Sunday a few days before his house was ready Caleb laughed and said he guessed he'd sleep on the floor since he had nothing to move in. Davis told him to speak to Molly and she had shown him what was left in the old barn, which was practically nothing. He said he guessed he'd buy what he could with what he had saved and get by with that until he saved some more.
Molly suggested they hit the yard sales and thrift and consignments shops in Audubon. “I bet you can find dishes and kitchen stuff there. I'll pick you up Saturday morning and we'll go shopping.”
When Caleb told Jamie what he was doing Saturday, Jamie burst into laughter. "Caleb, you, my young man, are in for an adventure. The only person I know who can out do me bargaining is Molly Edwards plus she knows every thrift store and consignment shop within fifty miles of Arkadelphia."
Just how serious a bargain hunter Molly was was revealed when she pulled up to Caleb's place at 6:30 in the deuce and a half with the sides on it. When he came out and got in, Molly said "Good morning, Caleb. Ready to go hunting?"
“I hope,” Caleb answered.
“Got to have a tour of your place when we get back. It sure looks nice outside.”
“Molly, it is. To me, it's an absolute palace."
“Hope I shouldn't keep my mouth shut, but have you heard from Cade?”
“Finally, he had been at some forward outpost without access to email. He's okay, but thinks we should just pull out and let the Afghans fight it out among themselves.”
“Glad he's okay. Thought we'd hit the yard sales first. There's one in Braggton, but I doubt it's worth the trip. We'll hit the middle-class ring around Audubon."
Their first stop was a gold mine. Three sisters were holding a yard sale of stuff from their mother's house. She had died and they were getting the house ready to put on the market. As he was looking around, Molly said, "Son, help your mother here. Take these things to the truck. There was a box of very nice dishes, a chest of flatware, stainless, but attractive, and sets of glasses. The latter had been put back in their original boxes.
He spied a set of cookware, again, packed in its original box. He gave the woman five dollars for it and as he was putting it in the truck saw the original two hundred fifty dollar sticker on the box. Before he could find anything else, Molly was bargaining with one of the sisters for a stack of sheets, pillowcases and towels. He had wandered over toward a stack of electronics even though he knew that would have to wait until after he got important stuff like a bed. "You can have it all for fifty," one of the sisters said.
Caleb smiled at her and said, “Great price, but what I need are essentials like a washer and dryer.”
“Take it you're not really Molly's son.”
“Not by blood, but Molly's the only Mama I can remember,” Caleb said and meant it.
“Tell you what, if you will disconnect and move them, you can have the nearly new washer and dryer and this stuff for a hundred fifty.”
“Lady you've got a deal. Where are the washer and dryer?”
“The utility room is in the garage.”
“Let me get this on the truck and I'll get the washer and dryer.” Comprising the electronic gear were a surround sound system, TV, DVD player and DVR. When Caleb got in the garage, he saw a hand truck and gave a sigh of relief. He got the washer to the street and realized he'd have to lift it into the truck and knew he couldn't do it.
Molly came over and asked, “You buy a dryer?”
“Washer, dryer and all the electronics for one fifty. Now the only problem is I can't lift this into the truck." Molly got in the truck, started it and the back gate folded out and started moving down. Caleb wheeled the washer onto the gate and Molly raised it. A piece of cake. He brought the dryer out and loaded it. Molly got bungee cords out of the truck and bundled sheet, towels, pillowcases and blankets with them.
“I think we've about mined out this sale,” Molly said.
“Guess they're not selling the furniture,” Caleb said. “Pity.”
“Won't hurt to ask.”
“Guess it won't.” Caleb walked over to the sister who had sold him the electronics and asked about furniture. “Name's Caleb, by the way.”
“Caleb, I don't rightly know. “Maggie—the sister in the green—is really in charge. I'm here to fetch and carry. Let's go ask.”
“Maggie, this is Caleb and he is interested in whether or not you're planning on selling any furniture."
“What are you interested in Caleb?”
“Everything. I just graduated high school last spring and started college this summer. I have a job which includes a small house and my only furniture is a sleeping bag.”
“Well, I planned to spend next week going over the furniture and pricing it.” You have any free time next week?”
“Probably not. I work on a goat farm and also in pecan groves. We're pretty busy with both right now.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I'm free.”
“Come about 1:00 and you can help me and we can work out prices on anything you can use. How does that sound?”
“Sounds good. Thanks.”
“See you at 1:00 tomorrow.”
