Cheap Dirt

Maggworth’s Flea Market–excuse me, Maggsworth’s Antique Mall—is named for a guerrilla leader who raided our town and killed a lot of people during the Civil War. Colonel Moriarty Maggsworth was his name, and kill and pillage was his game. He and some of his cohort were later hanged.

Its name is the only thing exciting about the “mall.” The place itself is pretty drab—there’s a bunch of stalls set up in an old warehouse near downtown.

There are jewelry booths, pre-owned clothing stalls, furniture booths, sports card booths, and a both where they sell toilet paper holders made out of armadillo shells. The mall is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. You don’t quit your day job when you open a stall at Maggworth’s Antique Mall. But owning a booth at the mall, or shopping there every weekend does give the townspeople something to look forward to. Other wise they’d be sticking their tongues into electric lamp sockets to break the monotony.

One Saturday morning a stranger came to the mall and asked to rent a booth. There were four or five stalls unoccupied at the time so Ana Maria Symphonia Schultz, president of the mall cooperative association, signed him up, collected a month’s rent and showed him to a stall.

“You’re not going to sell dirty magazines are you?” asked Ana Maria Symphonia.

“No,” said the stranger.

“Good,” she said and went back to the booth where she and her partner Greta Soulsworthy sold exotically contorted ceramic vegetables.

The stranger dusted off the shelves and stacked them with cheap white Styrofoam cups—the kind you buy when it’s your turn to furnish hot cocoa for 150 people at a church bazaar. Then he nailed a board across the front of the booth for a counter and hung up a sign. It was hand lettered and it read: “DiRT fOR SaLE.”

With his merchandise in place the stranger sat down on a folding chair and began reading a magazine.

“Whatcha sellin’?”

“Dirt.”

“What?”

“Dirt.”

“Ya mean DIRT?”

“Yes.”

“Lemme see.”

The stranger handed the man one of the Styrofoam cups.

“It’s fulla dirt.”

“Yes.”

“Hey, Maggie, git over here. This guy’s sellin’ dirt.”

Maggie didn’t respond. She was gazing into a glass case containing several sets of authentic kidney stone earrings. Others, not so deeply absorbed, sauntered over to the stranger’s booth.

“This guy’s sellin’ dirt,” Gertrude’s husband said as a small crowd gathered.

“How much?” asked a pragmatic 13-year-old who had pushed his way to the front.

“The large containers are 75 cents, the middle-sized ones are 50 cents, and the small ones are a quarter, tax included,” said the stranger.

“Where’d the dirt come from,” asked somebody.

“From my back yard,” said the stranger.

“You just dig up dirt in your back yard and bring it in here to sell?”

“Yes.”

“What does it do?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re selling dirt that don’t do nothin’?”

“Yes.”

“Hot dog,” said the man. “I’ll take three big ones and a middle-sized one.” The stranger had sold all his dirt in an hour. He never returned.

-30-

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