Garage Sale

by Matthew Abel


Sam Smith had had it.  His home was awash in junk.  The years had passed by happily with his children and wife, but in the passage of time, they’d accumulated enough things he was sure he could fill an airplane hangar.  He told Jed as much over the fence.

“Throw it out,” Jed said.

It was sound advice, but Sam couldn’t help but think that something bigger and better could be done with his junk.  What was that saying?  One man’s junk was another’s treasure?

He remembered as he tripped over his youngest son’s fire truck in the living room.

“Sorry, Dad,” Billy said.  “I don’t even play with that anymore.”

“Oh really?” Sam replied.  He furrowed his brow.  “Billy, get your siblings and mother in here.”

“Okay, dad.  Why?”

“Just do it.”

When the family was fully gathered, Sam spoke.  “I’ve had it with all this stuff,” he said.  “I want all of you to look through everything you own.  If you don’t want it, or you don’t use it, put it in the garage.”

“But, Sam,” Flo said, “what about the Pontiac?”

“It can sit outdoors for a few nights,” Sam replied.  Flo gasped.  Sam didn’t even leave the car out during the daytime.  She hurried the kids along with their task.

Sam stood in the garage with all the books and toys later.  Throw it away?  Ha, Jed was crazy.  Some of the toys were brand new.  People would probably buy some of this stuff in the store.  Buy it.  He had an idea.

“I just don’t understand why we can’t throw it out,” Flo said to him when he told her the idea.

“It’s still in good shape,” Sam said.  “There’s no reason to do that.”

“But, Sam.  Who ever heard of selling things out of the garage?  It’s crazy.”

“Not just the garage,” Sam said.  His mind was racing.  “I’ll get some tables and set them up in the driveway.  We’ll put everything on them.”

Flo sighed.  Sam generally knew what he was doing.  “Okay, Sam.”

Jed was less accepting, as were the other fellows at the weekly poker game.

“So, it’s all used?” asked Ben Jackson.

“Yeah,” Sam said.  “But you can’t tell with a lot of it.”

“Ha,” Jed said.  “Damn crazy idea.  You’re wasting your time.  You know that?”

“Maybe,” Sam said.  “But better to try and fail than not try at all.”

Jed snorted.  “You’ll be the laughingstock of Rock Springs.  That’s what you’ll be.”

The editor of the Rock Springs Picayune certainly laughed at Sam.  “An ad for what?”

“I’m selling our old things,” Sam repeated.  “I just want to know how much a small ad will cost.  I want people to know they can come over Saturday from eight to four and look at everything.”

“Ha!” the editor laughed.  “That is a crazy idea.  Tell you what, I’ll run your ad for free.  What are you calling this ‘event?'”

Sam thought.  “Well, I’m selling all of it out of the garage.  Call it a garage sale.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Smith.  I got some extra space this week – we’ll run it Monday, Wednesday, Friday.”

“Thank you.”

The Picayune not only ran the ad, they sent a reporter to the Smith residence to interview Sam.  Flo looked worried as Sam said goodbye to the young man.

“Sam,” she said.  “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“It’s not a big deal,” Sam said.  “And if it is, it’ll be over after Saturday.”

“Okay,” she said.  “I can handle it for a week.”

Flo wasn’t so sure after her beauty appointment Tuesday.  All the girls had seen the ad in the Picayune and asked her about Sam’s folly.  She had been mortified when Mary Beth had asked if they’d be selling any undergarments, and laughed at her.

She was more upset when her oldest son, Chet, came home without his coat on Wednesday.

“I sold it,” Chet said.  “Doug Kent offered to buy it as a joke, but I took the five dollars.  It’s an old coat anyway and it’s almost summer, mom.”  Sam talked with her that evening about it.

“Sam, you know I support you, but this thing is crazy,” she said.  “Please, it’s not too late to stop.  We can take everything to the dump.”

Sam looked at his wife.  She was close to tears.  He held her shoulders.  “Flo, this is bigger than us now.  I can’t explain it.  It’s something we have to do.”

At dinner on Thursday, there was a short speech.  “Family,” Sam said, gesturing with meatloaf.  “I know this week is rough for you all, but after Saturday, it will all be over.  I know people probably think I’m a little crazy, but I have a good feeling about this.  I know some of the kids are making fun of you for it, but it will blow over after Saturday.  Are we together?”

“I’m with you, Dad,” Doug said.

Billy, Joy, and Flo nodded.  Flo’s face still spoke of worry and indecision.

She was even less happy the next day when Joy came home in tears.

“The girls made fun of me all day,” Joy hiccupped out.  “They called me Garage Girl.  They wouldn’t stop.”

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” Flo said.  “It’s okay.”

Sam was in the garage, putting little stickers on everything.  Flo look around.  An old whisk for a dime.  Billy’s fire truck for a quarter.

“Have you seen your daughter?”

“Yes,” Sam replied, not looking at her.

“And you still think this is worth it?”

Sam put his hands down and looked Flo in the eye.  “This isn’t about selling things anymore,” he said.  “It’s about a new idea.  If I don’t go through with this, what kind of man am I?”

“A man with a family,” Flo said.  “Please, Sam.  What next?”

“The sale is tomorrow,” Sam said.  “And then it will all be over.  Please try to relax until then.”

“Okay, Sam.  But I can’t promise what I’ll do if this blows up.”

Sam looked at her.  “Do you really mean that?”

She looked at Sam, the man she had loved for twenty years.  He’d never done anything without thinking it through.  His sense of self-awareness had always guided them through tough times.  But she’d never experienced the whole world against her like this.

“Flo?” he asked.  “If it means that much to you, I’ll stop.”  Their eyes met and she knew he meant it.  Flo went back in the house.  Sam sighed and peeled a sticker off of a book.

Flo came back with the three children.  Tears were in here eyes.  “Kids,” she said, “grab a sheet of stickers from your father.”  She walked to Sam.  “He’ll tell you what to write on them.”  The children obeyed as Sam crushed Flo to him in a passionate embrace.  Billy gagged.

The next morning was sunny and warm as Doug helped Sam move the last table into place.  It was quarter of eight and a small crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle.  Rock Springs had always embraced a spectacle, and the young reporter from the Picayune was accompanied by the editor.  Flo saw all her friends and held back her fear.

“Whose going to buy that junk?” Jed yelled and laughed.

At eight sharp, Sam walked to the crowd.  “If you see something you like, make an offer,” he said.  “The prices aren’t set in stone.”

The crowd laughed and moved into the tables.  They joked about the madness.  And then Ned Cross saw a wrench for fifty cents.

“Hey, Sam,” Ned yelled.  “Is this a Craftsman?”

“Sure is,” Sam replied.  “I’ve got two.  Christmas present from my dad.  Hated to get rid of it.”

“Will you take two bits?”


And it was as if Ned had opened a floodgate.  People who had been silent walked up to the family and asked about prices.  Some paid the price on the sticker.  A few even offered to buy the tables.  For the next eight hours people came and went, calling relatives and telling them about the crazy event.  And at four, Sam looked at the few shirts and marbles left on the tables.  The Smiths had rid themselves of clutter and made well over a hundred dollars.

“Oh, Sam,” Flo said.

“I couldn’t have done it without you,” he said.

The paper the next day told of the success of the garage sale.  Jed told Sam over the fence he, he himself, would have one the next weekend.

“That’s crazy,” Sam said and watered the roses.


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