Caleb rejoined Molly and told her what Maggie had said. “Well, we see any promising yard sales, we'll stop, otherwise we'll hit a couple of consignment shops. They cruised through the neighborhood slowly and Caleb spotted some tables and lamps in a yard sale.
“Whoa, Molly, let's take a look at that yard sale.” They looked over the stuff and Caleb saw that the lamps not only needed repair but also were definitely from a French whore house collection and without thinking said so to Molly.
“A whore house without taste,” Molly replied.
A small drop leaf table would fit perfectly in his small kitchen, but it really looked bad. “Too bad that table is in such rough shape,” Caleb said to Molly.
“Now you reveal your lack of understanding of yard sales,” Molly said. “Look at the table. What's wrong with it?”
“It's dingy and dirty. The finish is completely gone in spots.”
“Press down on the top and shake it.” Caleb did so. “Anything loose?”
“No, it was steady as a rock.”
“See any gouges or scratches?” Caleb shook his head. “You afraid of a little work?” Afraid of using elbow grease?” Again Caleb shook his head. "Close your eyes and image the finish perfect. What do you think?”
“It would be perfect in my kitchen. Leaves up, it would seat four. Leaves down it would be perfect for me.”
“All it will take will be a few dollars and some elbow grease and it would be perfect. Doug can show you how to do it. He did a table and chairs he found in the plantation house at Pleasant Grove. Ethan said it looked like hell when he saw it the first time, now it is a beautiful outfit. See that outdoor furniture over there; its top of the line, well-built. It needs to have the paint removed, be repainted and have new cushions. Maybe fifty to seventy-five dollars and you'll have a five or six hundred dollar outfit for your deck. See how much you can get the lot for."
The lady wanted ten dollars for the drop leaf and fifty for the outdoor outfit. Caleb offered her forty for both and she took it.
In the first consignment shop, they stopped at there was a sofa and chair which Caleb liked, but they would need to be recovered. When Caleb asked Molly about them she told him he would not be able to do the upholstery himself and a professional would charge so much the two pieces would not be a bargain. It was near lunch time and Molly suggested they have lunch and take their loot home.
Caleb and Molly unloaded the truck after she had seen the house. “This is really nice, Caleb.”
“I can thank Ethan for it,” Caleb said. “Jamie, Andy and I were planning on buying a trailer and Ethan said since Philos could supply the lumber he thought they could have a house for the cost of a trailer and Francis made that happen. It will be here, looking good, long after a trailer would have been scrapped.”
“So you need the deuce and a half tomorrow?”
“Yes, if it's available.”
“It will be.”
When Caleb asked Molly how much he owed her for what she purchased she said to consider it a housewarming gift.
He got the washer and dryer hooked up and decided to wash the linens and discovered he had a more than adequate supply of bed and bath linens. When he took the dinnerware out of the box, he found service for eight minus a cup. The flatware chest also had service for eight minus a fork and soup spoon and there were eight glasses in each of four sizes. The drop leaf could not have been more perfect for the kitchen. Now he needed two and maybe four kitchen chairs. Finally, he got the outdoor furniture in place and saw it was potentially a great addition.
When he had everything in place, he made a mental note to call Doug about refinishing and then decided he had time to play in the river before he made sandwiches for supper. His only refrigeration was a cooler with ice so he was limited in what he could keep in the way of food, but he hoped that would change soon.
He barely finished the thought when he heard a truck and when he looked out the window saw it crossing the bridge. He stepped out on the desk just as the truck pulled up along side. The driver got out, waved and asked, “You Caleb Howard?”
“James McGee, Caleb, from McGee Appliance. I have a refrigerator and microwave here for you. How's the best way to get them in the house?”
“If you can get it on the deck, the rest should be smooth sailing.”
“No problem.” James backed the truck up to the deck, put a ramp from the truck to the deck and wheeled the refrigerator onto the deck and into the kitchen. It fit nicely since it was not huge, but did have a small freezer across the top and an ice maker.
“If you'll sign here I'll be on my way," James said, pointing to an invoice which Caleb saw was stamped ‘paid’. "Sorry the range had to be back ordered, but it will be here Monday. The microwave can be used as is, but when the range is installed, it will be above the range. Nice place you have here. Nice location too."
“I sure like it,” Caleb said as he handed the clipboard with the invoice back to James.
Caleb read the instructions for the refrigerator, peeled off the stickers and wiped it down before plugging it in. He had thought he would have to buy the appliances, but apparently, Philos was taking care of that and he was delighted.
Now that he had refrigeration, Caleb realized he could do some serious grocery shopping. When Jamie mentioned getting a used truck for Caleb, Ethan had suggested instead Arkadelphia lease one of their farm trucks to Philos. Caleb didn't understand the ins and outs of the deal, but he had a three-year-old truck to drive.
