“It’s the sale of the century! No lie, the biggest blowout this store has ever had. Don’t miss the closeout pricing; good deals with good value. Today, all day, at Barry’s Bargain Bazaar Barn. It’s the sale of the century…” the radio blared.
Margaret grabbed the radio knob and it slipped off in her hand.
“…the biggest blowout this store…”
“I just want to turn it off!” she yelled to no one. Her old clunker, big as a boat and as old as the granny who’d traded the car for furniture, was not air conditioned, guzzled gas, and now the radio knobs were malfunctioning.
“…all day at Barry’s Bargain Bazaar…
She could pick up two channels on the ancient radio, so she rolled the other knob past the static to the other station.
“It’s the sale of the century….”
“Good grief, Dad, both stations?” Margaret twirled the knob to static and left it there.
Margaret had a secret name for her father’s business: Embarrassment Emporium. She had perfected disappearing into the woodwork when he hawked prices at the top of his lungs. It was hard to be invisible because her father pulled her into every transaction.
He never missed an opportunity to introduce her as his “Harvard” daughter from the time she entered kindergarten. Margaret’s mother died when she was just a toddler, so Barry dropped out of college to take care of her. He sold junk from their garage to support them and the business grew. His huge warehouse contained everything from jewelry to antique furniture. It was a living, but not an extravagant one.
Margaret loved it when she was little; traveling with her father to explore junk yards and attics for what he called “treasures.” Somewhere in her teens it began to embarrass her. She overheard someone refer to her dad as the “junk” man, and another time she herself was called “the junk man’s daughter”. She loved her father and she tried not to let her embarrassment show. She knew this sale was an effort to raise money for her. She’d been accepted into Harvard, but even with her scholarships there wasn’t enough money. She’d given up hope and applied to the local state school with a much more manageable tuition and board.
She pulled into the parking lot and grimaced at the sight of a hundred or more people pushing and shoving to see the junk that had spilled out of the warehouse onto tables in the parking lot.
It was going to be a long day.
“Hi, Sweetie! Man the cash register, will you? This is a huge blowout today and I can’t keep up,” Barry said. He crushed her with a bear hug.
“Ladies and gentleman, my Harvard daughter will be checking you out today.” Margaret blushed at the amused glances of the customers. She wished he stop saying that, especially since it wasn’t true any longer.
At the end of the day, Barry plopped down into a tattered sofa. Margaret looked at her hard-working father and her heart went soft. She felt ashamed remembering all he’d done for her all her life by working this hard, putting aside his own dreams.
“Dad, I got into State. I appreciate all you’ve done, but Harvard is just too far out of our reach.”
“Nonsense! You are going to Harvard.”
“No ifs, ands, or buts about it, young lady,” he said and whipped a piece of paper out of his pocket and waved it before her eyes. The receipt was from the Harvard Financial Office indicating her first year’s tuition and board were paid in full.
Margaret’s eyes spilled over with tears. “But, how?”
“I sold my treasures,” he said, pointing to an old hutch, and grinning the size of Margaret’s old clunker car.
Barry had some things that he never would part with, not even to the most persistent customer. He had an antique hutch that housed his Babe Ruth signed baseball, an Honus Wagner baseball card, a solid gold Olympic medal from the turn of the century, an authentic, documented letter signed by George Washington, and some diamond jewelry. Margaret thought they were special, but had no idea the real value of the items.
There was nothing inside that hutch now but a picture of her mother in a gilded frame and a set of keys to a brand new, compact car. Margaret’s favorite thing about the car were the license plates: “JNKMANSDTR”.
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