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The Last Yard Sale
by Charlotte Stephens


“You have to write bigger,” my cousin told me. “No one’s gonna be able to see it.”

“Yeah they will,” I said. “I took up the whole page.”

I wrote the words “YARD SALE” in big, bright bubble letters on both sides of a sheet of notebook paper and taped it to a pole in my grandmother’s front yard. It had become a tradition that every time my cousin Shannon would visit—usually once or twice a year—she, my sister, and I would have a yard sale.

We sat our little wooden table by the street and laid out our merchandise. Some of our items were just junk that we found in my grandmother’s house—earrings, potpourri, even some of our own toys and books we were willing to sacrifice. The rest of the things we sold we had made ourselves. We sold potholders. We sold homemade Christmas tree ornaments in the middle of summer. We even sold our own original artwork: magic marker drawings of girls in poofy dresses, leotards, costumes, the kinds of clothes we were never allowed to wear. We gave a name to every girl we drew.

“I’m making this one twenty-five cents. It’s my best one so far,” I said, holding up my drawing of Kelly, a black-haired girl in a purple outfit whose head was twice as big as her body.

“Write fifty cents on it and put a line through it like the price is marked down. That makes people buy it.” I followed Shannon’s brilliant advice. While she was two years younger than me, Shannon always had a way of making me feel inferior to her. That Yankee accent she had made everything she said sound smart. How she managed to obtain it while growing up in Arkansas, I’ll never know. Then again, she did live in a bigger town in the northern part of the state.

I looked over and saw that Audrey, my sister, was pricing one of her drawings at twenty-five cents, too.

“Maybe you should make that one cost a little less,” I suggested in the nicest way possible. Her drawings weren’t nearly as good as mine and Shannon’s.

“No!” She defended herself. “Mine’s better than yours!”

She defiantly laid her twenty-five cent masterpiece on our table amongst the rest of our drawings and ornaments and potholders.

“You think we’ll make enough money to buy some tater logs?” Shannon asked.

“Yep,” I said. “We made more stuff this time than we ever have before.”

This was the main goal of our yard sales: to create a moneymaking extravaganza successful enough to go to the gas station and buy as many of those wedge-shaped, deep-fried potatoes as we could. Audrey and I didn’t usually get all that excited over tater logs, but to Shannon, they were a delicacy. She had some sort of irrational obsession with potatoes, and the fact that these were deep-fried in a pool of grease—well, that just made them even more irresistible. At home she wasn’t usually allowed foods so lacking in nutritional value, so every time she visited us, her tater log enthusiasm drove us to all kinds of creative entrepreneurial endeavors to obtain the golden wedges of starch. So we sat down around our table, ready to make our millions. My dad and uncle were our first customers.

“Hmm… What do we have here?” my uncle said as he looked over our stuff.

“Buy something!” Audrey shouted.

“Okay, okay… I think I’ll take one of these,” he said, picking up some unidentifiable piece of jewelry, a short chain with red beads.

“What are you going to do with that?” Audrey demanded. “It’s fifty cents!” she shouted as he walked away with it.

“Put it on my tab,” he replied. He looked at my dad, and they both laughed.

“How are we supposed to buy candy with a tab?” Audrey asked as she slumped back down into her chair. We were disappointed, but used to it. Their tab would have taken up pages of notebook paper if we actually kept track of it. To this day they probably owe us hundreds of dollars in twenty-five-cent drawings and fifty-cent chains.

A few minutes later, my aunt walked up, looking genuinely interested in what we were selling. She bought a few of our drawings and actually paid for them. We had sixty-five cents in our candy savings.

Not long after my aunt left, my grandmother drove up in her little blue truck. For some reason, she always happened to drive by when we were having a yard sale.

“Hey, girls!” she said, stepping out of her truck. “Are y’all havin’ a yard sale?”

“Yes,” we replied in unison.

“Well, I guess I’ll have to buy me one of these books.”

She always bought a book. Even today, she still has a pile of books in her house she bought from us.

“Thank you!” Audrey yelled, happy to see that we had accumulated almost a dollar.

“Y’all be careful now, and don’t let anyone snatch y’all up,” she warned us as she stepped back into her truck. “Maybe you need to move closer to the house.”

“Okay,” we said, but didn’t move.

After she left, we sat there for a long time with no customers. We were almost ready to give up when an old brown truck slowed down in the street in front of us.

“How much for the stool?” a woman asked from the passenger’s side of the truck. The man in the driver’s seat hung his head out his truck window with an amused look on his face. We all turned to look at my grandmother’s wooden stool that Audrey was sitting on. Audrey and I exchanged scared, confused looks. We had never had a real customer before. No one outside our family had ever so much as given our little roadside store a second glance. But all of a sudden this strange man wanted to buy my grandmother’s stool. And it wasn’t even for sale. Shannon stood up and confidently marched up to the man’s truck to discuss the sale. Maybe it was the vision of how many tater logs she could buy with the money from that stool that gave her so much confidence. Audrey and I, on the other hand, were terrified. We didn’t know what to do. So there was only one thing we could do.

At exactly the same time, the two of us turned toward the house and took off running. We ran full speed through the grass of my grandmother’s front yard. The yard looked ten times bigger than it had ever looked before. We darted around the obstacle course of trees and bushes, and finally, after what seemed like days of running, we reached the refuge of the carport and piled through the front door.

“What’s wrong?” my grandmother questioned us.

“Those people out there want to buy your stool!” I said through my panting breaths.

“You better not let them buy my stool. Go back out there and make sure no one takes my stool. I’m not selling that stool.”

Shannon’s mother couldn’t have cared less about the stool. She was, however, terrified at the fact that we had left Shannon alone by the street talking to some strange couple.

We walked back to our table with our grandmother and explained to the man, whom she happened to know, that the stool was not for sale. He was amused with our retreat. He and my grandmother stood there and talked while the three of us packed up our yard sale and headed back to the house. Later that night, as we were staring at tater logs through the greasy glass in the gas station, we decided we’d have to invent a new business for tater log money.


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Charlotte writes: “I am a college student studying writing in southeast Arkansas. I work on the staff of the Foliate Oak Online, and my work has been published there and in Seven Seas Magazine, Nights and Weekends, and Reading Divas.

Write Charlotte at charlottemichelle@hotmail.com.

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