Sometimes people just tell me things. Personal things. (Names have been changed.)
I was lost and cursing to myself in the pickup truck’s cab. In the dark on a nearly deserted road, unsure whether I could trust the GPS unit’s attempts to re-route me, I pulled into a Storage Works driveway and called my wife. She had been known to call me when she needed help finding her way, so this seemed like a natural step.
“I think it’s trying to get me back to 35W south, which is where I just left because of the standstill traffic,” I said. Approximately.
She pulled up the directions on Google Maps and passed them on to me. I found first gear and headed back out to continue my quest, hopeful that the computer desk would be worth it.
About 15 minutes later I arrived at a nice neighborhood and carefully backed the truck up the driveway, nestling it rather snugly beside the resident’s Ford Sport Trac. A car crash, even at low velocity, is rarely a good way to start a business transaction.
I walked up to the door and rang the bell. The door opened and a man with a friendly smile nearly filled the threshold. I guess he assumed I was the guy who had just called saying he was almost there.
I filled him in, anyway. “Hi, I’m Mark,” I said.
“Hey there. Nice to meet you. I’m Larry,” he said over his extended hand. His handshake was firm, but not overbearing.
His other hand was on the door jamb, not otherwise occupied with an axe. This was a Craigslist deal, after all, so details like that were important. I liked Larry, the guy who as far as I knew was not luring me in for the kill.
He escorted me immediately to a home office space off the right of the entryway. There was no door, and the opposite wall looked onto a living room with country blue walls. On a dark blue couch sat a portly woman. A lamp on the end table cast a soft glow on her and the book she was reading.
She looked up. “Hello,” she said, with a voice welcoming me to their home, not to my doom.
I waved. “Hi, I’m Mark.”
“I’m Donna. Nice to meet you.”
“Okay, so the desk is in five pieces,” Larry said. He pulled open a drawer, revealing several bolts rolling noisily around inside. “Here’s the hardware,” he said, and then shoved the drawer shut.
I leaned down and surveyed the rest of the pieces. “This looks great,” I said. “It’s in good shape.”
“Yeah, we didn’t really use it. Well, my son was here for a while, and we put it together for him. My mother-in-law bought it for $700.” he turned to Donna. “Isn’t that right?”
She looked up from her book. “What?”
I looked it over again while Larry’s attention was on her. The piece with the keyboard tray mounted on it was made of particle board and a laminate surface. I was sure nobody could have paid that much for it.
“The desk. She paid 700?” he said.
“No, it was $900, because it’s solid oak.”
I shifted my gaze from the particle board back to Larry. They were either lying or just didn’t know better. I didn’t want to argue, becuase for the price they were asking, I was getting a good deal regardless of the materials used. Plus, I still didn’t truly know these people, so insulting them seemed like a bad idea. I could make up some other reason for backing out of the deal if needed.
With that innate understanding that has permeated every furniture move I have assisted, without words Larry and I each lifted one end of the first piece and walked it out the door.
“Yeah, she knew she was dying when she bought the desk. She was so proud of it she called me to come over and look at it. You should have heard her kids complaining, like she was spending all their inheritance.”
I would have expected them to wonder who tricked their mom into believing this was solid oak.
“Wow. Really?” I said. Because, what would have been better?
“She was out in California when she died, and really wanted us to have this desk.”
Larry and I loaded up and secured the remaining pieces, idly chatting about the “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker on his truck. He was not in the military, as I for some reason assumed that sticker meant. He and his wife moved here from California about four years ago, not unlike thousands of others making their respective ways from there to Texas.
“No, I was never in the military. I’m just a conservative at heart,” he said.
“Well, you moved to the right place.”
Back in their home office, I noticed a set of horns from a longhorn steer. They hung above the opening onto the living room, bold reminders that you are in Texas now.
“I see you have your Texas longhorns up there,” I said. “You didn’t take too long to start fitting in.”
“Oh, yeah,” Larry said, and I could tell he was glad I asked. “You see, this was my western room. I had the whole thing — boots, spurs, cowboy hats. Those horns are about all that’s left.”
Donna shouted from her place on the couch, “It was all brown, and I’m more of a blue gal.”
A cat rubbed my leg. “Oh, hey, there,” I said.
“Sorry about that. You want a cat?” Larry said. “I’ll give your $150 back if you take that cat.”
We both laughed, then I declined and thanked them for the desk. I needed to get back on the road — this time without any convolutions.
When I got home, my wife and I unloaded the desk’s pieces and shoved them into a corner of our garage. She pointed out that it seemed like solid oak to her. On closer inspection, I saw that she was right. Only one section — the part holding up the keyboard tray, was made of anything less.
It turns out I probably can believe Larry and his wife. The rest of it? I don’t really need to know.