Charles Village for Sale

Please enjoy this second Charles Village Observed short essay, written by Johns Hopkins University student Simon Lim, of the Fall ’09 Introduction to Fiction and Nonfiction (IFN) cohort. — JCS

Yard sales. Where old things find new places to collect dust.

Sunlight sieves its way through a cloudy sky one day in Fall. In the wan glow on a street corner in Charles Village, everything seems older.

A ladder next rests to the door, a heap of tarps and paint buckets on the floor reveal the real reason for this yard sale: Renovation. Littered among the typical secondhand yard sale items: used doorbells, rusted switches, and ancient knobs, all which tell of one-too-many renovation projects gone awry. A cocker spaniel peeks out a window and then vanishes. The work inside clearly entertains him more.

This yard sale is small. A few old chairs sit out front, placed awkwardly, half expecting buyers. A shelf of vintage paperbacks, each book neatly occupying its own plastic sleeve sits next to a table. The table’s array seems oblivious to order, boasting towel bars, pens, light bulbs, light shades and old soda bottles as though they were all somehow related. In a corner, there’s a box stacked with neglected 78 rpm records. Had they been more delicately stored, these worn records might have caught the eye of a collector.

A blue minivan pulls around the corner. A blue floral shirt exits the passenger side, its owner looking out of place. “Excuse me, do you know what’s the name of this part of the city?” He says to the closest man. “Charles Village” was all the courtesy given in return. The blue shirt looks around, and, uninterested, gets back into his minivan and drives off. The drive-by.

“I see you’ve got a bargain! This is it! You’re the one that found it!” the seller says to a white-haired man, who holds up a faded silver tray in one hand and cash in the other. The buyers’ ponytail, a mix of white and silver, akin to his newly purchased tray, bounces down the sidewalk. The quick buyer.

An elderly couple browses, the wife pulls ahead, her eyes fixated on the chairs. The husband, having seen this happen too many times before, exclaims “No chairs! No chairs!” Looking at the sellers, he explains, “She could sell you some chairs!” The wife, a sheepish look on her face, tells her story to the female seller, while her husband does the same to the male. A cheerful exchange of experiences brought upon by years and years of yard sales. The veterans.

Two houses away sits a house. On the front lawn a “For Sale!” sign lists a Realtors contact number. Just below it, another sign stuck into the ground reads “For Rent!” in bold yellow letters. Stuck on the bottom of the For Rent sign is a paper torn from a college notebook. “Free!” Below it sits a green mannequin head and Terry Pratchett’s The Light Fantastic, crudely placed.


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