November 3, 2016

Flash Fiction by A.S. Coomer: "The Yard Sale"

A.S. Coomer is a native Kentuckian serving out a purgatorial existence somewhere in the Midwest. His work has appeared in over thirty publications. He’s got a handful of novels that need good homes. You can find him at He also runs a “record label” for poetry:

The Yard Sale

“That there’s fifty cents, honey,” she leaned in and said.
The woman with the badly dyed red hair forced a smile and nodded. She set the little Gatlinburg plate back on the rickety card table and shuffled on.
Gretchen sighed and righted the souvenir china on its stand.
“Awful proud of it, ain’t she?” the faux redhead whispered to her friend, another dye job--this one blonde--gone wrong.
Gretchen straightened her back but made no reply.
The sun shifted as the afternoon slowly rolled by like mildly obstructed water, some children’s dam on a fledgling, summer-dry creek. The people came and went. They picked up Gretchen’s things, old and not-so-old alike; some generally interested, others wanting only to snap a photo and scamper off snickering, hands still empty.
The light pooled on the table, prisming off the clear base of the lamp that used to grace Sonya’s bedside table when she was much younger. She’d been such a small baby.
“Ma’am, how much for the table?”
Gretchen gave her head a quick shake and jerked her attention to the woman standing over her, peering down through dimestore reading glasses. They were leopard printed.
“The card table, sweetie. How much is it?”
“Oh. The table. Well, I hadn’t even thought about selling it.”
The woman’s brow wrinkled and she shifted her weight from her left foot to her right.
“Why you setting things out you don’t intend to sell?”
“How much for the table?”
“I guess, I’m holding on to that little table, honey.”
The woman, sweating freely in the fading afternoon sun, rolled her eyes and spun on her heels.
“Come on, Jimmy,” she called to what must’ve been her son or nephew, who was riffling through a box of Stephen’s old VHS tapes. The kid, who couldn’t’ve been more than fourteen or fifteen Gretchen surmised, had two of the tapes tucked under his arm freeing his hands to scour the box.
“Hey, mom,” he said, his voice cracking on the ‘o’, “check these out. So retro. Think I’m gonna pick up a few of these for after practice. The guys’ll flip--”
“Put ‘em back, Jimmy,” the woman said, sweeping by the kid and grabbing him by the arm not holding the tapes. “They’re probably not for sale anyhow.”
With the last word out of her mouth, the woman shot a disgusted look over her shoulders at Gretchen.
“Well,” Gretchen said.
The kid had just enough time to drop the tapes back into the cardboard box before he was sucked into his mother’s wake, tramping across Gretchen’s yellowed yard to their parked car. One of the tapes had plopped off the lip of the box and dropped onto the dying grass.
Gretchen pushed herself up from the dining room chair and walked over to the tape. She bent, scooped it up and brought the label close to her face so she could read its title.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Gretchen made a clucking noise and saw Stephen and Sonya karate kicking through the house in their pajamas, sliding down the hardwood halls on their footies. Sunday morning sunlight filtered through the nook windows as Gretchen sat with her third cup of coffee, smile rooted firmly on her face, watching her children play.
The blare of a horn tore her from her reverie. Gretchen watched the woman’s outstretched arm fling out the car’s window. The red paint glinted off her raised middle finger as the sedan pulled away.
Gretchen bent, set the tape back in the box and made her way back to the chair behind the card table that wasn’t for sale. Her back ached and her throat was dry. She hesitated above the chair but did not sit down.
I’ll just get myself some tea and maybe an Advil.
Gretchen walked up the little path to the front porch and went inside.
She was just pouring the tea, still warm from sitting in the afternoon light on the kitchen counter, listening to the ice creak and crack, when she heard them outside. Sniggers at first, full out riotous boy laughter soon after.
She set the pitcher on the counter beside the half empty glass and stepped out onto the porch. In the fading light, the dusk stealing right in seemingly without notice, Gretchen watched the shapes of four teenage boys in her front yard among her possessions laid out, Gretchen noticed then, much like a funeral viewing.
“Can I help you?” she called out.
Four smiling faces turned in her direction and froze.
“Oh shit,” a squeaky voice whispered.
A swell of tension seemed to expand then snap like an old rubber band.
“Bust it,” another called out.
With a speed that left Gretchen slack-jawed, the boys began trashing the yard sale items. The boy nearest the card table swung a sneakered foot up then down and with a crunch, that must’ve been the little Gatlinburg plate splintering, the table folded in on itself and crumpled onto the yard.
Gretchen took the first step off the porch but knew it was futile.
One of the boys picked up the little lamp, twisted the upper half of his body like a windup toy and flung it into the magnolia Sonya had named Martha when they’d planted it together some fifteen years ago.
Seventeen, Gretchen corrected herself.
“Cool!” one of them said, holding the box of tapes.
“Let’s roll!”
The boys all turned and sprinted across the darkening yard. The one holding the box hesitated but followed after a furtive glance toward Gretchen, still on the first step down from the porch. He waddled to the waiting car, encumbered by the box filled with bouncing tapes, tossed the box inside then dove in behind it. The door hadn’t shut before they were peeling off toward town.
Gretchen took one more step down then eased herself onto the top step. She watched the last light of day slip behind the ridgeline, leaving her scattered possessions as nothing more than darkened shapes in a yard beginning to dew over.
The yard blurred, she blinked, hard, and wondered what she was going to do with the $12.75 she’d made that day.

~A.S. Coomer

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