He drove to the Braggton Piggly Wiggly and did his first major grocery shopping. He had to keep reminding himself that he was only one person and while he had refrigerator and freezer space, they were limited. By the time he finished shopping and had the groceries put away, it was time to fix supper. He had bought a small table top grill and a bag of charcoal. He started the charcoal and while it was getting ready, microwaved a potato which he would finish on the grill. When the charcoal was ready, he put a small steak, some veggies on a skewer and the potato on the grill. Minutes later he was sitting at the outdoor table enjoying his first real meal in his new place, smiling like a kid at Christmas.
Sunday morning Sally Ann called and invited Caleb to dinner. He had to turn her down because the Taylors were going into Audubon to church and dinner wouldn't be back until 2:00. He told her he was meeting a woman in Audubon to check on some furniture at 1:00. Turned out to be a wise decision.
Maggie was waiting for him when he arrived. "Caleb, my sisters and I have gone through the house and taken what we wanted. The easy-to-move stuff we put in the yard sale yesterday. What's left is the furniture. We thought about having another yard sale for it, but frankly, the other two wanted to have nothing to do with cleaning out the house and I am tired of it. I'd like to get something out of the furniture with as little effort as possible. Habitat for Humanity will pick it up and give a tax credit for it which will amount to nothing given the size of the estate. So, take a look and let me know what, if anything, you want. I can tell you you want the mattress and box spring in the guest room. It's brand new, slept on one night. It's a memory foam set. Mom had to have it and when she got it, she and Dad spent the night tossing and turning. Neither got any sleep. The next morning the bed set went to the guest room. I have one and love it."
They decided to look at the bedrooms first. The house had three. One had a brass bed Caleb thought hideous, the master bedroom had a blond oak one he disliked as much, so he was sure the guest room would present an equally ugly choice. 'Well,' he thought, "cheap enough can make ugly look a little better.' Imagine his surprise when the guest room had furnishings of warm golden oak with nice, clean lines. There was a bed, night stand, dresser and what Maggie called a lingerie chest, a tall, narrow chest of six drawers. Caleb even liked the bedside lamp. "I'll take all this," he said.
“Take the drapers too,” she said. “You may have to alter them, but I'm sure someone can help you with that.” Caleb liked them as well, so added them to his list.
Unlike most, the home office furniture—computer desk, bookcase and cabinet, Maggie called it a cadenza—was real wood. It was cherry with nice grain. The desk chair was well-used but in good shape. There was also a side chair which matched the desk chair. The drapes were a textile designer's nightmare. There was also a small table which seemed out of place, but was quite beautiful. "Put me down for all this, except you can keep the drapes.
Maggie laughed. "Mom hated them and I don't think Dad liked them but kept them to remind Mom this was his private space."
Their next stop was the den. As soon as Caleb saw the carpet he knew he had struck out, it was burnt orange shag and the furniture matched. “I'll pass,” Caleb said and Maggie burst out laughing.
“Caleb, I think if you had said, 'I'll take it,' the whole deal would have been off. My sisters and I call the den 'Mom's Revenge.' I think you might like the living room furniture even though it is dated.”
Maggie was right. The furniture was definitely dated as it was popular among the young crowd when Maggie's parents had fit that description. It was known at the time as crate furniture. As Maggie pointed out, it could take about anything, an oil treatment every year or so helped, but wasn't necessary and the cushions were easily replaced. "Mom bought a six-inch king size foam mattress, cut cushions from it and covered them. When you have a little money, you can do the same, but what's here is not too bad." Caleb wondered how bad the cushions would have to have been to be ‘too bad.'
“Okay, Maggie, that's it. Oh, how about the living room draperies?”
“Sure. By the way, you were so turned off by the den that you didn't look around there. Think you might like the draperies there.” Caleb did. Since they could be drawn across the sliding glass door they would do nicely at his sliding glass door. “I'll get Dad's tool kit because you need to take the drapery hardware. New would cost you a fortune.”
“Before I start, I need to know the damages.
“Think you can go five hundred?”
“Yeah, I can do that.” Caleb knew he could, but it would mean he'd really have to be careful or he'd run out of money to pay for school. Caleb wrote Maggie a check and she said, “Caleb, I'm leaving you with it. When you leave, make sure the house is locked up and enjoy the furniture.” Caleb was surprised Maggie trusted a stranger, but thanked her and told her how much he appreciated the furniture.
