“I can’t believe that you have never been here before,” I said to Ghoul.
We shimmied between the clustered aisles of Pack Rat Jerry’s, inching towards a far section of rubbish.
“Wow, look at these!” Ghoul slipped around the table, standing slack-jawed in front of a rusted shelf. His fingers caressed gaudy kitchen appliances from the seventies, first generation Sony Walkman cassette players and a stack of dusty Rubik’s Cubes.
“Who would use a keyboard this big? This is absolutely ridiculous—throw it in the cart.”
“There must be basket around here somewhere. Let’s go find one of his associates. I bet this Pack Rat Jerry has a huge workforce.”
Pack Rat Jerry had no shopping carts, let alone anyone working for him. It was also no secret that Pack Rat Jerry pillaged the leftovers of yard sales or salvaged whatever he could from the transfer station. You know, the dump. I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that most flea markets, including this one, recycle trash to turn a profit.
“I’ll take you to Jerry himself.”
“You know this great business man? It would be an honor to meet him.”
We sidestepped towards the front and shared what little history of Pack Rat Jerry’s that I knew of to be rumors, if not straight out lies. You know, town gossip.
“It wasn’t always a rundown barn stuffed with a hoarder’s fantasy. This was at one point a dairy barn. The story goes that Jerry’s father, Barry, died at a ripe age of one-hundred-and-five and bestowed his life’s work to his only son.”
“Who was the other son?” Ghoul asked.
I snapped my head around my shoulder and snapped, “Don’t you ever listen?”
Ghoul was too busy examining a semi-hairless troll doll.
“Follow along. So Jerry wasted no time liquidating the entire company–livestock, milking equipment, tractors and the land–all sold within the first year. Except the barn. It didn’t take him long to convert the inside into our region’s largest flea market. Jerry took his status and coined his moniker as Pack Rat Jerry. Tourists loved him, but the locals never forgave him for destroying the couple dozen or so jobs the dairy barn created for Knowlton. The community was crushed.
“It was said that he was cursed at some point in the eighties. Don’t know if that is true or not, but since then, he has never turned a profit, the help he hires either quit or stick around in an attempt to collect workman’s compensation. And if he was to ever make a sale, his wares would somehow find their way back on the shelves.”
Ghoul was drifting off. Fair to see he never paid attention at all. I looked forward and saw that the end of the cramped aisle was in reach. I rushed, hurrying, dragging Ghoul from behind. Then out of the shadows grew a form, bulbous and wheezing in white overalls.
“Can we sneak by?” I asked of the large woman who squeezed in.
She pushed further in, nudging me back with her formidable size. She was too close and I could feel the hiss of her oxygen tank.
“I am afraid not…. Once I get in this here aisle…. I can’t get out until the end…. Sorry,” she said.
“We’re the ones at fault,” Ghoul said.
Our return trip was relentless, and if the clock on the wall was correct, lengthy. An hour later, we circled around the barn to the office of Pack Rat Jerry. His wiry frame slouched over the paper. I opened the door and pounded my knuckles off a wooden desk nearby.
“Hey Jerry—it’s Sam. Sam Garrett,” I yelled.
“Wha-da’ya want boy?” Pack Rat Jerry hopped from his seat. He spoke quick and moved with dizzying speed. “Ah, if it isn’t Samuel Garrett. Just look at ya—still the little shit I remember.”
His fist caught me off-guard, right in the gut and the wind fled my mouth with a sharp pehh.
“Hah! Three-time Army boxing champion, that’s what I am. Back in Nam’, where the men were cut from fucking marble, not the soap-stone-pussies from today’s Armed Forces. Hey—who are you?”
“Sir, quite the privilege to meet you. And I must say thank you for your service. My Name is Gho—
“You gotta speak up, I can’t hear ya. Did you say your name was Gho? Jesus-H-Christ, did you bring a Vietcong to my establishment, Garrett? You’re a sick bastard. If your Granddaddy was still around, he’d smile at the ass-kicking you’re about to receive.”
“No, no, my name is,” Ghoul paused. “Joe. Yeah, that’s it. Call me Joe. I can see the mix-up here, and I am sorry to offend—
“Goddammit you talk too much, Moe. What the hell do you want?”
“Short and to the point,” I pleaded.
“Right. I just want to say that you are on to something here, sir. Huge fan, really,” Ghoul said.
“Make an offer if you like it so much–otherwise, get the hell out of my face.”
“Name your price.”
“If you’re not bullshitting me, then half-a-million.”
“Cash or check?”
Ghoul made his deposit and the two signed the necessary paperwork. Pack Rat Jerry vanished once the money was in hand, but not before stating the obvious.
“So long, suckers!”
We stood in the vast splendor of Ghoul’s terrible investment. I was in awe, and the woman in the white overalls found her way to us.
“How much for this?” she presented a tattered oil painting of Rod Stewart riding a Bengal Tiger.
Ghoul sneezed and his rotting phlegm splattered her face. The viscosity of his undead snot was thick, like maple syrup, and the smell was that of festering cheeseburgers. She dropped the oil painting and waddled away in horror. I looked down and related with the dismal Tiger. We’re both defeated, I thought, and the Tiger winked back.
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017