With a sensation that all oxygen was leaving the archive room I watched the historical society’s screen saver conquer the computer’s archive listing screen. Light headed, I fantasized that the proper action to take was to call 911 and request a medical evacuation helicopter to land in front of the historical society and ...whisk me away... ‘to safety’... right now. As that total body and mind fainting fantasy passed without either I collapsing OR needing to put my head down between my knees to prevent that faint, my ears... returned to the reception area’s conversation. I had missed a snippet? That could be for from what I heard now the conversational couplets were in ‘winding down mode’.
“I DO thank you EVER SO MUCH for your donations. (The assistant director) will come up tomorrow morning with our truck. We will have everything taken care of tomorrow so you can be on your way.”
“THAT is WONDERFUL.” said ‘Jenny’ putting her sunglasses back in her hair and turning toward the door out as... the director... still holding her mirror... started forward into her turn with the mirror and this ...acted to push ‘Jenny’ towards and then OUT of the front door as the director ...followed closely WITH the mirror continuing to... ‘push’.
I... breathed through my mouth what tasted like fresh, cool air and... stood there.
After the exact amount of time it would take to SHOVE a large mirror into the back seat of ‘sports car’ from New York state, the director returned. He came directly to the archive room. “Sorry about that.” he said.
I, in an ecstasy cloud called ‘reprieve”, stirred the kettle by saying “That mirror is 1950’s”.
“I know but I can’t tell her that.”
“I saw that at the sale. Charles’ wife bought it new. It was always in the living room. Above the sofa.”
“I have to say something nice. When I have to say something nice... I SAY ‘VICTORIAN’. What can I do. She just gave us everything in her house for the benefit sale next summer.”
“Really? You did good. And just as long as I don’t have to say anything nice I don’t care.”
“You’d tell her the truth? She just gave us a house FULL of that stuff. First she wanted us to pick things out for our collection. I had to tell her then: There is NOTNING in that house we need for our collection. THAT: I did tell her THAT.”
“You’ve seen the house?”
“Yes. Most of it”.
“We’ve already... SHE’S been bringing the stuff here for a WEEK. We’re going to clean it out tomorrow. Come here. Look at this stuff. I don’t know what I’m gonna do for space. The sale is NEXT YEAR!”
We left archive room, turned right behind the reception desk, went down a hall straight to its end and entered left into a large room... with a smaller room off of it... leading to an enclosed side porch... ALL jammed full of ... ‘stuff’. The first thing I noted was that... a lot of the stuff... I recognized... as coming from Charles’ house; from the sale... WITH THE PRICE TAGS STILL ON.
“Too. All of that’s coming too. NOT this week I told them. They’re selling the house. Everyone’s selling their house. ...And giving the stuff to us. Where am I going to PUT a HOUSE FULL? ON TOP OF ANOTHER HOUSE FULL?
“You need a professional”.
“Oh no; not me. I LIKE seeing people like you MIRED in this crud.” We both gazed out across the room... into the next room... and on to the stacked boxes (“those are mostly books”) and furniture on the porch. I looked at the foreground; the immediate stuff in front of me. It had arranged itself by chance. That happens with decorator type decorative arts objects (often miss titled “ANTIQUES”): Simply bunch them together and they LOOK like someone spent hours contemplating their arrangement... AND WAS PAID TO DO THAT. Paid ‘a lot’. The director watched as I reached out and adjusted a lamp shade so it was level. “Quality” I said.
“You better come to the sale.”
“Not me. You’ll sell all of it. You always do. Just tell ‘em it all came from the Captain Drinkwater house (Mr. Simon’s house; see Part Four). I mean; it actually did.”
The director gave me ‘a look’. The ‘a look’ said ‘crossing a line again I see’ merged with the ‘unspoken I will be doing that unspoken’. (How? With ‘no one is supposed to know’; he tells the secretary that ‘no one’s suppose to know... that it all came from the Captain Drinkwater Estate... and... no one’s suppose to know’. That becomes a local presale mantra that... ‘no one’s suppose to know’ that... either. By the time this thought passes I’m looking on to a three... open top cardboard trays-made-from-cut down-cardboard boxes... gathering... of ALL ‘from kitchen drawers’ stuff ALL from Charles’ house... WITH the price tagging “ALL” for “$40.00” in thick black Sharpie taped to the trays. The director looks at me looking and says:
“SHE said there was a DESK for sale there that was SELLING for FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS? Did YOU see that?”
“Desk SELLING for fifteen thousand? ...No.”
“She said there was A DESK. I didn’t see any DESK.”
“Did I?” I said... as a question... while knowing I should be saying “I did” as an honest statement.
