Night Hero Costumes for Seduction
“I didn’t know this came with a show.”
“This one’s free.”
“You’ll have to pay for the next one.”
Have you ever been caught eavesdropping? It sucks. There’s never a good a reason to eavesdrop and no one has ever successfully convinced the people they were eavesdropping on that they were doing the thing they started pretending to do to avoid being caught. Not ever.
Some much-needed context.
“I didn’t know this came with a show.”
A woman held a rectangular box pinned to her hip, careful to conceal its contents. The label on the back betrayed her discretion: Night Hero Costume for Seduction. That was her this.
“This one’s free”
A man was standing behind a table inside a building decorated with a hand painted wooden sign that read: “Assholes Garage”. Contrary to the sign’s declaration, this was not a garage filled with, nor built for, literal assholes. This garage belonged to an asshole. One who didn’t believe in subtle communication of any kind (or apostrophes). I was pretending to look at one of his five weed whackers while he undressed. Why he was undressing, I can’t quite say.
He was the show. And, this one was free.
She said, with light-hearted notes of flirty sarcasm.
“You’ll have to pay for the next one.”
The toothiest of smiles. Full Cheshire. Thankfully my creep vibe detector was set to silent because this would have provoked the air raid siren.
Playful and coy. Either her creep vibe detector was broken, at home, or was set to desperate. I suppose the night hero costume was already working.
Until this point, the exchange could be chalked up to an (overly) friendly neighbourhood cringe-festival. I’ve known adults like this before. Everything is sexual, but only in a very superficial and jokey way. Almost like they don’t know what actual intimacy might sound or look like.
This felt real. Real and weird. I wasn’t even pretending to look at half-operational lawn care items anymore. Instead, I was scanning the yard sale – which was almost crowded – and wondering if I was the only person hearing this. My mother was picking through bags of jewelry. Working. Completely oblivious. No help at all.
She was giggling, not laughing, an important distinction. There was a nervousness to it. Two thirds of the people in this conversation were, on some level, uncomfortable now.
He was serious. He had misread her intentions and was now double-checking. I had just eavesdropped on an indecent proposal. Let me repeat: a half-shirted man had just invited a woman he met heartbeats ago to a second, half-shirted strip show, and he meant it.
The woman was just trying to buy an off-brand superhero seduction costume.
It was 8:13 am.
And, I was listening to every syllable.
And, they both caught me.
Maybe if either had read Eavesdropping: An Intimate History, by Dr. John L. Locke, they’d understand the reason why I was standing there. According to Locke, eavesdropping is something I was biologically programmed to do. Birds do it. Chimpanzees do it. I didn’t have a choice.
As Ron Burgundy once said: “It’s science.”
Fun fact #1: It’s called eavesdropping for a very literal reason. In the olden days, to hear someone sharing gossip behind closed doors, you’d need to be close enough to hear a drop of water fall from the eaves of their house.
Fun fact #2: Locke argues that eavesdropping was something biologically mandated across species. Humans with strong auditory senses and the intellect to hide something he calls “data collection” held a survival advantage. This makes sense. I’m not sure if the survival part applies now, but I’m definitely in the business of data collection. 
 “And cousin, business is a-boomin.” – Aldo Raine.
I doubt Locke had ever considered that his lifetime’s research might be shoe-horned into a comedic recount of an ill-conceived advance on a driveway in Central Ontario. And yet, there we were.
Let’s return to the part where two strangers had caught me listening to a one-sided yard-sale courtship. When the woman realized he was serious, she became instantly aware of the optics of the moment and instinctively looked over her shoulder. Our eyes met, hers embarrassed, mine bulging idiotically in awkward commiseration. His semi-glare intercepted my bulge  and narrowed in annoyance.
 There’s got to be a better way to phrase that.
Social interaction at a yard sale is difficult for me on the best of days. There would be no effortless chirp or tension dicing joke.
I did the only thing I could do.
I turned around, in total silence, and speed-walked back to the car. My mother followed behind, likely wondering if I had just stolen something or needed to use the toilet.
