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Ghoulish garage sale

by Debbie Carini

I never met a garage sale I didn’t like— I once stopped at one on my way to a friend’s wedding in Hollywood and bought a vanity for my daughter’s bedroom. I had to valet park with said piece of 1930s vintage furniture half-hanging out of the back of our SUV, ala the Beverly Hillbillies.

A couple of weeks ago, I was quite excited to look out my front window and see a bunch of cars parked on the street. It could only mean one thing: garage sale! My mom arrived for our daily morning walk and we eagerly set out to see if someone else’s unwanted stuff could be something that one of us might actually need, and hopefully it would cost less than a dollar.

At first sight, I thought my neighbors were selling a tanning bed. “On its way to the appliance bone-yard,” I supposed to myself—like the bread-making machine I only ever made one loaf of bread in (the loaf was more like a brick, so I might have been better off storing that small electronic in the garage next to a bag of cement), or the deep fryer I mistakenly thought would make healthier fried foods but only ended up making my house smell like MacDonald’s, which in turn led me to pull out my also near-useless electronic shake-maker.

As we drew nearer, the item came into chilling focus—it was a coffin. A real, this-is-going-to-cost-most-of-the-money-you-get-from-the-life-insurance-policy coffin. It was stately gray with silver trim and, hopefully, gently-used.

There is almost nothing that makes you consider your mortality more than the sight of a coffin. I started thinking about the ham, egg and cheese sandwich I’d just consumed for breakfast. “Probably should start cutting back on the carbs and cholesterol,” I reflected. When you’re 56 years old, you’ve got to figure that more than half of your life is behind you and unless there are going to be some dramatic advances in science—like kale suddenly tastes like candy—the truth is, one of these boxes is somewhere nearer than farther in your future.

And then I started thinking, “who is the customer for this?” I looked around. I did not see Barnabas Collins or Count Dracula, or even Count Chocula for that matter.  “Is this even legal?” I said to my mom, who also seemed to be in deep contemplation over the mysteries of life.

Later that day, as I continued to mull the incongruity of seeing funeral furniture sold next to used bikes and empty frames, my daughter reminded me that those same neighbors had long-ago staged lavish haunted houses for Halloween on their property, so that was probably—hopefully—the source of the casket.

Several days passed, and my husband and I were on an evening stroll when we saw our neighbor still packing away the detritus of the yard sale. I prodded my better half to inquire about the final-resting-place box. “Oh, we sold it for $150,” the homeowner said. “The people are going to use it as a Halloween decoration!”

So, here’s your fair warning: as you happily trick-or-treat your way through the neighborhood later this month, just remember…there’s a coffin out there that just got a new lease on life.

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