The people are gone when we get to the door, the sun bright, barb wire rusty.
A man sits on a crate by the fence post, unnoticed before, gesturing for us to come over. At his feet is a cardboard box, seed stamped on the side, sounds of movement-scratching on the side. His face is pitted, big jowled, small eyes behind tight rimmed glasses. His hair is oil slicked over. He hasn't shaved since Tuesday.
"K'er. Lookit wat i gots, boys. Ere rabbit,"
The third finger on his right hand ends at the first knuckle in a fingernail that wraps over the stump, which he drags along the face of the box. Khrihpt, Khrihpt, Khrihpt. A white tongue damps his lips then from a pocket in his overalls he produces a red handkerchief and wipes them.
In the bottom of the box is a rabbit, small, one hand. Its back leg kicks out to the side, broken and flopping as it throws itself into the side of the box, skittering into a corner. A strong heartbeat pushes through its fur.
"'it em wit da lawnmooer. 'urt, em needs help. Yulnt em?"
My boys stand staring at the animal, mouths hanging open, silent. The grass still alive under their feet and growing. The rabbit flails from one corner to the next, wild eyes searching.
"No, my cat would just eat him. I think we will pass."
"If dey ketch me wit him, i go to jail. Gots ta git rid o'em."
The leg flops. The rabbit skitters. The fingernail drags the box. Khrihpt. He licks his lips. Pats his head with the handkerchief. Grass rustles. Heartbeat. Twitch. Khrihpt.
"Come on boys," I herd my sons to the car and we back out the drive to the road.
The man waves and I gun the engine, until it whines.
"Dad, would they really jail him for having a rabbit?"
I think of reasons they might, and come up with nothing good.
The road turns a hill. The fields are polka dotted with round bails of hay. Twos and twelves. Snake-eyes. Barb wire stretches fence posts. A speed limit sign with too low a number. Vultures dance an updraft.
written for Magpie Tales.