Somewhere in Upstate New York, on bend of the road into town, in the shadow of a weather beaten house slouching on a hill, the junk man sets up his wares every weekend, weather permitting.
A modern rag-and-bone man, he makes worthy use of detritus. In his fifties, he’s just a little taller than I, a scruff of beard, nimble and wiry, soft spoken. There is no haggle here, just observation, pleasantries and the exchange of ideas.
“If you’re interested in that book shelf,” he sings out to a customer, “I could do $15.”
I hand him my antique crucifix. He weighs it in his hands, larger than a hatchet, chalkware Jesus pale and drowned. Asks where I got it.
“$50 on Ebay.”
He lets out a sigh, misunderstanding.
“No, just take it. I don’t want anything for it,” I say. “I had a bad experience with Catholics,” I feel compelled to clarify. Numerous bad experiences, but I’m trying to learn discretion: what to tell, to whom, when.
When she considered me uppity, my mother would call me, “Sarah”, alluding to my Alma Mater. But discretion is to snobs as breathing. Snobs neither overpost on social media, nor show weakness, nor confess so much religious feeling as to suspend the crucified Christ on the living room wall. They wear Brooks Brothers suits and linen dresses to Episcopal services.
I now attend Episcopal services. Spottily. Lukewarm. Spat out.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. -Yeats
Rag-and-bone sets the crucifix on a table. Unpriced.
Two wooden chairs, $6 each, stand side by side near the road like thin children gazing blankly. My husband chooses one.
“I’d give it to you, but religious stuff just doesn’t sell,” he offers. He’s sort of handsome. I’m almost too classist to admit that. Sarah.
“No, you have to make a living.”
“Why don’t you take both chairs for $6?”
“We really only need the one.”
One was chosen. One was left behind.
My husband and I head the few blocks home. Turning into our driveway, we notice the trinity of mugo pines out front has died. Chionaspis pinifoliae—sap sucked dry.