Chris distracted me the next day by hatching a plan to clean out the junk room. He’d been inspired by the place where we’d gotten the piano, I think, and besides, since we couldn’t get the piano downstairs it had to go somewhere or just keep sitting in the middle of the living room. Plus the weather was good and tons of students were moving out of dorms into summer sublets and stuff; it was now or never.
The junk room was a room on the first floor that could have been a bedroom or something else, just off the living room, that was full of crap. The house had been inhabited fairly steadily by a long string of aspiring musicians for years and years. Chris had actually lived here over ten years ago he said, then moved out, and when he moved back in none of his original roommates were there. But in a house that had up to eight inhabitants at a time (sometimes a couple took a room), the tenants never all turned over at once.
The junk room was where all the stuff they’d left behind over the years had accumulated. Me, Chris, Lars, and Colin all started dragging the stuff out to the driveway. Lars’s current girlfriend, whose name I didn’t know since no one had introduced me and now I felt stupid asking her like six months later what it was, started making signs. Some said YARD SALE and some said MAKE AN OFFER. I would’ve been just as happy to put a sign that said FREE, but she explained that if we say FREE it seems too much like junk. Whereas if we act like we want something for it, people think it’s a bargain. Sure.
In among the junk we found some stuff worth keeping. I found a crate of vinyl records, mostly rhythm and blues, soul, and R&B, and just carried it right up to my room. The junk was literally in piles in the room–boxes, clothes, broken pieces of furniture–it was like excavating. A lot of stuff was intact, though. Just abandoned.
“Hey, what’s that?” I could see the black curve of something that looked like fake alligator pattern, but I couldn’t see enough of it to tell if it was actually a guitar case or a saxophone or what.
It took a while but we eventually uncovered a dog-eared guitar case pretty much just like my first one. I knelt down to open it.
Inside was a Yamaha classical guitar very, very similar to my “school” guitar which I didn’t even have anymore. “Jeez. I wonder how long this has been here?”
It had a full set of strings. I looked it over. You could see a few hairline scratches in the finish on the back where the buttons of someone’s shirt had rubbed, but otherwise it looked to be in perfect condition. I started tuning it out of reflex and found the top three strings had stayed pretty close to each other. I struck an E chord. It had a deep, rich voice, extremely warm. I’d forgotten that was what those classicals sounded like after all the time I’d spent with the brittle Ovation. The Miller was warm but it didn’t have a voice like this.
I turned to Chris. “This is almost identical to the guitar I learned to play on.”
“Well, okay, I did a couple of months on a three-quarter size, and Remo’s, but the first one I bought, it was almost exactly like this. Yamaha and everything. It’s almost eerie.” I played one of the riffs I always did, which had been written on the Yamaha, and I could feel it vibrating in my stomach.
I packed it back into the case and put it out on the porch. “Better ask for at least a hundred for this,” I told Lars’s girlfriend. “It was probably eight-hundred bucks new.”
Then we went back to digging. Deep under it all Chris found something he was interested in keeping: a weight bench and a set of free weights. There were a few of the set missing, but not that many, and he decided to keep them in that room. After taking out the ratty throw rug we discovered a nice hardwood floor under there, too.
I looked out the window at the people walking up and down, examining the stuff we’d laid out. “What are we going to do with the stuff we don’t sell?”
“Oh, we can pay a junk company to come haul it away. What’d work out good is if we can sell enough to make the fee, but I doubt we will. Still, it’ll be quick and easy.” Chris pushed on the stuck window and it moved with a screech. He got it down far enough to latch it. “There. That’ll make it a hell of a lot less drafty this winter, too.”
He went and changed into a tank top and a pair of ratty shorts and proceeded to pick up pieces of metal and put them down again. I couldn’t really see the appeal, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Hey, what’s Lars’s girlfriend’s name again?”
“Uh, it’s either Tina or Tanya,” Chris said, pausing between sit-ups to answer.
“That’s not helpful.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t think she’d last this long or I’d have tried harder to remember.”
I went out to see if she needed any help anyway. Lars was playing the bongos, and after a while I couldn’t stand it anymore and pulled out the Yamaha and played along with him. And a while after that we had attracted a pleasant little crowd. I don’t know if it helped sell anything, but it was better than sitting around with my thumb up my ass. In fact, it almost certainly hurt our day’s take because after all that I decided to keep the guitar.