My foot step into the first room made a hollow noise against the centuries-old wooden floor. Instinctively I fold my arms tight across the chest, for some reason feeling very invasive in this person’s – persons? – home.
To the left, the estate sale organizers had created a three-tier shelving with boxes full of “chinch”: sewing bobbins, Christmas cards, crochet needles, rope. Before dismissing them all I land upon a box labeled, “Stationary” and proceed to shuffle through its contents.
The organizers want $8.00 for the whole box, but I decide I only want these particular parchments.
The next room I enter is full of blankets, handmade all, crocheted or quilted by the same woman who sent correspondence on Little Stinker paper. This is where I experience The Clocker. She’s the person (usually a she, sorry but it’s true!) who follows you around to see what you value so she can grab it under you. Her joy at these events is not in finding something that resonates with her, but in finding something that she took away from someone who admired it. Psycho, right? Well, she starts by placing her hand on a pile of needlepoint napkins.
“Aren’t these gorgeous?” she asks. Her hand strokes the top one, a very nicely stitched sunflower design, as her eyes widen for my response.
I give her my best, “Meh” and continue forward.
She tries another play beside the stack of boxes. “Are those cigar boxes? Ooh, I want to see one.”
I turn and find she’s right behind me, violating all personal space rules. I appease her by lifting the stack of boxes with one hand, then placing them in front of her. Before she gets a chance to play “Do you like this one?” again, I swipe out the large box from the stack and keep it moving.
My friend finds me playing with a set of binoculars. “Have you had a chance to check out the books yet?”
I adjust the focus in my left eye to stare in the room across from me. “Nope.”
She nods with that nod of, you need to check it out.
I put down the binoculars, cross into the room I was spying into for a bit before I journeyed towards the reading room. As I pass through the corridor, I notice The Clocker has found the binoculars and is busy pretending to use them.
The reading room is where I meet the gentleman of the house. Yellowed corrugated tubes line a segment of a wall. Maps. Large shipping trunks fill the center of the room; my friend’s haggling on the blue and brass one. There are measuring tools, a surveyor’s scope, and medallions from all over. A well-traveled man, the highlights of his years being the early 20th century.
My eyes circle up to the bookshelves and I observe a mixture of children’s classics, encyclopaedia, a book on house keeping, and then rows upon rows of engineering-based books. Titles like, “Metals,” “Measurements,” one simply “Engineering.” My friend happens to pass behind me, “He was into digging. You should see the big tools in the garage.” I shall.
As I skim the shelves, I put together a story of a small-town boy with an incredibly busy mind. He marries his high school sweetheart and takes right off to the oil fields, working his way from entry level to lead engineer before he’s in his 20s. He’d be gone for months, sailing the world on large frigates, learning new techniques, putting his own to practice, every once in a while sending Lulubelle (my name for the needlepointer) a gift in exchange for a letter. They were a couple that used the power of written word to keep it together, and they managed to live a long and productive life.
I smile at my happy little made-up-on-the-spot tale, then remember to pull the books I want before The Clocker finds me again.