Like our ages, my father had to take a running start on our names.
This did not, however, keep him from sharing the many ideas he had regarding making a little side money.
“Midge! Cindy! Pearl! Right? No. Yes. No, that’s right: Pearl.”
He started with his wife’s name, progressed to his sister’s, and finally landed on mine.
It wasn’t his fault. The man had things on his mind. My father, the man who believed he would Think and Grow Rich, had irons in the fire, after all.
“Midge! Cindy! Pearl! Karen – no, Pearl, right? Pearl?”
“Dad? Grandpa? Mr. Schiebel?”
Calling my dad by my teacher’s name is a stroke of genius.
My father frowns. While he isn’t 100% in the Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard camp, a good 75% of him is frequently seen lurking about the edges of that particular neighborhood.
“Dad,” I say.
My father nods, collects his thoughts.
“How’d you like to make a buck?”
Ahh. The ol’ how’d-you-like-to-make-a-buck gambit. Speak on, sir.
“How many bucks?”
“Wellll,” he says, heading toward the door, “how about you give me an estimate and we’ll talk?”
Out the front door, down the rickety metal steps from the trailer to the sidewalk, he leads me toward the driveway on the other side.
Nothing good can happen in the driveway. Even at 10, I know this.
And there it is, there in the open trunk of the Maverick, the no-goodness that can happen to suspecting yet profit-driven little girls: Two large cardboard boxes filled to their wet, mouldy rims with wet, mouldy crockery.
“Huh?!” he says proudly, a word meant to convey the appreciation I surely had for the untapped potential hidden here in his trunk. “Got the whole thing free. Free! They were going to throw them out. Can you imagine? Plates! Cups! Saucers! I pulled the whole thing out of the dumpster behind the old truck stop on 10. I say we clean these things up, sell them door to door. Whaddaya say?”
I look down into the trunk as my father disappears around the side of the trailer. When he comes back, he’s dragging the garden hose and a large plastic tub into which he’s thrown a bottle of dish detergent.
“Four bucks,” I say, thinking of the most money I’d ever earned in an evening of babysitting.
My father pauses, looks at the trunk, then me, then back at the trunk. “Four-fifty,” he says, “and that’s my final offer.”
Two hours later, my hands swollen with the cold water and having sneezed myself, at one point, head-first on to a plate, I begin to feel that perhaps my idea of a large amount of money is inaccurate.
Still, I think, smiling to myself, when I take these babies door to door, the profits are gonna be sweet.
I stack the plates, the saucers, the cups, dollar bills swaying in my mind. Hi, my name is Pearl, and have I got a deal for you…