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As a youngster, I remember our one-car, cement-block garage as a very special place. It was cool, and smelled of a mixture of oil, gasoline and grease. Real boy stuff! Best of all, the garage housed “a secret place” – a dried-up cistern, where I could hide the things little boys consider “valuable:” a slingshot, a cap pistol, some comic books and a battered black bag.

My garage in Waynedale is still “my garage” except for a couple of times a year when my wife, Marty, fills it with sorted stuff which used to be in the house in boxes, under beds and in the attic. The usual garage items are pushed aside so someone won’t try to buy them during our neighborhood’s semi-annual garage sale.

“They were like vultures attacking a freshly-killed carcass.” That’s the way I described the women – and a couple men, too – who invaded my garage one year late on a Thursday afternoon before the sale officially began. I had just pulled into our driveway and was attempting to park the car to one side to make room for the next morning’s customers. But when I raised the garage door, a woman, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, invaded the premises.

“We’re not officially open yet,” I announced with authority. She dismissed me with a wave of her hand and the words, “I just wanna take a quick peek.” But before I could counter her response, just that quick there were four or five more people in the garage riffling through things.

“How much is this?” someone asked. “My wife isn’t here,” I said defensively. They seemed to sense my weakness and began moving in for the kill. “I’ll take these for a dollar,” a lady said as she stuffed a bill into my hand. “What’s this?” a man asked holding up something I’d never seen before. “I don’t know,” I replied timidly. “Have you got a bag,” someone asked. “Can you all come back later? My wife will be here tomorrow,” I promised plaintively.

Then it happened! A woman picked up a cake pan filled with jewelry and asked, “How much is this pan?” I looked at it and saw, to my satisfaction, a sticker on the side that said, 25 cents. “One quarter!” I proudly said. She dumped the contents, handed me the coin, and left. I quickly shut the garage door, grabbed a beer from the fridge and sipped the cold brew with a sense of relief that I had survived some sort of a sneak attack.

When my wife got home I gave her $1.25 thinking, “Won’t she be proud of me!” And she was, too, except for her favorite cake pan. It was not for sale! “The jewelry pieces were 25 cents each, not the pan,” she explained emphatically.

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer