My name is Chad Martin. Yesterday I experienced what appeared to be a normal event, a yard sale, until I realized how extraordinary it had been, the lingering effect of which would influence the rest of my life.
It was Saturday morning as I stepped onto the front porch of my cottage with Charlie, my golden retriever, and took a deep breath. It was a perfect day for a long, leisurely puppy walk, and it was also a perfect day for a yard sale. It seemed everyone in the neighborhood was having one.
As we strolled down Evergreen Avenue we stopped first at the Clausing’s and chatted with Margaret and Myra Lee for a few moments. The items they had on display were hand-crafted and quite beautiful but were of little interest to me. I did take a sample, maybe two, of the chocolate chip cookies they offered to entice would-be buyers.
After that, Charlie and I paused at a few more sales and spoke with neighbors before continuing our walk. Most of the stuff being offered – forgive me, most of the junk being offered – was of little or no interest to me, but I did enjoy watching my neighbors interact with one another while searching for that treasure no one ever found.
On our return trip to the cottage, we passed the Liebemacher residence. I was surprised to see old man Liebemacher outside arranging a table filled with books. I had met Morris a few times and found him pleasant but reclusive. Neighborhood gossip had him born and raised in that old gabled house, married, had several children and was now quite elderly and apparently alone. The children hereabouts described him as a magician who cast evil spells on anyone trespassing on his property, especially children. I laughed to myself at the thought and decided to have a look at what Morris had to offer. “Good morning, Morris.”
“Ah, and a good morning to you, young Mr. Martin, and, Charlie. Hi, Charlie,” he put his hand out and received an affectionate lick. “It promised to be such a lovely day, I thought I’d put some of these old books out and hopefully have interested folks take them off of my hands. I have more inside so you just help yourself and let me know if you have any questions.” He turned and climbed the porch stairs.
“Thanks, Morris, I will definitely holler.” My initial impression of this collection centered on the quality of the books. They were old but well cared for, many were leather bound with gold leaf edging the pages. I wondered why he was letting them go. He probably had come face-to-face with his own mortality and decided it was time to down-size his belongings.
I found the majority of the books were either metaphysical or mystical in nature. I had minored in religious science in college and had previously come in contact with the writings of a few author’s represented in this collection.
I had no intentions of purchasing anything on my round-the-block trip with Charlie, having purposely left my wallet at home so temptation could not overrule my intent. Obviously, that was not working very well as I began setting certain volumes aside to add to my book collection.
I paused the moment I saw the book entitled The Magic of Fairy Tales. The gold filigree on the leather-bound volume glittered in the morning sunlight. It appeared to be brand new until I saw the date of manufacture on the flyleaf. Incredibly, this volume was several hundred years old.
I heard Morris carefully coming down the porch stairs; his arms loaded with more books.
“Morris, wait. Let me help.”
“Oh, thank you. You are most kind. I guess I took more than I could handle. Ah, I see you’ve found several books of interest to you.”
“Yes, I have but I’ll have to come back for them. I didn’t bring any money with me.”
“No, no. You take them now and bring your money another time. I’ve put slips of paper in each one stating their value.”
“Thank you, Morris. That’s good of you. I’ll be sure to get the money to you as soon as possible. But it’s this book, The Magic of Fairy Tales that I find most interesting.”
“Yes, isn’t it a beauty?”
“I looked at the flyleaf and found it hard to believe this book is several hundred years old.”
“Yes, I know. I had the same reaction when I found it.” Morris chuckled, “I decided that’s the magic of this book; it never seems to grow old. Have you looked inside?”
“No, I was about to when you came down the stairs.”
“Well, prepare yourself for even more surprises.”
There was no price slip inside the cover so I laid it aside, assuming it was not ready for the sale. I finished sorting through all the volumes and paused at the stack of books I wanted. There were so many, I wondered how I would get them home.
Morris spotted my dilemma. “There are sacks on the porch. Take what you need.”
“Thank you.” I took two large bags and carefully packed my books into them. Charlie was anxious to be on our way so I thanked Morris and told him I’d be back before the end of the day, and began walking home.
Around two in the afternoon I had tabulated what I owed Morris, wrote a check and headed back to his home. As I approached his house from across the street, I got the impression something was very different. For one thing, Morris had removed all the books and the table from the front yard. I wondered if he had sold the entire lot.
As I crossed the street, the differences became even more apparent. The porch furniture and hanging plants were gone. I mused that he had done very well with his yard sale. People seemed to be buying everything.
I walked up onto the porch and knocked on the front door. When Morris did not answer, I walked along the porch and gazed into one of the windows. I was taken aback when I saw the room was empty. I looked into the other windows and found the same thing, the house was empty. I was so befuddled, I walked down the stairs and out onto the public sidewalk, turned, and stared at the house. I hadn’t been gone that long for this to happen.
I was about to walk away when a car pulled up and stopped at the curb. A young woman got out, pulled a For Sale sign from the back seat and approached me. “Good afternoon. Are you Mr. Richardson?”
“No, my name is Martin.”
“I’m sorry. I thought you might be him.”
She walked into the front yard and pushed the sign into the ground.
“Excuse me.” I had a question for the young woman.
“Do you know Morris Liebemacher?”
“Why yes, he was my grandfather.”
“Was your grandfather? I came to see him and was surprised to see the house is empty.”
“Yes, it is,” she paused. “I’m terribly sorry, but my grandfather passed away two weeks ago.”
“Oh, my God.”
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m sorry. I had no idea he had passed.”
“It was very peaceful, thank goodness. What did you say your name was?”
“Martin, Chad Martin.”
“Mr. Martin, would you wait here a moment, I have something for you.”
“Yes, of course.”
She walked up the stairs and let herself into the house.
I dismissed the thought of giving her the check for the books I had taken when I realized I’d have to explain it, which would probably cause more confusion than it was worth.
When she returned, she handed me a box with my name on it. “When we cleaned out the house, I found this and put it aside. I’m so glad you came by. I’m sure Gramps wanted you to have this.”
“What is it?”
“I have no idea. It never occurred to me to open it.”
I pulled the string aside and lifted the cover of the box. It was The Magic of Fairy Tales book with a note on top. “Paid in full. You forgot this. Best wishes, Morris.” I showed the note to his granddaughter.
“Oh, I’m so glad you dropped by. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I still have all of his books and don’t know what to do with them.”
“If I were you I’d contact a museum and have one of their curators take a look. I believe they are quite valuable and should be preserved.”
“I will. Thank you for the suggestion.”
I said my farewell and began walking home, holding a treasure that almost got away from me. When I reached the corner I stopped and turned around as the impact of what had happened hit me. It was then I realized that the neighborhood kids were correct, Morris Liebemacher, after all, was a magician and probably much more.
Gratitude overwhelmed me as I realized Morris had come back from the other side of the veil for me; to make sure I got the books I wanted and needed – especially The Magic of Fairy Tales.
I smiled as I resumed my journey home, and mused, “Thank you, Morris. Thank you very much.”
I clutched the box holding The Magic of Fairy Tales, looking forward to what it had in store for me.”