Every now and then, on my way around town, I would pass a shop with used appliances in its business name. It had all manner of junk piled up in the parking lot until the building itself was barely visible.
Two things- when I say “all manner of” that means washers and dryers on their very last leg and when I say “junk piled up in the parking lot” I mean there was room for a grand total of two cars to park in the lot because of the graveyard of refrigerators and file cabinets.
There was something about the place, though, and one day I pulled into the lot. I parked in a haphazard manner because there was no order to where a car should park and I walked past the looming metal filing cabinets that made a sort of maze. I caught small glimpses, in between the columns of metal cabinets, of old gas station signs and rusty advertisements hanging on a wooden stockade fence and, after hitting several dead ends, I finally found the front door.
“Well, whatcha want?!” a thick Italian/northeastern accent barked out.
Was she talking to me? I looked towards where I thought the voice came from and noticed an older lady and her younger carbon copy sitting next to her behind a cash register. Both women had eyebrows raised in expectation and a confrontational expression on their faces as if dinner had just been rudely interrupted. I glanced out the front window and confirmed that the neon open sign was still on and that it was, in fact, a place of business. Apparently, they also sold merchandise confirmed to be so when I double checked by looking for price tags and actually saw some.
I stepped back in the front door and said, “The old gas station signs hanging on your fence- what are you asking for on those?”
“Not for sale.” The older woman snapped out around her gum, that she was chewing as wide as her jaw hinges would let her. I looked her way again and noticed that she had grown bored with me…but not the daughter. She was waiting to pounce on the next words that might dare to come out of my mouth. Just beyond the two women was an open door way clearly marked “Solo Familia.” Only family.
The light was off in the room but an older man, reclined in an ancient Lazy Boy, with white hair and light blue eyes watched from the most advantageous seat in the house, aware of everything that went on in the business. His nickname, since one seems to always surface in these stories, could be none other than The Don.
I shifted my eyes back to the two women, Mama Mob and Mini Mob, and said, “What about the old carousel horse in the window?”
I glanced back at the old man to see his reaction. Maybe he would be more open to selling something to me. He smiled and shifted his attention elsewhere, knowing the answer before Mama Mob could bite out, “Nope, not for sale.”
I walked deeper into the store and kept looking around. I saw a beautiful and huge copper cauldron, several antique sleds and an antique crystal chandelier. I turned around to walk towards where I thought Mama Mob and Mini Mob were still chomping their gum and ran straight into Mini Mob who had been silently following me the whole time.
“What else?” she said.
“What do you want on the copper cauldron?”
“Not for sale.”
“And the antique sleds?”
“And the dining room table?”
“Oh…let me see it…” She leaned around me as if she was going to take a closer look, but her eyes never left mine. “Nope, not for sale, either.”
I looked closely at Mini Mob to see if she was messing with me and she looked right back at me to see if I was really that stupid.
Mama Mob walked towards us and then past as she gave the order, “Sorry, shug” short for sugar, “we’re closin’ up.”
On those words, Mini Mob walked towards me, clearly the Enforcer of La Familia, and by only the force of invading my hula hoop of personal space, she managed to escort me straight out the door, without touching me. I turned around to ask about their store hours and had the door slammed shut a mere centimeter from my nose. The open sign blinked once, twice and then died out. All light in the parking lot blinked off and I was left to my own wits to find my way out of the shadowy filing cabinet maze and back to my car.
I called my mom on my cell phone as soon as I got to my car, locking the doors quickly behind me and said by way of hello, “Mom you are not going to believe these people- they refused to sell me anything!” The conversation continued with me telling her yet another story of the quirky people that make up the wonderful world of junk and ended with me theorizing that the business was only a front to cover their shady mobster business dealings. “If they sell their junk, then they’ll have to get new junk to maintain their mobster front and they don’t have time for that because they’re too busy burying bodies under all the junk!”
Great theory, but, oh, how wrong I was.