Imagine a street with nothing but thrift stores. One right after the other, as far as the eye can see. I turn down a blind alley and a familiar smell hits me. A hand that seems to be my hand is pushing at the door to what I’m guessing is some kinda speakeasy. I breathe in the fumes as the door creaks open in front of me.
“Say, what’s the deal with all the thrift stores ‘round here” I ask the bartender.
Some guy who’s name I don’t know or even care to know answers the question for her.
“Always check where the garment came from” he says.
“That’s not what I asked buddy and besides, the question that I asked was not addressed to you. Maybe I’m just making small talk with tootsie here”.
I turn back to the bartender but she’s already walking away, off to the other end of the bar to pour another drink and break another heart.
“You know what I do?” the guy who’s name I don’t care to know says.
“When I see an article of clothing that piques my interest I first check the label, make sure it’s the right size. Then I take it on up to the counter. I hold the, let’s say shirt, in one hand and a dollar bill in the other, and ask, ‘ma’am, could you tell me the history of this here shirt’. They usually stall a little and require further prodding. ‘What I’m trying to ascertain here is did this shirt belong to a guy who was living at the time that he last wore this shirt but is now sadly dead?’ At this point they’ll try to give you some baloney about not knowing the full history of the garment. This is where you pull out another dollar bill. ‘Thing is’, you say, ‘I’m looking at this here shirt and I’m seeing a fine garment, a very fine garment indeed. No pinhole burns, no buttons missing, everything looks just dandy. And yet you’re selling it for a buck’. She’ll take the shirt off you, have a good look at it, end up agreeing with you, take your two dollars and delicately fold the shirt in a bag.”
“You don’t say” I mutter.
“Another thing you gotta watch out for is the smell. And you can never get that smell out. I tried everything. Cheap liquor, vinegar, cat litter…..no dice. Now, when you buy any kind of drapery at a thrift store you can’t tell how bad it smells ‘cause the whole place stinks. You need to take that sucker outside and give it a good long sniff. The golden rule is; The badder the smell, the longer the dude’s been dead.”
I look over at Tootsie at the other end of the bar. She’s talking out of the side of her mouth to some guy covered in tattoos across the counter and every now and then glancing over in my direction. I can’t hear what she’s saying but I know she’s saying something by the movement of her chest.
“I got a jacket once in a thrift store. Perfect piece of cloth. Looked new. Fit like a glove. Only when I wear it for the first time do I notice that it has a mysterious quality about it. I’m stepping out the door, I light a cigarette, I take a drag. Nothing unusual so far. Then I go to put the cigarette box and matches into my pocket and…………….No Pocket! I look down, there’s a pocket flap there but no pocket. I try the other side, same deal. Now I’m getting a little testy. I check the breast pocket, nothing there neither. Now why would somebody design a jacket like that?” he asks me.
“It’s a crazy world that makes no sense and there’s no point in trying to make any sense out of it unless you’re fixing on winding up crazy too. Jackets with no pockets, bars with no beer, dames with no name, I’ve seen it all buddy. There is not a thing you can tell me that will come as too much of a surprise” I tell him.
The guy who was talking to the barmaid stands up and starts walking over. Must be seven foot high. His frame blocks out the small amount of light that seeps through the tobacco and beer patterned curtains. As he gets closer I can see that the tattoos that cover his face and arms are not delivering messages of hope or words of encouragement. There is not a single term of endearment in any of it’s images or couplets, not a single one.
He walks right up to the guy who I don’t care to know the name of, lets call him Thrift Store Theodore. He grabs hold of him by the waist, lifts him up till they’re eyeball to eyeball and holds him there. He begins to speak.
“The dame behind the bar tells me you’re a little careless with the bar tab. As in you don’t pay. She tells me you owe her fifty eight bucks. And now you’re gonna have to pay me a hundred bucks on top of that as a service charge.”
“I Haven’t Got Any Pockets. I got nowhere to keep dough” I hear Theodore whimper behind me as a hand that is certainly my hand turns the handle of what I now know for sure is the door of some kinda speakeasy. I breathe in the fumes as the door creaks shut behind me.