The green clapboard bungalow had become more weathered over the years. On my occasional walks around the neighborhood, I often took notice of this little house, so quiet, seeming almost empty.
I observed the once-white, yellowing trim around the windows and thought this place could become charming with a coat of paint and a little clearing of the debris lying around the yard. I never saw the resident; I knew the house was occupied only because the view through the dust-laden window revealed an ever-changing display of clutter upon a table top.
One day as I tried to turn down Syringa Avenue, I was slowed by bumperto-bumper automobiles for two blocks. An estate sale planner had posted signs pointing the way to the little green house. I pulled into a space just vacated, got out of my car and walked, curiously but somewhat uneasily, toward the house.
I never had been to an estate sale before and was unprepared for what I encountered inside. I’ve seen yard sales, garage sales and tag sales, but this sale was different.
Like vultures swarming to pick the remains from a drying carcass, strangers to the deceased pushed through every room, pawing and picking up the possessions of the home’s former mistress. A few curios were eye-catching, such as a collection of Japanese netsuke figurines. But most items seemed homely and unpretentious, the simple basic things that surround us through our days. Tarnished cookware, worn bedding, even half-used perfumes, each given a value, each judged worthy or not by us.
A tentative and perverse curiosity drew me from room to room. I quickly threaded through the crowded bedroom and the bath, up the precarious stairs to the cramped attic, where buyers considered uses for the dead woman’s Christmas decorations. I suddenly felt a pervasive wrongness and ran down the stairway and out the door.
My chest tightened with a coldness as I recalled the estate sale planner’s indifferent laughter as he had haggled with chatty voyeur-vultures over the deceased woman’s possessions. The event was a carnival, a bit of entertainment. And of course, it was business for the planner and the heirs.
The house had a price tag, too, and I’ve noticed that it already wears that new coat of paint. Now, when I go by on my walks, I’m afraid I know more about this bungalow than I have a right to.
MEMO: “Your turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a “Your turn” column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write “Your turn,” The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210-1615.