The driver, a well-dressed black man with the slight trace of an accent, was surprisingly good. It may have just been because I was in the shadows, but he didn’t try to engage me in pointless conversation about my day. He didn’t ask what I was doing or where I was going.
He asked me for the address, I gave it to him, and he started driving. He didn’t even turn on the radio. It was great.
My previous experience with taxis had been with rideshare drivers, who in LA seemed to think it was their duty to be entertaining and dynamic as they drove you around. Most of the time their antics made it to the annoying level, with the occasional jump to straight up infuriating. The perils of living in a town full of starving actors.
It didn’t take long for the taxi to pull up in front of the park. The meter was at a hair over $35, so I handed him two twenties and told him to keep the change. He thanked me and I stepped out into the deserted park.
And deserted it was. The pile of beer bottles under the dome had gotten quite a bit larger than it had been last I’d seen it, a visible reminder of the party that had been raging as we left.
There was literally no one in sight, however. The streets, sidewalks and even the park itself were completely empty. I don’t know what I’d been thinking, coming to a park early Saturday morning to try to sell to partying teens. Hell, they probably wouldn’t even be getting out of bed for another four or five hours.
Still, I tried to use my time productively. I sat under the tree and waited, using my Customer ID skill every time I saw someone, which was exactly three times. Two of those people were walking their dog, and one was driving by in their car. The only sounds I heard were distant lawnmowers, the hum of traffic and singing birds punctuated by the occasional barking dog.
Finally, I’d had enough. There was no way I was going to wait there all day until evening, assuming the teens were even going to show up again. I picked a side street and started walking.
I saw the occasional person in their front yard, doing yard work, washing their car or just sitting and soaking up the morning sunshine. Customer ID still stubbornly refused to work. In any case, I wasn’t expecting to be able to sell weed door to door. I was just walking, searching for amusement and a way to kill the time.
That’s why was delighted when I got to the end of one block and saw the Garage Sale sign just down the sidewalk to my right.
The garage in question was a two-door monster, both doors wide open. A double row of trestle tables extended from the middle like a tongue, covered in junk. And that’s what it was, really.
That’s what you people sell at garage sales, don’t they? They sell their junk to other people. Is that easier than throwing it out? No, but sometimes people will actually pay money to take your garbage away.
Now sure, I’m being cynical. I’m sure there are hidden gems in every garage sale, but there weren’t many here.
A chaotic assortment of commemorative glasses and plates. Children’s books, including a copy of the Berenstein Bears that I remembered from my childhood. I picked it up and leafed through it, before putting it back down.
In one corner was a beat-up golf bag with a set of golf clubs that looked like they’d seen better days. I didn’t know anything about golf, so I didn’t know if the $20 sticker price on the ancient looking bag was a good deal, or not. If I were following the rule of garage sales, it probably wasn’t.
Several other people were browsing, all of them quiet and generally avoiding looking at me. I was starting to get used to it. It was like in LA, if you saw someone that was obviously a gang member, you didn’t give them any excuse to pay attention to you. That was only common sense. They didn’t know who I was—walking in the light they literally couldn’t know. For all they knew, I was heavily armed and a dangerous gangster. They’d be half right, anyway.
I’d done a circuit of the tables and was just about to continue on my walk when I noticed several bicycles leaning up against the wall with price tags hanging from their handlebars.
There was an old-school girl’s bike with a banana seat and tassels hanging from the handlebars, as well as a child’s BMX bike. The third bike was what got my attention. A normal mountain bike but with street tires. It looked a lot like the bike I used to have before it got stolen. It reminded me how nice it had been, to have the freedom to get around without having to bug my dad for a ride or spend some of my limited funds on a rideshare app.
I looked it over. The tires were fully inflated, and everything seemed to be intact. There was even an air pump in a clip underneath the seat. The bike looked like it had been well taken care of, and the price tag said $50.
“Are you interested?” A voice asked.
I looked up and saw the older man who’d been hovering nearby. I thought he had just been browsing, but it seemed this was actually his sale. He was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt showing the logo of some business conference from 2003. His hair was neatly cut, but almost fully gray and he had thin, round wire-rimmed glasses on his face. Without thinking, I identified him.
|James Daymore, Principal Engineer (C4), Chief Technical Officer, Brightbond Technical Solutions|
My eyes widened when I read his job and title. This unassuming older guy was a big deal. A fairly rare Job with a high level, and a job as a CTO. He probably made a fortune. What was he doing running a garage sale on a Saturday morning. If I were him I’d be out on my boat. He didn’t look like he was having a bad time though, so I had to assume this was what he wanted to do.
I shook off my pondering to reply to him. “Yes, I guess I am. Do you have a lock?”
There was no way I could go anywhere with a bike without a lock. It’d be gone about as fast as a dropped five-dollar bill.
“I sure do,” he said, and grabbed one up from the nearby table. It was a scratched, black metal u-lock with the keys dangling from it. I remembered that type well. I knew that while thieves could get through them, it took them longer.
“How does sixty bucks sound for the lock and the bike?” he asked.
I hesitated. It wasn’t like I couldn’t afford it. It was that I still wasn’t sure I wanted to buy a bicycle. Sure, it would give me something to do, but what kind of weed dealer rides around on his bicycle? I needed a car. Still, it wasn’t like I could buy one of those for fifty bucks at a garage sale.
James sweetened his offer. “I’ve also got a tire puncture kit I can throw in. The bike, the lock and the kit for sixty bucks. Have we got a deal?”
I pointed to a plain, black backpack on the table. “Throw in that backpack and we’ve got a deal.”
James grimaced but nodded his acceptance.
I handed over the cash and minutes later I was on my way. There’d already been a mount for the lock on the bike frame, and it socketed right in. I was glad I didn’t have to carry it, or drape it over the handlebars. My other outfit that I’d been carrying around in the plastic bag got stuffed into the backpack and I felt relieved to get it out of my hands.
The bike’s seat was not quite the right height, but it was close enough that I didn’t feel the need to adjust it. Riding down the deserted side streets felt great. Like I’d somehow returned to my childhood. The gentle breeze on my face and the feeling of freedom felt amazing. Not only that, now I had a form of transportation, even if it was slow. Screw the bus, forevermore.
At first, I was worried that my holster was going to pop out, but it stayed there like it was nailed in place. The weed shirt was long enough that I didn’t need to worry about it riding up exposing the gun.
I rode aimlessly for a while, just enjoying the process. There was only so much of that I could do, however. Even as a child when I’d went on bike rides I would always need a destination. Even if that destination was completely pointless, I needed to have one. Something like, ‘I’m going to go here to feed the ducks. Then here to buy an ice cream.” A destination.
I pulled up at a major intersection and suddenly I knew where I was. Across Lakewood Boulevard in front of me was the massive Downey mall. More importantly, the mall contained the massive cineplex I’d whiled away many a Saturday at.
I couldn’t think of a better way to kill the day. To the movies!