No, mother, just a bit of yard sale sexy-time eavesdropping turned sideways.
I’m not sure if this blog is worth it.
We stopped in front of an empty driveway.
“Maybe the sale was last week?”
I walked back to the road. “No, it’s got today’s date. It says the yard sale is in the back.”
The backyard was empty, too.
Just then, a serious looking elderly man whizzed past us on a golf-cart.
“Are we in the right place?” my mother asked.
“We’re either about to find a yard sale, a golf course, or be killed in someone’s lair. I’d say it’s an even split.”
We walked for another forty metres before I noticed something moving in a nearby shed.
I’m not sure who drew closer first, but I was not-so-accidentally standing shoulder to shoulder with my mother.
Just then, a clatter, then a clang, and a bit of muttered cursing. I peered around the corner to find a woman trying to move a rack of golf clubs. It was going horribly wrong. Clubs were sneaking out the bottom as she inched her way across the shed. Someone, perhaps her son, finally intervened, helping her lift the rack, allowing the remainder of the clubs to decorate the ground.
They both stopped to politely welcome us to the sale before attending to the mess.
My mother and I, the conscientious social-distancers that we are, maintained six-feet from helping them.
At the back of the shed, there were a series of prints. One of the frames was mutilated, but that’s okay.
Unofficial rule to profitable yard saling: It’s almost never a bad thing if an item is in pristine condition, but, it isn’t the end of the world if it’s not. Some stuff can be broken and retain its value. A picture frame can be mangled and the painting or print can still be worth a bunch.
A quick sorting game of how much condition matters:
Damage might not affect the value
You’d prefer it was mint, but damage won’t destroy your bottom line
Any damage and the value plummets
My mother and I scanned eight or nine prints. We settled on these four.
I liked this one for its subject matter. People collect items related to horses. Horse people, my father once called them.
Maud Lewis was a folk artist from Nova Scotia. I'm not sure if her prints are worth anything, but they have a certain charm to them.
This was the print I liked the most.
It's from a specific place, which (if I'm remembering correctly), gives it a market.
It's numbered. They only made one hundred of these. Numbered is good.
Santa painted it. THE Santa? That's practically unheard of.
“How much for your prints?”
“Some of those are Maud Lewis.”
Not a good sign.
Saying some of the prints were Maud Lewis’ was a bit disingenuous. It’s kind of like visiting the Louvre and buying a picture of the Mona Lisa and giving that picture to your friend and saying “This is a Da Vinci.”
It is, but, it really isn’t.
“Well,” my mother said gently, “they’re prints, right? So…”
“Yeah. You’re right. Plus, that one is destroyed. Twenty bucks sound fair?”
"Do you need a new mailbox?"
We do, I thought, but I ultimately declined. I'm not really a golfer, anyway.
My mother can’t hide the fact that she lied about Phil Collins. It took three seconds of Sussuddio for her wedding dance-floor face to surface. Shoulders swaying. There was some intermittent humming and mumbled lyrics. She was smiling and seat-dancing like no one was watching.
“You like Phil Collins!”
She shot me a false scowl and said “No!” in the least believable way, continuing her seat sway, “I can still dance to it.”
Reasonable reactions to someone playing a record you have repeatedly deemed lame:
Verbal chastising and complaints;
Physical Interference and/or
A treatise outlining all the problems you have with the artist and why the record is trash
Pursed-lip-head-nods and seat dancing do not make the list!
Verdict: We, the jury, find Ann-Marie Carruth guilty of being a closeted Phil Collins fan.
Sentence: Five straight play throughs of No Jacket Required. Further, we require A formal retraction or apology, preferably on a social media platform.
If her demeanour during sentencing was any indication, I’d say she welcomed a morning of steering-wheel drumming and eye-shutting choruses, though I very much doubt the retraction was forthcoming.
Two stories about small rodents and death
We were half-way through a stirring rendition of “Take Me Home” when my mother nearly killed us. A chipmunk had set two paws on the road and my mother swerved into the oncoming lane, then over-corrected and nearly took us off the shoulder. Her little friend scurried back to the ditch, presumably to be air-lifted by some sort of predatory bird.
