Part Twenty - A
There was… and there is… no fourth floor at Mr. Simon’s summer place. So how could an old curtain ‘fall-back’? There are two floors equal and then a third floor upon whose windows are only three-fourths the size of the floors below. No fourth floor?
Yes… a ‘fourth floor’? Yes; a widow’s watch; a little hexagonal room dead centered on top of the ‘it all’ of this… middle of the architectural pack of Maine classic ‘Federal’ style home, ‘circa 1816-1822’… according to the local… ‘historical society’s notes’. There were no old curtains hanging in the widow’s watch …that year ago today almost ‘just before Memorial Day weekend’ that I…
Was “invite you” (their words) to “a walk through” (my words to them; Mr. Simon’s spawn). I was not at all in the Mr. Simon …clarity… that I should have been when I first arrived …there. There had been the appointment-to-make call and query from a “Jennifer Hanzelbach call me Jenny”. A brief “I-- HAVE ANTIQUES – AM SELLING HOUSE – SELLING ANTIQUES – WOULD YOU BUY THEM (actually intoned as ‘you will buy them”)” from her. The “we” “will walk through” “and then talk” from me. Then a “cancel that appointment I’m getting my hair done”. So a new appointment. Then a cancel that one “I HAVE TO GO TO PORTLAND TO PICK UP MY SON HE’S FLYING UP (from New York) (for Memorial Day)”. We rescheduled to the ‘next day’ “THANK YOU”.
I stepped out of the truck, looked at the widow’s watch, walked to the front door, was admitted by a twenty something ‘fine young man’, escorted to the living room where ‘Jenny’ stood waiting. I was thirty seconds early so that negated that sort of bad start. She… was a little ‘big sister’ older than me, shorter than me, dressed summer preppy and had her sunglasses stuck up in her dyed blond hair. These she took out of the hair and held in her hand while she did a quick down and up with her eyes of me. Quick and evidently satisfied, she returned the sunglasses to her hair as we …shake hands. I, tied, sport jacketed and Brooks Brothers collar roll above the go anywhere in Maine combat conditions Bean Boots… past her ‘visual’. I guess.
“Yes, Yes, Yes.” answered from me all her “THIS HOUSE OUR HOUSE SELLING HOUSE OUR STUFF FAMILY STUFF ALL FAMILY COMING HERE FOREVER STUFF ALWAYS HERE NEVER BOUGHT ANYTHING I CAN REMEMBER NEW SOFA RACHEL WANTS IT MOST OTHERS ALREADY PICKED OUT WHAT’S LEFT SELL TO YOU”.
“Maybe” I said.
“I buy antiques.”
“Not used furniture.”
“Oh. Well. These ARE antiques.”
“We will walk through quickly and then talk.”
We did. The first floor was… living areas… for a large transient summer people families coming and going… that is ‘closed up’ for ‘the rest of the year’. The second floor was… bedrooms for adults surrounding a very new bathroom that was… probably one of the finest bathrooms in the village. The third floor was… once a two centuries ago the servants quarters (including ‘slaves’)… but NOW a kiddy floor (under age thirty) of crummy cots in small & crummy 1950’s rooms surrounding a center crummy room with crummy old furniture that all faced a brand new flat screen television and …had a toilet room with shower ‘off of it’. The forth floor was an attic creep to the …latched door… to the widow’s watch. I unlatched the door and peeked in. Then closed and latched it. “No antiques” I said to myself.
“No antiques.” I said to Jenny.
“But. All the furniture IS OLD”.
“That is true.” I said.
“You are not interested?”
“Yes I am not interested.”
“You have old used furniture. I seek antiques.”
“But that dry sink is old.” She said gesturing toward a… 1950’s cobbled together from old wood and then having its surface unified by heavy handed sanding, beating with chains and ‘varnishing’.
“Ah. It’s fifties. Not old.” I said robotically.
“Not old? It’s ALWAYS been there.”
I looked at the sink. It had a copper planter with a nearly dead plant in that planter. The planter sat down in the well of the ‘dry sink’.
“It’s made-up of old wood. 1950’s. Very common. It’s not antique.” I said and walked over to the dry sink. The near dead plant was bone dry but the planter had been recently ‘watered’…meaning that morning… just before I arrived. I didn’t care because my eye caught a classic antique blue color beneath the planter. My eye searched further… fast.
Seeing… what my eye was seeing, my mind instructed my hand to reach out and lift the copper planter where upon that lifting revealed the abominable affirmation that I had before me found… an antique.
I reached with the other hand and lifted my heart beating prize away from ‘under’ and set the planter back. Up came a piece of ‘old china’… a sixteen inch dark blue transferware English Staffordshire American Historical scene – the common at Pittsfield, Mass.- decorated… platter. I said “Ah.” and reversed the platter to …denote the maker/title mark on its bottom. I continued the firm grip with that hand as I quickly and lightly rapped the platter with the other hand to ‘hear if it’s cracked’. It was not cracked. It was ‘dirty’ from being an under the planter with the near dead plant for… HOW MANY DECADES?
“Here’s one.” I said.
“Here’s one?” Jenny said.
“An antique.” I said. “Forty bucks”.
“Antique? That?” she said as I waved that platter toward her in one hand. She paused, peered and then said “It’s so DIRTY”.
“Been under the plant”.
“That’s old; an antique?”
“Pittsfield MASS.” I said. “Old china. Historic view. Forty dollars.”
“Pittsfield?” Jenny said bending slightly forward to squint at the front of the platter as I stepped toward her. “I’ve been there”.
“Right. Not that tranquil there today.” I said referring to the pastoral view of the common.
“No. I didn’t like it. Dirty.”
“This I can buy. It’s old enough.”
“Buy? That. You’ll pay forty dollars? For that?”
“It’s awfully dirty.”
“It should clean up enough.”
“It will never be perfect.”
“Do you want to sell it?”
“For forty dollars? For that? … Sure. I guess.”
I put the platter under my left arm and retrieved my rubber banded roll of money from my pocket. I peeled off two twenty dollar bills and handed them to …Jenny. She took them. WAY… WAY …WAY up, up, up above in the widow’s watch… a curtain …that was not actually there… dropped back, a shadowed moved and a ghost awoke and: This ghost PIERCED DOWNWARD like a saber’s plunge through three floors of solid Maine sea captain’s ‘mansion’ to prick its tip directly dead center at the back of my skull with a CASCADE of ghost shadow shouting that had a grown man as the voice while the whispered shrill of my own grandmother skipped and cackled about this man’s voicing saga
And over… in seconds… it was.
I heard it ALL. Yes I… heard Mr. Simon say HOW HE had seen my grandmother retrieve this platter from the door behind the sofa. HOW HE had watched her push the sofa back with her butt. HOW HE had never seen a woman move a sofa with her butt. HOW HE had whiskeyed. How he had bought the platter (Part Five). How he… had given the platter to his wife. How it had ‘never more”. How he had ‘never more’ about it too. How he himself was, too… ‘never more’. This while the squeaking cold cackling shrill winding wind voicings of my own grandmother affirmed the images that I now saw clearing in my skull back eye that I, too, was then there too but only the ‘show you’ eight years old “then”. All this I affirmed to myself as Jenny …folded the money and put it in the pocket of her shorts. And then took the sunglasses down from her hair. Again. And held them in her hand as she looked at the dirty back side of the platter sticking out from under my arm. I did not set the platter down.