“No Treasure Here”

Fiction by Lorne Matthews

    It just had to be pouring the day she was selling the contents of her house, but who the hell cared. She pressed her nose against the sliding glass doors. The geraniums had wilted, the lawn looked like a drenched cow field, and she knew water was leaking from the chimney into the basement. Jerry had usually taken care of that with the wet-vac, but Jerry was gone, ducked out with their last $10,000, drinking tequila on some exotic island, no doubt. He’d passed the buck, leaving the real dirty work for someone else to mop up. She’d been warned, but lust had its way. He was a terrific-looking man and had been the best partner she’d ever had in bed, and looking back, that had seemed reason enough to marry him. Forty-two and her first time married. What a stupid jerk she’d been. She’d gotten what she deserved.
    Her bloodhound, Max, sidled up to her and she stroked his ears. “If ya gotta piss ya gotta go out in the rain.”
    She opened the sliders and he ground his claws into the wood, coming nearly to a sitting position as she pushed him outside. What did it matter if he was all wet and stank when he came in? One more hour and she’d be open for business. She went to the kitchen, poured more coffee, and sat on a lone stool. The kitchen table along with all the rest of the furniture was in the living room to sell.
    “Fuck.” Jerry gone. Job gone. She promised herself she would stay calm; she promised herself she wouldn’t cry.
    “Too bad, all this rain,” said her first customer, a sixtyish, smallish woman with magenta hair and purple fingernails.
    “The world is full of kooks,” Samantha whispered to Max. The two of them watched the woman scan stuff like she was looking for the Kohinoor.
    Samantha wanted to tell her, “No treasures here,” but shit, why say anything at all?
    The kooky woman settled on a porcelain vase with intertwining snakes, something she and Jerry had bought from a junk dealer on their first trip to London. She remembered they perched it on the table in their bedroom and made love pretending to be in the Garden of Eden.
    “A good deal,” the dealer told them. Because the vase had a chip, Jerry had paid 20 pounds. Samantha had priced it for her tag sale at $3.
    “Will you take two?” the woman asked.
    Hell, the cardinal rule of tag sales is you’ve got to make the first sale if you’re going to have a successful day. “Sure,” Samantha said and pocketed the two bucks. “Bye- bye Jerry,” she mumbled to herself.
    Each piece she sold triggered a memory of her marriage, and each piece out the door was one more memory gone. In the end Samantha tallied a solid $328.50, but the pile of furniture in the middle of the floor, with the exception of the couch, she sold for 25 bucks — having paid nearly a thousand for it — was almost entirely undiminished.
    “Tchotchkes. All we sold were tchotchkes,” she said to Max. And running her hand over the dining room table top, she mused, “Once I pulled in nearly four grand a week, and now I’m shedding tears over pennies.”
    She dropped cross-legged on the floor. Max shoved his cold, wet, Roman nose into her limp hand, licked her face, and lay beside her with his head on her lap. Mud traipsed in by bargain hunters hoping to capitalize on her loss besmirched the once-gleaming floor. She reached for a brocade pillow, hugged it tightly, and looking at the ceiling, she gave herself over to listening, for the last time, to the sound of rain pounding against the windows.
    She still had the BMW she’d come into the marriage with, along with Max. She still had $230.18 in the bank and a debit card in her wallet along with the $328.50 in her purse from the day’s proceeds. She still had one good bottle of St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005 that she’d stashed in the cupboard and a single Riedel glass. She had had no intentions of parting with her antique hart-horn corkscrew.
    She got up and went into the kitchen to fix Max’s chow and brought his bowl into the living room along with the wine, glass, and the corkscrew.
    “We’ll share our last meal.” She opened the bottle and inhaled the rich scent, poured and held up her filled glass — the last survivor out of a set of four she and Jerry had owned — up to the light.
    “Here’s to us, Max,” she said.
    With each sip her life with Jerry dissolved into snippets. Evenings spent with friends seemed something out of a gothic novel. Meals cooked together in the kitchen of their dreams seemed exactly that, dreams. She finished her second glass of wine, corked the bottle, and reached for her key ring sitting on a broken side table. She removed every key except the car key, and slipped the house key into her hip pocket. The bank had told her to lock up when she was finished.
     “Come on Max.” She picked up her bag with her $328.50 from the window ledge and slung it over her shoulder. She had already put two suitcases in the trunk of the car. “Let’s go.”
     She shoved the corkscrew into her huge bag along with what remained in the bottle of wine, picked up her glass, and opened the door. Max followed her out, the two of them leaving their past life, along with whatever possessions hadn’t been sold, behind. She pulled the door shut, and retrieving the key from her pocket, she slipped it into the lock. The sound of the click was as familiar to her as the beating of her own heart. Only then did it occur to her that she had no idea what to do with the key.
    Max whined, nudged her hand.
    “Shit. It’s not my problem,” she mumbled to herself and left the key in the lock, turned, and walked down the steps, wineglass in hand and dog at her heels.
    The rain had stopped, and the clouds were breaking up, the sky was brightening, and a new moon teased the night. She opened the car door. “Get in Max.” She turned to look at the house one more time, and lifting the last possession she and Jerry had owned jointly she shouted, “Here’s to a lone woman with her dog, and Jerry, whereever you are, may the devil sit on your heels.”
    The Riedel glass crashed against the front door.
    “No more castles in the air for me,” she shouted and, getting into the car, she turned on the ignition, put the car in gear, and gunned out of the driveway. They hit the highway heading west, and Max rested his head on her shoulder and let out a worried sigh.
    “Don’t worry Max.” She stroked his big nose and long floppy ears. “We’ll be fine. We’ll be just fine.”

    Lorne Matthews lives and writes in East Hampton, and has had work previously published in The Star. “No Treasures Here” is part of a collection of three short stories and a novella for which she is seeking a publisher.