A Door Knock
The smelling salts… of an old house, with an old attic, back ell, shed, carriage house, cellar now lacking its snuff bottle, front room talking table AND … empty upstairs bedroom number one… jolted my foggy view mind… BACK to my ‘being sucked down the bathtub drain’ of this estate ‘crash and burn’… so that I came to …to focus on Nathan as if in a bold ammonia sniffed peeling away… of that misty vision of an old secretary LOST and I… stepped past him, back out the door, across the hall and into… bedroom number two. He followed.
There was nothing? “Wait a minute”. I plucked the odd rectangular ‘tray’ from the pile of old fabric ish trash piled …again at the center of the room. “Two bucks” I mechanically said and held the tray firm.
“That? Two?” said Nathan. “What is it?’
“Went in a trunk.”
“Two bucks. You want to sell it?”
“Ah… Well… SURE.”
Although I’d spied ‘something else’, I hold the tray between my knees and fetch-flip two dollars cash from my pocket to Nathan. Then I re-hold-it-firm the tray and step to an “old board?” leaning up against the far wall. Nearly two feet wide and about a short seven feet tall it was ‘obviously old’ with a fine deep age toned surface, old smoothing plane marks on one side and ‘up and down’ early saw mill marks on the back side. I… “three bucks”
“For the board? Well. I was going to use it.”
“Yeah like not here but home.”
“Use it for what?” I said.
‘TO WALL PAPER. It’s a wall papering board.”
“Wall papering? It’s a little SHORT for that.” I say leaning the board away from the wall, peeking at its back side then leaning it back.”
“It’s not for wall paper.”
“What is it?”
“A laying out board.”
“When people died. They laid ‘em out on it?”
“Yup. I always find ‘em in old places. They all had ‘em.”
“Laying out board?”
“See the length. A little short for anything else. Always wide like that too. Probably they used it for a century.”
“You SELL those?
“NO. It just old lumber; too short old lumber. I sell ‘em but don’t say what they are. There’s not enough wood to do anything with it. It just a nice old board.”
“Want to sell it?” I could see Nathan churning this new information input and NOT getting a ‘favorable response’ internally.
“Ah. How about ten?”
I repeat the trunk tray to knees poise and speedily deploy five dollars to him …for a ‘laying out board’.
Presuming a phobia opportunity denoted here I inform that …yes… it is a fine phobia and should one be an old house contents hunter… one will… ‘find one’. So often ‘left behind’ during ‘clean outs’… or actually ‘kept out’ ‘by the owners’ ‘who don’t know’ but “like it” (the “that old board”). So often found in a ‘there’ of a… household INTERIOR upstairs room and stored there to preserve it. So often in ‘splendid original surface’ condition. So often the “what a NICE old BOARD” to the unknowing feel and eye. So often always the same CLEAN, SMOOTH, HAND FINISHED and occasionally …tombstone… rounded at the ‘top’. So often the a “little too WIDE for an IRONING BOARD” “I guess it was”. No. They were “set up”… in a downstairs front room for a ‘laying out’ and then… very carefully “put back”. I find them all the time. Most ‘old places’ ‘have one’. They do not haunt me.
The board haunted Nathan. I could tell that by the way he soaked in his view of me… with the board tucked under my arm. I, lightly stepping, took advantage of his quandary moment, skipped past him out of the room, went down the hall, set the… laying out board… against the wall at the top of the stairs and… went into the next bedroom.
Nathan followed. He’d miss a trail sign in the last room. I hadn’t. But: “A lot of good it’ll do me” for “the place has been stripped”. Trail sign? THAT TRAY in the trash pile would ‘never happen’ if a REAL antiques dealer… had cleaned out and then ‘final checked’ that room. It’s a small thing but the denominator is that the trunk tray is a “too good” to leave behind for “EVERYONE” “ALWAYS” has a trunk that is “MISSING ONE” so to have a “found one” that can be “dropped in” to virtually ANY old trunk with NO EFFORT at all to enhance its value… is…: “Wouldn’t leave it behind”.
THAT MEANS that whoever cleaned out the room ‘didn’t know’ and … nobody checked THAT room; a ‘final walk through’ that I do perpetually on all clean outs… . THAT means… ‘something could be left behind’ LIKE THE SNUFF BOTTLE WAS. And now this trunk tray. That …aspect… of THIS ESTATE… NOW… I… “KEEP YOUR EYES ROVING”. It paid off ‘in spades’.