Winter Solstice Nonfiction Teaser

October 10, 2014 0 Comments Nonfiction 2016 Views

The following is an excerpt from a nonfiction piece which is forthcoming in issue 4.3, Winter Solstice. Look for the full piece this December!

eBay Wildlife

Susan White

My sister, Jill, believes good sex doesn’t hold a candle to a good yard sale.  Combine bargain with bizarre, and the woman’s in heaven.  She relishes the rush of spotting the neon green cardboard signs, planning her route, and arriving at the littered yard before the dew dries.  Jill is a rabidly competitive woman.  She played sweeper for our high school soccer team, and her vicious slide-tackles sent more than one would-be-scoring opponent to the hospital.  I no longer play cards with her due to her banter and accusations.  When eBay was born, Jill was thrilled.  She could simultaneously engage in virtual yard sale-hopping and a bloodthirsty bidding game.

In my younger, wilder days, I shared a home with my sister, Jill, her fiance, Brian, and my girlfriend, Lucy in Asheville, North Carolina. Jill and Brian bought the grill; Lucy and I bought the computer.  Jill was at our computer like a crow on a car-flattened squirrel.  She’d type, stare, wait, eat something, type, stare, wait, then holler, “I won!”  She’d whoop and high-knee strut around the room in a techno-tribal victory dance.   She was oblivious to the fact that she waspaying for the prizes.  In her crazed mind, she had defeated hundreds of strangers in computer warfare. In reality, she had typed in the winning number, which was instantly deducted from her checking account.

Rarely was Jill satisfied with her purchases, yet she continued to seek and buy.  Every week or so, a strange item would arrive: a coon dog crossing sign, an autographed picture of Carol Burnett, a pair of cat socks that disintegrated in the dryer, and a pornographic snow globe.  On a rainy, July afternoon, Jill announced she wanted to rekindle her high school passion: pottery.  She decided to fill her evenings and our basement by purchasing a used kiln.  So the bidding began. I must admit the pride I felt in my sister when she told me she had scored a kiln at the paltry price of $40.

Lucy and I were clipping our dog’s nails in our bedroom when Jill howled in agony from the adjacent computer room.  Our dog, Zora, broke free from our hold when Jill barged through our door.

She was hysterical.   “I just read the description of my kiln more carefully.  It’s four fucking inches high.  I spent 40 bucks on a miniature, metal kiln—a doorstop.”  Though a little unnerved, her bank account casualty did not end her eBay hunt for a kiln.

One glorious day—when eBay Yahweh smiled upon her—she “won” an actual functioning kiln, and she asked Lucy and me to ride with her in Brian’s truck to Lexington, Kentucky, to pick it up–in order to save her the costly shipping expense. Though Jill is my younger sister, she is the boss of me.  I have only said no to her when her requests have involved endangering others or dancing (and for me, dancing and endangering others is one and the same).  Lucy is always game for a road trip, so we three squeezed into Brian’s truck on a Saturday morning.  Lucy drove the five hours there, never guessing she would have to drive the whole way home for her personal protection.

We followed the highways, exits, and turns on our MapQuest printout to

the storage unit where the kiln awaited us.  Jill called the kiln-seller, Faye, on her cell phone, and, after we’d joked about being lured to our deaths where our bodies would be stored, a dented Plymouth rambled down the gravel road and stopped a few feet away from us.

When Faye stepped out of her car, we gasped.  She was as spindly and pale as a cave cricket.  She tottered toward us, her button-down blouse opened enough to reveal her sunken, bluish chest.  She wheezed as she explained she had used the kiln to make ceramic doll heads—that she was selling it because she had a heart disease.

She unlocked the storage unit, and there sat Jill’s fortune—due to Faye’s misfortune.  Panting, Faye followed us as we carried the kiln to the truck.  She offered to help us lift it onto the truck bed, and we heartily insisted that she not.

As Faye handed Jill the instructions to the kiln, a husky’s head poked up from Faye’s back seat.

“What a beautiful dog,” I said.

Faye said, “What about my other dog?”  She walked past me and opened the front passenger door.  A small gray and black animal with a light blue flea collar stood on its hind legs and sniffed the air.

“Isn’t that a cat?” I asked.

“Nope,” said Faye.

And then I saw its dark mask.

“Oh my God, it’s a raccoon!”  I loved it instantly.

Jill and Lucy rushed the car, oohing and awing over Faye’s wild passenger.

“You can pet him,” Faye told us.

I stuck my arm through the open window.  The raccoon sniffed my hand and grabbed my forearm with his paws.  His pads were warm and as soft as sifted flour.  The critter climbed up my arm and grasped my neck.

Jill grabbed him from me, held his nose toward hers, and said, “You’re just a lump of love.”

“Do you want him?” Faye asked.

“Yes!” Jill and I screamed.

“Are you two crazy?” Lucy asked.  She was, after all, a Family Nurse Practitioner who worked for the Public Health Department.  She mentioned rabies, our dogs, and the fact that the raccoon would grow to the size of a three-year-old child.

But Jill and I would not be deterred.  Because our parents owned the house we rented and Lucy had only moved in a couple of months earlier, we felt justified in continuing the nurturing Faye had begun.  Faye assured us he was litter box-trained and was in the midst of transitioning to a diurnal schedule.  She told us she was looking for homes for all her animals due to her poor health.   Her brother’s family was going to adopt her husky.  Adopting this little fellow was the right thing to do, we told Lucy.

Jill insisted on sitting in the cramped back seat with our new family member.  Lucy insisted upon driving, in order to be as far away from him as possible.

Though Lucy repeatedly called us idiots and other derogatory names, we were all, even Lucy, excited by the absurdity of riding down the interstate with a lovable, wild animal, the kind we only knew from cartoons and a Beatles’ song.  I turned in my seat to watch the coon as it curled up and slept by my sister’s thigh.

We’d listened to nearly five songs of a Lucinda Williams CD when Jill reached for the coon, and he grunted then growled.  Jill laid her hand on his little, gray head to appease him.  The coon didn’t like that.  He hissed.  Jill yelped and pressed her back against her door.  “Stop the truck!”

The coon turned a quick circle and reared up, emitting a prolonged noise like a raspy-voiced ghost.

I watched my sister and the coon with fascination and fear.

“Pull the fuck over!” Jill wailed.

“There’s no place to pull over,” Lucy said through clinched teeth.

The critter scratched the seat like a miniature, masked bull.

“He’s going to bite me!” Jill screamed.  She slammed her body against the door.

Lucy said, “There’s nothing I can do about it, Jill!”  She sped up.  “I told you not to bring that thing home, but—”


Look for the complete story this December!

About the Author

Susan White, originally from middle Tennessee, received her master’s degree from the Bread Loaf School of English and her MFA from Stonecoast. She teaches high school English and creative writing in Asheville, North Carolina. When she’s not grading or writing, Susan enjoys running on the mountain trails with her four dogs. She has published short stories and personal essays in many journals—including Front Range Review, River Walk Journal, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Barely South Review, Pisgah Review, The Battered Suitcase, Deep South, Labletter, The Drunken Boat, and the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane (Seal Press, 2010).

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