My dad was a collector.
Well, he liked to think so. He said everything he brought home was going to be valuable one day, and we were going to be rich.
Mom said it was just junk.
Like the box of horseshoes. I suppose it was possible that horseshoes could be priceless one day, but probably not while we were still alive. Not while horses still roamed the earth.
Or the box of china missing two teacups and three dinner plates. Someday, somebody might need the rest of the set. They might be worth something.
Sometimes, things appeared in the shed, and I learned not to mention it, especially not after The Canoe Catastrophe.
I came home one Saturday afternoon after working on my Social Studies project with Harley Gibson. Actually, we’d worked for about an hour, drawing igloos and seals, then caught tadpoles in the ditch behind his place for awhile before heading over to the confectionery for chocolate bars. Anyway, when I went to put my bike in the shed, there was a long green canoe with a gaping wound in its side lying there.
I raced into the house. The table was already set for supper. I quickly wiped the smell of polliwog and chocolate onto the bathroom towel. I slid into my seat and dug into the mashed potatoes. I could scarcely contain myself.
“So, Dad. Is that our canoe in the shed?”
Mom put down her fork.
“Well, son, that canoe needs some work. Thought we’d do it together.”
“That’s swell, Dad.” Canoeing! I didn’t see the dark look on my mother’s face.
“A canoe?” Mom’s words were quiet.
“Sure.” Dad’s eyes were on his meatloaf, like it was the most interesting thing in the world.
“You know anything about canoeing?”
“Thought I’d get a book. Maybe ask Ron Simpson.”
“Ron Simpson moved to Oshawa two years ago.”
“Oh.” Dad stuffed his mouth with green beans.
Eventually, he gave away the canoe. I don’t know what he was thinking when he bought it. We don’t live near a lake.
One time, he brought home a set of brand new encyclopedias that was missing missing the “D” and the “R” volumes, all for a ten dollar discount. That’s fine, as long as I don’t have to do any homework on Dickens or Russia. Hopefully, nobody looks too closely at our bookshelf. I suppose they might think I’m studying Dickens or Russia.
Then, there were the “free” boxes Dad got at the end of the day at auctions, filled with faucets, tools, light switches, wire, books, chipped cups, and cutlery. Occasionally, Dad would dig through through the clutter, miraculously filling a need in the nick of time.
“Dear, I need a cup hook.”
“Wait, my love.” In a flash, Dad would lay a golden hook in her waiting hand.
“I think the screen door is falling off its hinges.”
Within the hour, the screen door would be re-hinged, ready to boldly face another year of slamming service.
“My floor brush is losing bristles.”
Soon, Dad would be on his knees extolling the virtues of a near-new scrub brush while suds frothed around Mom’s feet.
Yep, those “free” boxes came in mighty handy for saving Dad’s skin.
Don’t get the wrong idea about Mom. She wasn’t usually touchy, but it was probably a strain to put up with the regular appearance of useless stuff: a stuffed crow, rusty milk pails, and seat-less bicycles.
Then, Dad brought home the vase.
There was Mom, really excited over something really ugly. It sat on the counter, blue and gold and dirty. I touched it and Mom smacked my hand. I heard my parents whisper ‘car’ and ‘mortgage.’ They made phone calls.
They left for the city with the vase wrapped up like a baby. Mrs. Garner came over to keep me out of trouble.
Turned out, under the dirt, the vase had a hairline crack and wasn’t worth so much. They got some things for the house, and I got a new bike, on account of my growth spurt, and because my old bike had rusted up pretty badly from being left in the rain when the shed overflowed with junk.
Dad still collects, but these days, it’s mostly cards and drawings from the grandkids.
Speaking of the kids, I better go see what they’re doing. Might as well take this box of baby bottles and Christmas lights out to the shed while I’m at it.
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