It took him three hours to get everything loaded and he was ready for a rest when he had finished loading and tying down the huge truck load. Once he had finished, he found a fast food place, ordered a box of chicken, which included biscuits, fries and drink, and had a late lunch. While he was eating someone's phone rang and it was ringing the second time before he realized it was his. Seems everyone on the three plantations was provided with a phone and he forgot he had one.
“Caleb, Jamie. What are you up to?”
“I'm having a late lunch. Had an early breakfast and haven't had a chance to eat since.”
“Very. Molly and I went yard sale shopping yesterday and ran into a gold mine, but no furniture. Three sisters were emptying their parents' house. I asked a sister about furniture and she said I'd have to talk to the sister in charge. I did and she offered to give me a crack at furniture today. I just finished loading. I have all the furniture I need.”
“When will you be back?”
“Forty-five minutes more or less.”
“Well, don't push yourself too hard.”
When Caleb drove up to his place, he was met with the Arkadelphia Young Bucks, all six of them plus Doug who was an honorary member. Caleb learned later Rich was in Macon for a weekend meeting concerning some voting irregularities.
Christopher directed Caleb as he backed the truck up to the deck. Unlike the appliance truck, the deuce and a half was high enough so there was very little difference between it and the deck. Ethan had brought a hand truck from Arkadelphia. “Caleb, you loaded all this by yourself?” Ethan asked. Caleb nodded. “Man, you should have asked for help.”
“Truth was, I had no idea what I would find and believe me, I did discover some disasters,” he laughed.
"Well, you go inside and direct traffic, and we'll get this unloaded in no time." While the furniture was being unloaded, Doug and Christopher got busy putting up the drapery hardware.
An hour after he arrived, the furniture was in place and the hardware installed. Doug even hung the draperies for the glass door.
Jamie had left on an ATV before the unloading was finished and returned just as it was complete. On the back of the ATV was a case of beer, bags of chips, pretzels, crackers and blocks of cheese. Soon the eight guys were crowded around the umbrella table on the deck eating and drinking.
“Caleb, the river looks different,” Jamie said.
“Yeah, see that line of rocks downstream? It holds the water back and traps sand. Couple days ago I decided to play in the river after work and started piling more rocks there. Water's a little deeper. May eventually be deep enough to swim. Man, I love this place.”
“Ethan, you deserve a lot of credit for this,” Andy said. “If you hadn't spoken up, there would have been a house trailer sitting here. A nice one, an expensive one, but still a house trailer. You spoke up, less money has been spent and now there's a nice house complete with appliances—Caleb, you did get the appliances?”
“They had to put the range on back order. They'll bring it Monday and install it and the vent hood and microwave.”
“To top it off,” Andy continued, “we have a great guy living in the house who, I guess, got a deal on a house full of furniture.”
“Well, I think I got a deal. I gave five hundred for it all. Well, the electronics, washer and dryer cost me a hundred fifty.”
“The appliance people didn't deliver a washer and dryer?”
“No, luckily enough as I had brought them expecting to buy the appliances.”
“We paid for them. I'll get on that tomorrow and Philos will refund your hundred fifty. Maybe you can buy an entertainment center with the refund,” Jamie said.
“Didn't I see a wood shop at Arkadelphia?” Caleb asked.
“Granddad Edwards', Davis' dad's,” Ethan said. “All the machines are practically new. Davis got all new machines when Jeff and Art started taking woodworking at school. They haven't been used now for awhile, but the machines should still be in good shape. Why?”
“I took woodworking for three years before the school got rid of it. If I can use the shop . . . ”
“Caleb, it's there, it's available. That goes for just about everything on the plantations.”
“I'll have to see about wood . . .”
“Your choice—cherry, walnut, oak, pecan, pine? We have plenty of all. See me tomorrow,” Andy said.
Alfred had been sitting looking at the river and suddenly shouted, “Swim club!” Jumped up and started stripping. Three minutes later eight bare ass guys were in the river. Ethan had a hard time keeping his eyes off of Christopher and Caleb.
A car horn sounded and there was a mad scramble to get out of the river and into clothes, but the eight managed to do it before Sally Ann, Ash, Kathy and Kathryn drove up with four boys and three baskets of food. Kathy spread a blanket on the deck and the four babies were placed on it, the umbrella table was covered with food and the four women were given the chairs and the men sat on the deck or the benches at the table.
At sundown, the food was gone or put away, babies in carriers and the crowd left. Caleb sat on the deck, listening to the river and offering heartfelt thanks for his life and his first real family. When he went inside, he sat at his new desk and sent Cade a very long email.