Market Place by Diane Payne

A couple of months ago, while packing up my house after living in the same place for way too long, I knew I’d have to eliminate over half of my belongings since my new home was considerably smaller, and my daughter constantly reminded me of this task by sending daily texts:  Your crap is shit.  Sell it on Marketplace.

Unfamiliar with Marketplace, I scrolled through the belongings others were selling, then walked through the house to take photos of my dog-chewed coffee table, which I have now learned should have been called vintage or distressed, not dog- chewed, the huge desk which should have been called a craft desk, and my heavy buffet should have been described as a family heirloom, even though I had bought it from some dude in Arizona, who said his parents had it at least seventy years, then they died, and he filled his pick-up with dead parent furniture and sold all of it to me for seventy bucks, which years later I foolishly hauled  to Arkansas.  

Not only was it hotter than hell in July in Arkansas while I was packing up my house, but a tornado swept through town and knocked limbs off my trees and the power was out for days.  But that didn’t stop the Marketplace shopper from insisting on driving over to pick up the heavy buffet.  She didn’t want to take any chances that I’d sell it to some other fool driving around after a huge storm. I messaged to say that I had been on my roof with a chainsaw removing limbs all day, had no power, and really didn’t want to deal with moving that buffet out of the house.  She insisted she’d get there before dark and would take helpers.  She did get there barely before dark, but her three helpers were in baby seats in the back of her truck.  

After a week of strangers going through my house (I have now learned most Marketplacers have their furniture on a porch or in a garage) asking if the skillet I was using to make dinner was for sale before they quickly snuck into my bedrooms to open closet doors and peer beneath the bed in search of great discoveries, I lowered the prices and did haul my crap to the carport.  Since my house was also up for sale, these shoppers also claimed they were interested in buying it and asked if they could take a quick peek. I’d stall, say they were expected to call my realtor, and they said they’d be quick, and I’d demand they put out their cigarettes first, then they’d ramble on about how they’d turn this room into a bedroom and how happily their family of ten would fit in my bath and a half home, and how there were so many shade trees for their hound dogs, and all I had to do was finance them and they’d buy all my furniture so I wouldn’t have to rent a U-Haul to move my crap to Michigan, nonstop talk about their future days living in my house while  I whisked them back out the door and thanked them for their generous offer, but would have to pass since I was in dire need of cash myself.  

For the first time in my life, I hired a mover.  When I saw him pull up with a U-Haul trailer and not a truck, I knew I was in deep trouble and started hauling the furniture I planned on moving out to the curb and watched my neighbors snag it, some promising to send me a check, others just shouting a quick thanks, and I finally got my first taste of downsizing, which was what I kept saying I was doing when friends asked about my relocation plans.

After opening the front door to my new house, I noticed the mover ignored all the labels to put the boxes in the basement, and he left them and the lawn mower in living room, and I rather felt like crying.  My daughter, who had helped me make the drive with the critters in my small car, walked around the house and said it was small, but still a big improvement over where I had been living all those years, not so much because of the house as much as the location.  We dug out my depressing old bed mattress and hoisted it up the stairs, as she kept asking why I kept this piece of shit old bed, and I knew she was right, so damn right, that I refused to admit my error, and after we finally got the hideous box spring up the staircase, we went outside to sit on the steps and drink beer.  

I then became one of the shoppers, similar to those who had come to my house, when I switched roles with this Marketplace world, looking for a new bed since my daughter warned me I’d never have guests if they had to sleep on the air bed.  I ended up renting a truck to pick up the bed, which was too large to fit upstairs in my bedroom.  My daughter told me over and over how comfy this queen bed was, and when I’d complain how hot it was upstairs on my lumpy bed, she’d gloat about how it was almost cold down stairs, and how that new bed seemed brand new, so firm, so great.

Unlike my daughter, when a couple of her friends came to visit for a few days while she was still in town, they didn’t complain about the lack of furniture, and when she asked them if their parents used empty boxes for tables, they said they didn’t but they rather liked using the moving boxes as tables.  I was sad to see her supportive friends leave.

After my daughter returned to her own home, I started scrolling through Marketplace ads searching for this and that and wondering how far I’d have to drive to see this item, then discovering that when you ask for someone’s address, they automatically assume you are buying the item.  I assumed I was checking something out and they were ready to check me out.  I drove a few blocks away to look at a vintage chair that reminded me of several of my old chairs sitting next to my curb when I left town. The woman was giving me the eye that meant, Where’s your cash?  I said, Hmm, this smells like cigarettes (now I know why all the ads say smoke and pet free), and she took another puff from her cigarette and said there’s sprays that will eliminate that smell, a smell she apparently enjoyed, and I said I wasn’t so sure about that because those same sprays say they eliminate cat piss odors, and in my humble experience,  that has never proven true.  She took another puff, hacked a bit, and grumbled about how she just hauled this heavy chair to the porch for me, and I said maybe a good airing on the porch would improve her chances of selling that chair that also looked like a cat had shred, and quickly left without taking her $10 chair.

I will hand it to some of these Marketplace sellers-they know how to play the game.  I decided to swap a couple of moving boxes for a couple distressed end tables, and I was so stressed after discovering the seller’s  house was on this busy intersection, and more stressed when she told me to stay in the car and to pop my hatchback so she could chuck her ugly tables back there before I had a chance to say no. She stuck her hand in my window for the ten bucks, and I drove away, the sucker, while she crossed the street with my cash to buy a six pack. She definitely got the better end of this deal.

The Marketplace sellers who really want something out of their house offer to drive it to your house for no extra money, just to have it gone.  There’s no way in hell I’ll be able to say, Thank you for driving your dead mother’s lovely curio cabinet to my house, but I’ve changed my mind and would like to save this twenty for something else another day.

Not only was Marketplace consuming endless time, but I started searching for things like free plant clippings.  There’d be items that were marked PU by noon:  Free couch to burn. Why anyone would want to burn a couch? Were the springs made of copper and worth more than the couch?  I’d ponder this and that, and know a couch would never squeeze into my Honda Fit, and I’d never set a couch on fire, but still I scrolled through these endless daily posts where people sell underwear and bras that have only been worn once and old plastic dish racks for two bucks. Imagine who comes knocking on your door looking for barely used panties and bras.

Since moving to this house, I have posted one ad to sell my old library table that I have hauled around the country for over thirty years because it just did not fit in this small house. A man drove a fair distance to pick it up, swooning over this beauty, this rare find, and I wondered if he felt guilty asking to pay ten bucks less for this gem,  helped him move it to his truck, then hopped in my car with the fifty bucks to go buy another small table to replace one more box, and after also seeing a lamp in her garage, I  offered the woman ten bucks less to buy both items for fifty bucks and drove away to make my living room more homey.

There was one more thing to buy before I could end this Marketplace addiction. Addiction is too strong of a word.  Fixation sounds more believable, more humane.  Friends warned me to get my books out of the basement before it got damp down there, and others said storing them in the linen closet in the bathroom really wasn’t classy either, so I found someone who offered to haul their bookshelf to my house,  and I filled those shelves, promising to end my daily Marketplace search because the house is now complete; yet, twice, while writing this, I did a quick search for house plants because is it really a home without plants by all the windows?

About the contributor

Diane’s most recent publications include:Barn House, Notre Dame Review, Obra/Artiface, Reservoir, Southern Fugitives, Spry Literary Review, Watershed Review, Superstition Review, Windmill Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Quarterly, Fourth River, Lunch Ticket, Split Lip Review,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Punctuate, Outpost 19, McNeese Review, The Meadow, Burnt Pine, Story South,and Five to One.

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