One Stop

The gloomy day was disappointing; Jason had been expecting sunshine, at least in the morning to get people out. He needed customers on his first day as a stall holder. His college fees were due by the end of the month.

His uncle had dropped him off on his way to work, way too early, but he was here at the Transparent Temple – nickname for their fancy community centre – before everyone else. In business this is known as an opportunity.

Jason set up three decorating tables, and arranged his Grandpa’s stuff upon them. His mother had not handled his loss well, and her way of coping was to erase his memory entirely. His Grandpa had been a hoarder all his life and she had wanted to throw everything out, but Jason had said he’d sell it instead.

The annual spring sale was a Village tradition – full of juicy jams, wild cakes, herbal candles, and forest art. But no other traders were setting up. Jason’s heart dropped – did he have the right day? He checked the Spring Sale application form. Yes, it was today – March 20th, Spring Equinox.

Midday came, and Jason realized something terrible; there were no other vendors. The plus side to this was that he had the best – and only – place in the market – right in the middle of the hall, visible from every direction. But he wasn’t sure how beneficial this would be as there weren’t any customers either. It was raining very heavily outside, like rippling sheets dropping down. He should have realized that business would be affected.

Jason was alone in the great hall, surrounded by his Grandpa’s memories. His holy books; his English tea set, his German cutlery, and Japanese crockery; his antique typewriter; his pinstriped 3-piece suit; his top hat and cane; his shirts, his socks, and his shoes. There were also many unpacked boxes that his mom had wanted out of the house immediately.

There was commotion in the doorway. What was going on?

A sullen crowd rushed in; Jason didn’t recognize any of them. A man walked over to him. “Oh, it vaz so terrible!” he said with a German accent. “Our bus vaz stuck in vater. It vas up to our chests. Ve had to carry de children on our shoulders. It vas a great big flood!”

Jason hadn’t realized the Valley was flooding. Heavy rain must have burst the dikes. These poor people seemed tired and scared. His first thought was to make them some tea in the bone china tea set, but then realized that he had no means to heat water. But hang on a minute – didn’t his Grandpa have some camping gear? Jason looked inside the boxes and found a camping stove and tin kettle. He filled the kettle up from the bathroom and soon had it boiling. He passed around cups of tea.

Danke,” said the German man, taking trays of tea to his fellow wet passengers. They smiled at him from around the room.

They must be pretty hungry too, thought Jason. He rummaged around in the boxes and found some powdered egg and hard biscuits. He’d seen his Grandpa’s army uniform and campaign medals, but never his rations. He’d kept them for over sixty years! Jason recalled him describing army food as “indestructible.” He’d said, “They should have made the tanks out of that stuff!”

Jason pulled out a pan and cooked up a mess of scrambled eggs, and laid blobs of it on biscuits. His German friend passed them around his fellow passengers, and there was a chorus of “Dankes”.

The caretaker of the building came in looking troubled, but smiled when he saw the catering operation. He said, “Good job, lad. Keep our visitors happy. The tourist dollar is half the Village economy.”

“Excuse me,” said the German man. “Do you know vat iz de situation regarding de vether?”

“I’m afraid the whole Village is flooded,” said the caretaker. “I think you’ll be here for a while. Maybe a day, maybe a week; no one can say.” The German man’s face fell, but then recovered. “Just make yourselves as comfortable as you can. I’ll come back with news.” The German man shared the news with his tour group; a wave of muttering ran around the hall perimeter.

Once the shock was absorbed, people began wandering over to Jason’s stall. They rummaged through Grandpa’s stuff, asking questions about items, and how much they cost. He had a captive market. He thought of doubling the prices, but thought that Grandpa would not have approved. Grandpa had both seen Prisoners-Of-War and been one himself. “They were just like us, boyo,” he’d said to Jason. “Cold and hungry and frightened. They were just like us.”

A lady examinded cooking utensils. The caretaker appeared with bags of spuds and carrots. He said, “A farmer left them here yesterday but hasn’t shown up today. Can you use them?”

Yah,” said the woman, and called over her friends. They grated the potatoes and cooked a stack of rostis. Flour and sugar appeared – and soon there was also carrot cake. Someone began to play Grandpa’s accordion, and an old man raked spoons along the washboard. People began dancing in pairs, and then in groups, like flowers opening outwards, and then returning to their centres. They began opening their suitcases, removing items, and sharing them out – Schnapps, fruit breads, chocolates, and ginger cakes. It became a great festival of spring gift giving. “Just is like Fruhlingsfest,” said a pretty blonde girl.

Jason too offered his items freely, but the Germans insisted on paying for them. They had heard that he was raising money for college. By the end of the day, all of his grandpa’s items were sold and Jason had made $5,000. The only thing left was a framed photograph of his grandpa, which someone had purchased and then returned, saying, “Your grandpa saved us today. You mustn’t forget him.”

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