Rated: E · Short Story · Inspirational · #955782
A slice of life - May 15, 1948 - Looking Back
Chances are you wouldn’t have come into the store today but something aroused your curiosity. It wasn’t the banner across the front of the building, or the flyers children were paid a nickel to pass around. It was the big green truck filled with twenty overweight ladies, seated on fold up chairs, dressed for Sunday school. They were primped and ready for a celebration at Kennywood Park. Yet, this wasn’t Sunday. This was bargain day; Bill’s fiftieth birthday, May 15, 1948, and everything except Mable, a piano he created from parts liberated from all of western Pennsylvania, was on sale. But this sale lasted for only one hour because he had a date with twenty females.
The smell of saddle soap, 3-in-1 Oil, and talcum powder greeted you entering Star Furniture Exchange. A row of black Windsor chairs and worn Chippendale end tables in various stages of repair lined one wall, yet you knew it wasn’t Sanford and Son’s junkyard. You weren’t quite sure what this store was, hearing the crackle of ‘Keep Your Sunny Side Up’ on a portable record player, now on sale for seventeen dollars. Here, junk rose to another level. It was the 18th century, Chinese silk coverlet draped upon a well-used mohair sofa, and a most unusual nine-foot blown-glass candy-striped flagpole angled above original oils of Venice. Who ever heard of a glass flagpole? That’s what Bill said it was.
“Good Morning, how ahya,” a man’s soft ‘Tex-Mex’ voice comes from nowhere.
Bill Williamson would appear, a stocky man in a crisp white shirt, sleeves rolled to his elbows, a fading eagle on one forearm and on the other a heart as homage to his beloved mother. His twang welcomed everyone, customers, children, stray dogs, any living thing with a heartbeat. It could be three in the afternoon, but it was still, “Good morning, how ahya?”
What you didn’t see was his early morning ritual: a daily rummage through a barrel of ties, agonizing which precisely matched his socks, then he would press it with a two dollar iron; a ruby stick pin punctuated it on his chest like an open for business sign. When the irons had all been sold he would carefully lay his tie on the fat muslin roller of a mangle, and when he burnt himself he would exclaim a barely audible ‘dadbobit!’
Once his attire passed keen inspection and prior to flipping the open sign, he would sit at Mable and play the Stars and Stripes with such vigor adjoining businesses, and curious passersby, would applaud the end of his clamor. Carefully he would scoot the bench into its niche and on its red velvet cushion lay a cardboard square asking patrons not to touch the aging queen of music. Off he’d go to the storage room, retrieve the American flag from its assigned corner and haul it to the sidewalk and juggle it into the hole he had chipped out of the concrete.
“Mr. Williamson. Gonna be a great day, ain’t it?” Lucy Wargo said, shifting her wobbly chair in the back of the truck and trying to appear comfortable.
“Better than last year Mrs. Wargo. Much better.”
“How soon Mr. Williamson?” Asked Mrs. Bradley the oldest of the bunch and having the least amount of patience. Her husband’s position at the bank overflowed onto her position on the truck - like a heavy refrigerator, she was the last one on and always the first one off.
“Sixty four minutes and not a minute longer,” he answered, returning to his store
and wiping a fingerprint off the glass with a handkerchief monogrammed with some else’s initials.
Bill didn’t need to check his large clunky gold watch to know the time. He was surrounded with it. Chimes and more chimes from every corner of the store; it was ten o’clock and the sale was on.
“Good Morning, how ahya Mrs. Roberts? Dishes are back on the last table. Jus runnin’ outta room here.”
During the hour Bill sold two potted house plants, a set of orange Fiesta ware dishes, a record of ‘The Music Goes Round ‘N Round' to an eight year-old little girl who insisted on playing it repeatedly, and several beds and dressers. The Chinese red silk coverlet lay untouched to his dismay; it was the only thing in the store which didn’t require some of Bill’s hand magic; it was pristine, flawless and worth a fortune. He should have known Mrs. Bradley was the only one to afford such a piece and she was perched in the back of his truck like a humming bird on the first day of Spring.
With his back to his last customer he began clearing his register. I climbed onto a tall stool and leaned my elbows on the counter. “Dad,” I said, “I told Mrs. Bradley about that awful rag over there and she wants to buy it, the red one with the stars on it.”
Each year Bill would celebrate his birthday by transporting groups to Kennywood Park. It was unofficial but everyone knew Mr. Williamson’s birthday and the yearly celebrations continued until Mrs. Bradley rammed her leg through the floor of the old truck.
“Writing is the way I keep him alive.”
Want to read more about the shocking REAL Bill? Review my book, Ginkgoes of BenVenue at www.AuthorHouse.com, ISBN 1-4033-7361-2
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