Any anger I might have felt was supplanted by gratitude. It was good to be alive.
Young Drivers of Canada once taught me: “If you can see over it, drive over it,” which I always felt was a touch cruel (not to mention questionable in it’s lack of specificity).
I’m not about to run a dog over if I can help it. Children, too.
My sister took the same course, only she took the words to heart.
This was a code.
A way of life. 
Once when she was driving with my mother, she accelerated to run a squirrel over.
My mother looked at her future serial killer, mouth agape.
Still in shock, words failed to escape my mother’s lips.
“If you can see over it, drive over it,” my sister droned, not unlike the Terminator.
“Yeah. Okaaaay. But, not accelerate over it. You can try to avoid killing things if it’s safe. Right?”
My sister nodded, clear-eyed, made a mental note of my mother’s weakness and continued on her way.
 Poor choice of words.
My mother has trouble ordering food within the generally accepted boundaries of social interaction. She always asks a lot of questions. Her chief concerns tend to be food content, preparation methods, the chef’s mood or astrological sign, and which personalized options she can persuade the staff into offering her. She rarely orders something straight off the menu without rendering it completely unrecognizable from the chef’s original vision.
The wonderful staff at Ginger’s Bakery endured the following. Between each of her comments, imagine a young person perma-smiling, nodding, and generally being awesome.
“I would like six cup cakes, please.”
“Actually, maybe… I don’t know.”
“Or is it better to get eight?”
“Why don’t you get twelve?” I asked. Pouring a little gasoline on this brewing dumpster fire.
“Okay, we’ll get twelve.”
“I’ll take four red velvet, four double chocolate, four vanilla bean, and four strawberry lemonade.”
“That’s too many cupcakes,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s sixteen cupcakes.”
My mother placed her hand on her chest and laughed, embarrassed. “I’m sorry!”
“I’ll take four red velvet, four double chocolate, four vanilla bean, an-"
“No. No and. That’s twelve.”
“I know. I know. I’m thinking we need to switch something for the strawberry lemonade.”
I shrugged apologetically, and took a full step back from the counter. I repeated this every few seconds, until new customers might mistake us as strangers.
My mother subbed cupcakes in and out for the next two minutes. Just as she got the perfect blend, I threw one more twist.
“Bobby loves fuzzy peaches!”
Something inside our young baker was on the edge of certain death. This next part was the final nail.
“I’ll also take four dessert bars. And if it’s possible… could you only pick ones that weren’t baked on the edge of the pan?”
“Edge of the pan?” I asked. “What’s that?”
“I want the bars from the centre of the pan.”
Really? Centre bars? I can't. This is the single most damning sentence of our entire summer.  If House Carruth held land and title in Westeros, our words would be We Only Eat the Centre Bars.
"I'll do the best I can," he said... to not burn this whole bakery down if you don't leave soon.
 “The world is not enough, but it is such a perfect place to start, my love.”
Only fifteen minutes from home, I noticed a sign: Yard Sale – You are Here.
We both second-guessed if stopping was worth it.
“Might as well give it a try,” I said. After all, we were there.
The driveway was about twenty metres long, and there, hidden from the highway, was a second sign: Everything is Free.
The man “hosting” the sale emerged from his workshop to inform us that there were boxes along the edge of the lawn and that we could grab as many as we wanted.
The only other yard-salers were two young Mennonite women. They were busying themselves with a stack of Tupperware.
I had never been to a free yard sale before. I’d seen free piles, ones with odd decapitated Barbies and half-eaten bags of black licorice, but never an entire sale.
We found a set of commemorative Blue Jays World Series glasses, old cameras with expensive flashes, beautiful bracket-type things, an entire antique stamp collection, some books on Canadian architecture (lest I continue to describe houses as kinda cottage-y), a few scattered dishes, and a pretty pin.
I overheard one of the Mennonites failed whispers to her friend. Nothing salacious, though I was eavesdropping nonetheless.
That’s it, I thought. Not again.
I collected our boxes, yelled a bit of thanks towards the shop, and headed back to the car.