May 23, 2018
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I’m having a garbage sale

Erin Donovan
By Erin Donovan

I’ve always wanted to have a garage sale.

For the better part of my life, I’ve dreamed about heaping my undesirables upon my front lawn, affixing little price tags to them and sitting back to watch as people get into fiery car accidents because they’re peering through their driver’s side window to see how much I’m charging for a coffee mug with a missing handle.

My parents were never in favor of garage sales, preferring I earn money the old-fashioned way, through the completion of a thankless job. When I was still in grade school they occasionally deigned to allow me to stand behind a card table, erected on the driveway, so that I could sell lemonade to absolutely no one. Despite some sophisticated marketing schemes executed over those sweltering summers, I can only recall selling one cup to a man who requested ice. When I told him with a crushed spirit that I didn’t have any ice, he rolled his eyes and asked, “Are you Jewish?” For the next 15 years I would believe that Jewish people disliked chilled beverages.

My attempts to host a garage sale once I had moved out of my parents’ house were further thwarted. In college, the only currency flowing in and out of the campus was that of cafeteria credit, and moving personal possessions onto the lawn of your off-campus apartment meant that you were throwing a party and handing out free beer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Once I had moved to New York City, my garage sale hopes were dashed again since piling material objects on the sidewalk was reserved for the homeless and those looking to move pirated DVDs.

When we landed in Maine and I arrived at the doorstep to the house we had bought, my first thought, after “I hope I can steal Wi-Fi,” was “This is the perfect location for a garage sale.”

It took another couple of years to reach the tipping point in durable goods before I was ready to sell it all to the highest bidder. At the first signs of warming weather I began to cull the unused, the unwanted, the un-batteried.

The more I collected the more I questioned the classification system behind the flotilla of junk headed toward the horizon. Clothing, Toys, Strollers, Books? Or was it: Ugly, Broken, Smells Weird, Assists with Perambulation?

It was then, staring down at the flotsam of our life, that a vague recollection drifted into my consciousness of my husband once saying he detested garage sales. I willed myself to expunge the memory because this was my chance. My moment. My time to bask in the bliss of having too many one dollar bills.

I pushed back the invading doubt. Maybe he won’t notice?

I gingerly placed the price tag upon the last item and stood back to appraise the scene with a full perspective, like the curator of a very tony art gallery. I turned to face the street half expecting a line of hungry bargain seekers impatiently stamping their feet at the divide of my yard from the street. A familiar voice called out behind me, “I’ll give you three hundred dollars to pack this all up now and bring it to Goodwill.”

I whirled around to look my husband in the eye. “I stand to earn a great deal more than $300,” I countered cautiously. Greg cast his gaze to the heaps of refuse before narrowing his eyes at me. “No, you don’t,” he returned with a tone that was at once arrogant and pitying. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I strained to mentally work through a money-versus-time evaluation.

My focus was interrupted by the pressure of something on my back. I turned to find a squarish woman hunched over a cane, arm extended, her gnarled fingers twisted around a five dollar bill.

“I’ll give you five dollars for the stroller.”

I could see in my periphery that Greg was still lurking at the front door. I leaned in to the woman and lowered my voice so that only she and her cumbersome hearing aid could hear, “That stroller is actually twenty-five dollars.”

She pushed the five dollars at me once again and hissed, “Five is what I’m offering.” I sized her up slowly, ever cognizant that her walking stick might have actually been a firearm, and I prepared to level her with my response:


I plucked the five dollars from her fist.

My defeat was made all the more crushing when I had to collapse the stroller and load it in her car — without scuffing the leather! I retreated to my post, avoiding Greg’s gaze, and reassured myself there would be plenty more where that came from. And there was plenty more. Plenty more people to lash me with their self-declared discounts until I was ready to pay myself three hundred dollars to set my front lawn on fire. The problem was that I only had $91 in my pocket.

Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on and on Twitter @ gonnakillhim.

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