A month past. The telephone rang. It was Margaret. “I HAVE SOME MORE OF MOTHER’S RUBBISH I WANT TO SELL TO YOU SO COME UP HERE TOMORROW.” she commanded. I did as I was told.
Of course nothing had changed and Margaret’s offerings were pitiful from an antiquarian perspective. But… three notices came out of this visit. First, this trip became the model for near monthly, brief, all business, rubbish purchasing trips that went on for the next six years. There was never an improvement in the quality of the rubbish and never a change in the formula of the visits. From these junctures I had a private epiphany: Margaret did not like or care about antiques. She did not know or care about a good antique …or a bad antique. Her gatherings were in imitation of her mother: they had no root of true interest or commercial caring to package them. Her business with me in the front parlor was also imitation of the mother. Margaret did what she thought one did. This ritual of selling to me is what she knew to do, had learned to do, had been trained to do and obsessively DID DO “to keep up appearances” as she’d been told to do. All my visits became very… very brisk as Margaret streamlined the process to suit her complete disinterest in ALL OF IT.
Secondly I noted the progressive decline of Margaret both physically and mentally. Frail, thinning, hair becoming not kept then moving to wild, the addition of numerous noises, grunts and mutters made to herself in front of me combined with distant looks above and away from our business …and… a general impatience… never expressed or acted on… towards all of the visit… caused me to call Margaret to be “getting (more) cuckoo”. Margaret living alone in the giant old antique house of her mothers, wandering through it on endless day & night pilgrimages calling for “mother” to guide or …end… this expanding odyssey of lonely cuckoo became a very obvious horror to me.
The rubbish she brought forth proves this oblivion. It became clear to me that the old living section of the home, including the sheds and barns, were, unlike the front section rooms I’d briefly glimpsed, JAMMED FULL of “mother’s rubbish” and TRULY it WAS RUBBISH. The mother never “kept” a “good thing”. IF she had a good thing… it was sold. All that filled these huge spaces was the residue rubbish rejected from ALL the mother’s rubbish she had gathered. The mother did not leave a single treasure in her house full of plunder. Margaret had become the heir to this oblivion; the curator of a rubbish collection bestowed to “keep up appearances”. “I’d go cuckoo too” I concluded.
The third notice was a one time query I made on this first visit. Boldly I asked “Have you been to Blood’s Farm?”
“YES AND TOO MUCH I HAVE BEEN THERE ALREADY WITH THAT DRUNKARD HUNTING NEIGHBOR BOYS HE THINKS ARE PIRATES. MUSTER DAY WITH THE FIREMEN STARTED AS A BEAUTIFUL OLD STYLE PICNIC IN THE BLOOD’S FARM YARD BUT ENDED WITH DRUNK MEN SHOOT CANNONS AT EACH OTHER. MY GOD I THOUGHT WE HAD ALL GONE TO HELL.”
“The firemen shot off cannons?” I said.
“THE PIRATES SHOT FIRST. THEY HIT THE SIDE OF THE HOUSE BY THE ATTIC. THE FIREMEN FETCHED A CANNON OUT OF THE FIRE TRUCK AND FIRED BACK. Eb-bEE WAS BESIDE HIMSELF THINKING THE HOUSE WAS GOING TO SINK. THE FIREMEN HIT ONE OF THE PIRATES AND HE FELL OVERBOARD. Eb-bEE WANTED HIS HEAD TO PUT ON A SPIKE. THE FIREMEN TOLD HIM THE FISH WERE EATING THE BODY. NOBODY WAS EATING THE PICNIC. THEY WERE ALL DRUNK AND SHOOTING THE CANNON. I COULDN’T WAIT TO GET OUT OF THERE”.
At a later date it was explained to me that the firemen had arranged this picnic AND a mock pirate fight on the river for Eb-bEE’s …and theirs… boys-will-be-boys style entertainment also bringing Margaret in tow for a reunion with Eb-bEE. The cannonade lifted Eb-bEE to a new high of river pirate hunting. He was over the top with excitement, ignored Margaret and… the picnic DID deteriorate into a “few too many cold ones I guess” and a lot of expended black powder. What I specifically got out of this was the realization that Eb-bEE was NOT a drunkard but that Margaret used the drunkard term to denote and conceal …cuckoo. She preferred to think Eb-bEE was drunk instead of cuckoo.
I must admit that… I… became personally fascinated by this Margaret – Blood’s Farm drama so actually passionately attended each “come hither” call from Margaret. I bought truck loads of worthless rubbish willingly, hung on each word uttered by Margaret for clues to deeper events, had more and more chance meetings with locals and firemen watching out for all three, vigorously absorbed those people’s gossipy utterances and… actually enjoyed my singular role in the drama. The firemen did too. Of all the people, THEY seemed to be the only ones who actually cared about the “antiques; the houses are full of them what if there’s a fire they’re VERY VALUBLE”. The men did not have a clue as to WHAT any given “antique” was but they were absolutely sure I KNEW WHAT was WHAT and that they were… “VERY VALUABLE”.
Six years went by. By that time Margaret looked and acted like a frayed rope. As for Blood’s Farm, I understood the Alice still held court below decks in her kitchen while Eb-bEE still hunted and evaded pirates on the river from the attic windows. His head was not on a spike I was always assured. At the six year mark, with no notice at all, Margaret stopped calling me. For six months all was silent.