“Well... she COULD HAVE...” he continued but was cutoff by my
“NOT known what she was TAKING ABOUT?”. I said definitively.
“Why yes; that. But. I mean: I DIDN’T SEE anything DID YOU?”
“See a desk for sale? Not any desks for sale. They kept the one in the living room. One of them KEPT IT. Said she LIKED IT.”
“Oh. That’s probably it. She probably saw THAT. Did you buy anything?”’ “Buy? Oh. LATER in the WEEK I went back and bought some dibs and dabs. Nothing. A chair for twenty bucks and some other trash”.
“A chair. You paid twenty? What was it?” Pause. Eye contact. “I know you. If you paid twenty bucks for a chair it IS something”.
“It was a chair in Charles’ tool shop. Off the shed”.
“Oh that stuff. Tools. I don’t need TOOLS. But. I guess we’re gonna get that too. What’s left of them. The men are going through them first.”
“There’s plenty left in that house. Your gonna need a truck there too.”
The director gave me a frown and then said “IF ONLY we could just LEAVE the stuff in those places until just before the sale. WHY do I have to WADE AROUND in this stuff ALL WINTER.”
“Maybe you should have a sale after Christmas.”
The director stood looking a me and my eyes past him to further view the mounds of stuff in the rooms. Still looking at me he said calmly “That’s not a bad idea”.
I glanced back to him and then returned to my scenic vista poise.
“Let’s get back to those photographs.” he said.
“Photographs?” I said
“The Kimball house?
“OH YEAH; yeah. I forgot WHY I came; I forgot what I came for.”
“THAT... is not like you.” he said from in front of me as we started up the hallway to return to doorway of the archive room. Here he stopped. In front of me. Blocking the doorway. “Look. I didn’t see anything right off. Give me a few days to think about this. I probably have something.”
“Well; I’m not holding my breath.”
The director turns to face me. “You never do.”
“Oh no: I hold it all the time. I just held it HERE this morning.”
“Yeah. I saw that. And: I am sure it was for a good reason. Or a BAD reason Just probably not as BAD a reason as you showing up here today”.
“A BAD reason?”
“I can add. You come today to see if we have photographs of the furnishings of the Kimball estate. You tell me you just bought a chair. That you bought that chair at the sale of the house contents of the life long caretaker of the Kimball estate. And you paid twenty dollars you say. (Pause). I know you would usually only pay TWO dollars for ANY chair.”
“The timeline’s wrong.” I said.
“For the chair?”
“Ah. NO: For the photographs. Or any pictures. Or list.”
“Yeah: The Kimball place was sold in 1962. This place; the historical society, wasn’t started until 1974. That’s twelve years. That house had already sold again. AT LEAST ONCE. Right? You guys never got anything from there. YOUR after the fact. Maybe you’ve been up there? Been through the house; the front rooms? See anything?
“I haven’t been in there in years”.
“Right. See? You don’t know if the furniture’s still there?”
“No... I don’t. I don’t even know if it WAS there”.
“And now I realize... that you probably never had anything HERE. It was before you started up. So...; no one would have... well... SOMEONE would have had to SPECIFICALLY cover it; that house. The furnishings. And no one has. Because you’d know it; about it, IF someone from here had. Right?”
“Well... MAYBE there’s something.”
“I bet it’s just general; you know... THE SEA CAPTAIN MERRITT KIMBALL’S HOUSE ‘is glorious AND historic’.”
“You know... STANDING here with you... the ONLY THING I can remember ever hearing about the house is how your GRANDMOTHER got everything that was any good out of there. She got the whole house full FROM THE KIMBALLS themselves. THAT’S WHAT I’ve ALWAYS heard.
“Yeah. But. The FRONT ROOM furniture was kept; sold, TO THE SUMMER PEOPLE. WITH THE HOUSE. That’s what I remember.”
“So you bought a chair you thinks from there?” (Pause.) “I’d like to see that chair sometime. Bring it by. I’ll ask them about the furniture when they comeback next summer.”
“When they come back”.
“But. Let’s just go up and look. Who’s the caretaker?”
“Ah.... I DON’T KNOW. I can find out though.”
“Just tell ‘em we want to go up there and look at the furniture.”
“Can I see your chair?”
“I’d just show you a different chair anyway”.
“I don’t want to take the furniture. I just want to SEE it.”
“Is it Victorian?” he says referring to my chair.
“Go price your sale stuff.”
“Sale stuff? Price it?”
“That crud. For your new JANUARY sale. JUST FOR THE LOCALS. No summer people.”
“I think that’s a good idea”.