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کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 5

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توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 4 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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Flea Marketeer

I remember lying to my friends and neighbors, the Baral boys, when they asked me, “Where’s your dad?”

“Oh, he’s been working every day but he comes home at night and wakes us up and we play for a long time.” I think they believed it. Even I started to believe it.

For a while my dad had been a ghost. And then he was gone. We were never told why. In fact, we were never told anything. That’s just what happened. Move on.

For the longest time I thought my sister, Amy, who was too young to understand what was happening, was luckier for sliding through that period relatively unscathed. But now I realize that she missed all the happiness and stability of the time before things fell apart—the Christmas lights, the outings, and the games we’d play as a family.

Because we had known the good times, I think my brother and I felt the loss more acutely. My father’s waning presence, his chronic absence, his disappearance. Now he was just a memory.

He was the love of my mom’s life. In his wake she grew angry. She began tending to her resentment like a private garden that was more real to her than any living thing. Where once she was vibrant and accessible, now she was overtaken by depression and inertia. Once caring and present, now she was sullen and melancholy and remote. She began to drink. Slowly at first, and then not slowly. She started with wine. Boxed wine. Wine in jugs with the little finger hole. I saw a lot of those empty jugs.

She would perch at the kitchen table draining her glass and complain to my brother and me: Your father. Ugh, your father. He needed to be a star. And he wasn’t a star. And that’s what drove him crazy.

She’d sometimes turn to me and say, with a sneer of bitterness and pain: You look just like him.

What was she going to do? Since there was now zero money coming in, she needed to find a pathway to income. Mom was a natural pack rat, so the obvious avenue was to sell off some “assets.” Her plan was to pack up her ’56 pink Cadillac (probably a holdover from one of our “up” periods), and drive to the Simi Valley swap meet to sell whatever she could. Every Saturday night, Kim and I would pack the Pink Lady, as my mom had affectionately dubbed her car, to the roof. And every Sunday morning, before sunrise, we’d somehow, someway stuff ourselves in, too, for the twenty-five-mile trip.

Kim and I were charged with unloading the car and arranging the eclectic items for sale on blankets. We made tidy rows while Mom went scouring for bargains from other sellers. About the time we finished setting up our wares, Mom would return with armloads of other people’s junk for us. Not for us, exactly, not for our personal use, but to resell at a profit. We carefully integrated the new haul into our own.

When Mom found out that there was another swap meet opening up on Saturdays in Saugus, in Santa Clarita, we added that to our itinerary. We now spent the whole weekend at swap meets. We were in the junk business. Once we sold off our own items, we became fully dedicated to hawking other people’s goods. The garage that Kim and I had once used as a stage for creative expression was now creating an expression all its own. Junk filled the space from floor to ceiling. It wasn’t just the garage. The house was now unrecognizable to us. Everything was stacked and crowded and askew: slightly used bedding and secondhand clothing and radios with broken speakers and ratty furniture and tarnished table settings. There were dolls with one eye missing and tattered magazines with their covers torn off.

I came to abhor clutter. I still feel uneasy when things around me are in disarray.

But my mom pressed on. In spite of her growing desperation and despair, there was something valiant about her tenacity. I think she really did believe the swap meets would save us. But in the end, the numbers wouldn’t add up. After a while, the bank told her that we were going to lose the house. And then we did.

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