June 17th, 2011 – Amma Road’s Treasure Trove

On the way home from dropping off Bill at the airport,
with the slant of an early evening sun blazing in my windshield,
I passed 3 kids yelling from plastic lawn chairs.
One had a tight grip on a colorful poster board
done in magic-markers that I could not read
for as vigorously as it was being waved at me.
Always one to encourage young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs,
at least for my own summer thirst-quenching needs,
I back-tracked, parked, grabbed some change from the consul and hopped out.
The ensuing chaos was deafening.
Girls screeching, wagon clanking, dog barking, mom shouting,
“Don’t run with that thing or you’ll break glass all over my yard!”
I successfully appeased the ferocity of the
hobbling, gray-snouted, half-blind chocolate lab
with a non-challant scratch behind the ears.
Then I learned that, instead of lemonade, they were peddling a collection of
priceless artifacts they had salvaged from the stream
behind their tidy mobile home trailer.
Chunks of a gray and brown moonshine jug,
three ceramic lids for old fashioned mason jars,
dirty liquor bottles of varying tints,
a pot’s handle- absent the pot,
and a naked, quadriplegic baby doll with hundreds of holes in her scalp
where flaxen tufts must have been
before the violence of someone’s adolescence set in.
After oo-ing and ah-ing as they persuasively described
the fine features of several of their favorites,
I asked, “How much?”
The first little barracuda took charge with dramatic sweeping arm motions
and a whiskey rasp,
“All these on THIS side of the wagon are goin’ for fifty.
While 6 beady eyes were peering over me,
I looked at mostly quarters,
then, at my promising options so neatly displayed.
She went on to say, “For these over HERE…”
pointing to a filthy flask with one hand
and clutching a chipped green wine bottle to her heart with the other,
“…we’re not takin’ any less than 300.”
Over-quizzically, I asked, “300 pennies??”
“NOOOoooo!!!” they sung in unison, “Three – hundred – DOLLARS!!”
The 30-something mother giggled her way closer,
“They’ve been at this all day.  I told them they’d be lucky
to get anyone to meet ’em in the middle.”
“Even the lower end of ‘middle'” I murmured to her with a smile.
More forthcoming with the contents in my hand, I said,
“Wow!  Well, then. What can I get for this?  It’s all I got.”
Number 2 salesgirl winced, “For that much?!”
She darted a look at her business partners,
then shrugged off their horror and said with certainty,
“I think you’ll be happy with this.”
She proudly presented me with the smallest of the lot,
but clearly the best from my perspective:
a surprisingly clean, transparent glass,
Bayer children’s aspirin bottle
in mint condition.
Maybe it was her sales pitch, or the way the gleam of the bottle blinded me,
but I was sold
and sales girl number 3 knew it.
As I commented on their creativity in profiteering off environmentalism
she dug her grubby paws into my palm,
vacuumed up all but a penny,
and shot off into the shade to count.
My salivating salesgirl quickly finished the transaction and followed,
squealing for her commission.
“And, you get THIS for FREE!” the gravely voice chirped.
She shoved a brown, grungy bottle at me,
chased after her friends and bellowed back,
“…for being our first… and only… customer…
“Might as well take this, too…” I said, extending the remaining cent
to the shirtless toddler who appeared from behind
the woman’s cut-off jeans.
He tugged up the back of his shorts over a saggy diaper
and grabbed it.
“…for sales tax,” I said.
Mom giggled again and thanked me.
I walked back to the truck still hot for a cool drink.
Cradling these precious, conflicting treasures
made my throat even more dry.

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