Charlie knew that if he didn’t clear out The Shed, all his precious cargo would get swept up in the massacre, that auction of cheap trinkets, the moment his dad — his boys’ grandfather — sold the place. His boys played in front. His boys didn’t yet understand the importance of all his trinkets, but they would, right? They’d need all of Charlie’s resources soon, now wouldn’t they? He’d make sure they’d need his stuff soon in case something awful happened. The ground rumbled. Yes, in case something awful happened. He’d make sure they’d know exactly what they got in his will. Or at least he really wanted to try and make sure they knew and needed.
He doubted they cared.
“The Shed” was this two-story shop up in the front and a rambling mess of warehouse rooms in the back. It looked like the first few levels of a poorly designed shipping vessel. Its silver sides were not made of true silver but rather that wavy sheet metal you see often on the roofs of… well… sheds. This siding had been hand-painted with chrome spray paint. Cases of chrome spray paint. It had hingelatches and padlocks all over the swinging and sliding doors all down the sides and old factory crosshatch single pane windows and the storefront had one of those easily shatterable glass doors that nominally protected his treasures. He’d need to change that door or else his treasure might get taken.
Up front, behind that glass door, the off-kilter cubby holes and the single slab of oak that made up the front desk would suit the kind of trendy craft shops you find in New York City these days, but not in Salem. There in Salem, Illinois these kind of cubby holes were the remains of a hardware store that had predated ACE and R.P. Lumber and Rural King ® way back in ancient history when Tulsa Rig and Reel had kept contracts with Texaco Oil. Or maybe earlier, who knew?
This was not the first time Charlie had cleaned The Shed while the boys played — for years he had stored his keepsakes and spare car parts from his hodgepodge car repair business inside the backrooms of The Shed and for that same span of time his parents had been goading him into periodic reordering of his “work flow,” though his “work flow” involved more take-what-you-can-and-give-nothing-back than the average businesswoman’s productivity management app. He turned on his old CB radio and let it fish for channels. One of them picked up a sort of squishy, chewing, flailing noise. It reminded of how a can of earthworms sounded the first time he’d put his ear to it as a kid: a little too burrowy.
He cleaned, leaving his boys to play up near the front on the north side.
Up near the front on the north side, there were a half-dozen acres separating The Shed from the abandoned fuel station to the north. Some wooden train ties partitioned the area into various grassy or gravelly sections and these sections of the back lot played host to random bathtubs, aluminum sheets, copper wires, and appliances — particularly old GE washers for whatever reason. On that side of The Shed, Charlie had long ago constructed a two-story scaffolding he’d once climbed in order to tidy up the paint on the outside of the second story. Out of sheer survival he’d once camped in that same bare uppor story for four months after the divorce. But he’d never finished the paint job even long after he’d moved out of the uppoer part of the front store of The Shed, so the scaffolding remained like fish bones on a riverbank that wove through domestic backyards before the heat of the sun and its toil’d scorched it dry. There, up near the front on the north side atop the bones of his abandoned paint job, his boys played.
He went out to check on his greatest treasures. “You alright boys?”
They didn’t answer, but he watched them swing. Ivan (seven) and Bennet (five) both climbing and swinging and darting along the ins-and-outs of the metal bars. The ground shook some more.