A Day at the Flea Market
by Tina DC Hayes
Irene moved a glass figurine from the front of her display table to a safer spot in the center, to rescue it from destruction by the two little brats who handled her merchandise as if playing 'Duck, Duck, Goose.'
"Would you take twenty bucks for this CB?"
She assumed the man was their father, a real winner himself, what with his grimy hands, slack-jawed expression, and his faded 'Git 'er Done' T-shirt stretched across his beer belly. The only thing Irene figured he’d 'Git Done' was a six-pack and a bag of Cheetos while he watched NASCAR on TV.
"Uh, I think I've got that marked eighty dollars." Irene pointed to the price sticker. Haggling was the name of the game at Luke's outdoor flea market in western Kentucky, open every Tuesday, rain or shine, all year round. "If you're interested in it, I could go, say, sixty-five."
"I don't know about that." The man picked up the radio and gave it a good looking over while his little boy stood beside him and picked his nose for a tasty snack. "How about twenty bucks, and I'll throw in a couple of Hank Junior CDs?"
"Afraid I'll have to pass on that." She wished Hillbilly Bob would take his grubby kids the hell away from her booth. "This CB's practically brand new. A real nice one, too. No, sixty-five is the best I can do."
"Naw." He grunted and tossed the radio back onto the table. "Can't see spending that much on a used 'un. Come on, kids, let's go find us a better deal." The two stringy-haired kids followed as he stomped off in a huff.
Under her breath, Irene said, "Good riddance to you, too, buddy." She straightened up her booth, then sat on her stool and fanned herself with a magazine. She'd be glad to get out of the heat soon.
For the past seven years as a vendor, she set up her table a half-hour before sunrise each week, the best time for early bird shoppers who thought they'd beat everybody else to the Deal of the Day before folks started clearing out around lunch.
The scent of fried food caught Irene's attention and made her stomach growl. She could almost taste the onion burgers cooking a few aisles over.
"How you doing today, Miss Irene?"
Jamal's familiar face smiled down at her.
"Other than being about ready to have heat stroke, I'm doin' pretty good." Irene smiled back at him. Always polite, he was an avid collector of action figures, and one of her best customers. "How 'bout you?"
Jamal looked through the merchandise. "I'm doing just fine."
"I've got somethin' here I think'll be right up your alley." She reached for a boot box sitting behind her. "You still into Star Wars?"
"You know I am."
His face split into a big grin when Irene opened the box. Inside, an army of action figures surrounded a foot-tall Chewbacca. All showed signs of play wear, but these were hard-to-find high-dollar collectibles.
Five minutes later, Jamal walked off with the box of toys under his arm, his smile like that of the cat that just swallowed the Millennium Falcon.
Irene had picked up the Star Wars stuff for five bucks at a yard sale. A quick look through her price guide and she identified the contents as worth a couple hundred dollars, maybe a little less for their slightly worn condition. Jamal got the lot for ninety-five, all of which he would make back when he sold his doubles on eBay.
As Irene filed the money away in her purse, two elderly shoppers stopped to peruse her goods. "Good mornin', ladies. Let me know if you see somethin' you like."
"Oh, look at this!" The shorter one picked up an object that caught her eye. "A McCoy pickle barrel cookie jar. You don't see many of these."
"That's a nice piece, there. No nicks or scratches," Irene said.
The taller of the two whispered, "Don't act like you're so interested, Mildred, or she's gonna try to charge you an arm and a leg for that thing."
Mildred ignored her. "Wouldn't this look lovely sitting between my Mammy cookie jar and the McCoy bean pot I bought last summer? How much are you asking for this, dear?"
"I'll take thirty-five dollars. That's a pretty good deal, if you know what they usually go for in antique stores." Her customer's designer purse and diamond rings suggested she could afford the asking price.
Mildred reached into her handbag, but her friend stopped her with another whispered warning. "Are you sure you want to spend that much? What if it's a F-A-K-E?"
Irene thought she’d like to stick the cookie jar up her ass for spelling out 'fake', as if she were dealing with an illiterate moron. Still, she didn’t want to lose the sale. She plastered an agreeable expression on her face and looked the taller woman in the eyes. "No, that one is R-E-A-L, I can tell ya."
"Yes, Phoebe, just look at the mark, here on the bottom." Mildred turned the pottery upside down, and pointed to the word 'McCoy' inscribed on the bottom.
Phoebe pursed her lips and turned away.
"Thirty-five, you said? Would you take twenty-five?"
"For you, I can go thirty." Irene smiled at Mildred. "Those cookie jars are pretty hard to find."
"I'll take it." Mildred handed her Deal of the Day to Phoebe, and then dug out three ten-dollar bills. She looked as if she wanted to pay for it before someone came along behind her and snatched up the cookie jar. Or before her persnickety friend talked her out of it. "Here you go."
"Thank you, Ma'am. I hope you enjoy it." Irene looked past her at Phoebe and said, "Y'all have a nice D-A-Y, now, ya hear."
Irene had just started boxing up her stuff to go home for the day when she heard someone ask, "This a twelve-gauge?
She turned to see a man drooling over a shotgun she had for sale. Thanks to the iron-on letters across the front of the guy's shirt, she’d know him as ‘Bubba.’ She wondered how impressed Phoebe would've been with her ability to read. "That's what the man I got it from told me. I don't know much about guns, myself, but he said this was a nice one."
"How much you want for it?" Bubba aimed the gun into the crowd and looked it over.
He reminded Irene of a cross between Elmer Fudd and Barney Fife. "I was just fixin' to pack up and go home, so I'll give you a bargain at, oh, fifty bucks. Best I can do." Then, when she noticed the uncomfortable expressions on the faces scurrying past her booth, "You might want to point that thing toward somethin' that ain't afraid of gettin' shot."
"Right. Huh. What was I thinking?" Bubba shifted his aim across the aisle and looked down the sights at a chicken sitting in a wire cage atop a stack of boxes. "Duh! Does it shoot pretty straight?"
Before she could answer, a shotgun blast rang through the peaceful morning like a cannon. "What the hell!"
"Man, I'm sorry about that. I didn't think it was loaded." Bubba stammered and adopted an even more stupid expression than before. He looked at the gun as if he couldn't figure out what had just happened.
"Neither did I, but like I said, I don't know a dang thing about guns." Irene noticed white stuff drifting through the air like fuzzy snow. "Oh, shit," she said. She saw a mass of red goo and feathers tangled in a pile of chicken wire.
Gus, owner of the dead chicken and the booth across the aisle, danced around with his hands on top of his head. "Oh, my sweet god! Is anybody dead?" He looked through the feather blizzard and spotted Bubba holding the gun. "What the hell is wrong with you, boy!" Then he shifted his gaze. "You okay, Irene, or did that fool shoot you, too?"
"Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but we're fine. You okay?"
"I'd be a damn sight better if my chicken wasn't splattered all over the place. I just bought that hen a couple hours ago." Gus shook his head. "I never saw anything like this in my life. What kind of dumbass shoots a gun in the middle of a flea market?"
"Uh, Bubba." Irene saw people scattering to get away from the crazy man with the gun. "You ought to go ahead and pay for that shotgun, then clear outta here before the cops come. You better give Ole Gus a couple bucks for that chicken, too. He looks like he's about to shit himself."
"You got a sack or somethin' I can put this in?" Bubba pulled cash from his billfold.
Irene tucked the money in her back pocket and helped Bubba shove the twelve-gauge into a Hefty bag. He walked over to settle up with Gus, and she packed up and pitched her stuff into the trunk of her car as fast as she could. She didn't want to explain the situation to the sheriff, if he got around to making an appearance.
As Bubba forked over a twenty for the dead poultry, Irene heard him ask, "Is there enough left for you to fry up? I sure do hate to see a good chicken go to waste."
She missed most of the profanity Gus screamed at Bubba when she cranked her car and drove away. Dead chicken aside, she’d done pretty well for the day.