Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why We Tried To Go Through Our Stuff BEFORE We Moved...

More from Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons:

[The family has moved into a borrowed house for the summer, putting all their things in storage.]

...when Mr. Cobb's warehouse receipt...arrived in the mail, husband, apoplectic, strode furiously into the kitchen. "What in the name of heaven," he demanded, "is a pedestal burlapped? And why did we want to store it?"

I thought. "It's the cats' scratching post, I think," I said. "We could hardly bring it with us, you know."

"Do you realize," said my husband, waving the papers under my nose, "that we also stored one empty crate? Three pieces of canvas? One metal cakebox?"

"I meant to send that cakebox back to your Aunt Sadie," I said. "You remember she sent us that chocolate--"

"Stack six wastebaskets," my husband said. "Snow shovel."

It turned out that what we could not identify the children largely could; we had no trouble with such Items as 295: Radio TV cabinet, or the series of eight items labeled 68: Rug, 69: Rug, 70: Rug, and so on. Item 17: Large Green Chest S & M Soiled--S & M turned out to mean Scratched and Marred--was the Pennsylvania Dutch chest which had been given to us as a wedding present by friends in the antique business, and what was Scratching and Marring and Soiling to Mr. Cobb and his goblins was to us a fine antique finish. Nothing of ours, actually, was to Mr. Cobb in precisely tiptop condition; his abbreviations for Bad Order (B.O.) Scratched and Marred, Moth-Eaten (M.E.), Soiled, Rusted, Worn, Torn, Loose, Chipped, and Dented, were listed after almost every item. Double Bed Mattress Burnt brought back vivid memories of the morning I fell back asleep with a cigarette in my hand, Mexican Chair Broken reminded us of the time my husband tried to reach the top of the closet shelf.

...It was in the odd items, however, that we found ourselves glancing secretly at one another, wondering what furtive hiding places had been invaded, what hidden lairs of junk were now exposed. The Coal Grate, for instance (R. though it was), which none of us could remember; had Mr. Cobb stored in our name some priceless piece of metalwork belonging to Mr. Fielding, and had he boldly wrested it from the furnace in some mistaken zeal, or had we, indeed, at some past time gone hand in hand and bought our first coal grate, hoping eventually to build a full fireplace around it? ...Round Green Table Iron Base B.O. mystified us all, but Laurie saved us over Occasional Chair Without Cushion Joints Weak; that, he pointed out after much thought, was the chair which had been in a corner of the cellar near the workbench, which he and his father had been using as a sawhorse, thus almost certainly weakening the cushion joints.

Gradually, during the long summer days, our list became as intimate a part of our daily life as the washing maching grumbling to itself in the kitchen... "Small Round Table S & M," I would cry gaily to Laurie, and he would be allowed one minute before answering, "Girls' room, corner near the window." "147, Fire Lighter," my husband would come back, and if no one could guess it...another penny went into the pot for Mr. Cobb. ...Mr. Cobb made three cents on items 166, 167, and 168, listed individually as Ador. Arm Chair B.O., Ador. Arm Chair Arm Off, B.O., and Ador. Arm Chair B.O., since we could all clearly remember arm chairs with the arms off, but none that might reasonably have impressed the hardbitten Mr. Cobb as Adorable.

1 comment:

Bronwen said...

giggle, giggle! We were lucky to manage our last move ourselves storing our stuff in the garage of the house we were buying.
I'm soooo glad that we have set our roots for good! Moving is an experience I don't want to go through again!
But then again who am I to say? God brought us here to Four Acres for his own plan which we are only starting to fathom and one day he may choose to move us on.... but I would be happy to live out my life here and welcome the grandchildren in 20-odd years.
Enjoy settling in.