The Garage Sale #FridayFlash

“We’re open for business.”

That was the first thought to pop into Jacob Silvers’ mind when Andrew introduced Ally to their merry little band of wannabe renegades. There was something very familiar about Ally even though he’d never seen her before, but that ‘open for business’ thought was much stronger. It dismissed the familiarity, glossing it over with a curiosity which quickly intensified, felt sharp.

Ally had said the strangest thing to him when Andrew introduced them. “Jacob. Such an old name for a man still young.” Jacob sensed this was the beginning of a brand new day.

And Lord knows they needed one.

Jacob knew he should be content, for he enjoyed his work, was paid well, and had a great deal of freedom and mobility. He worked with a good team, all smart and industry savvy, but not taking themselves so seriously that fun got left out of the mix. They consistently churned out one bestseller after another, and small as they were, Writers & Readers Edge Press enjoyed a fantastic reputation in the publishing world. Their authors loved them, and distributors counted on them to live up to their name, finding those edgy works buyers gobbled up with an insatiable appetite and open wallet.

Rewarding work to be sure, so what was his trouble in this publishing paradise? Pretty simple, very frustrating: Jacob was bored, and his boredom made him restless and more than a little confused. He’d often wished one of the authors he repped would write this story out for him, giving it a plot which made sense. Aren’t you supposed to be happy when you love your work and just about everything which goes with it? What was that saying? “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” So what was missing?

When Ally walked in that day, taking the reins from Andrew with a subtle but sure finality, Jacob instantly knew what that missing element had been. As empty a cliché as he felt the word had become, he couldn’t think of a better one: Leadership. There was no mistaking Ally’s readiness in the way she carried herself, and in how those eyes took everything into account in silent inventory. That fire of eager leadership had been missing for a while now, and maybe this time it need not come from within him.

“We’re open for business.”

Jacob had said those words seven years before Ally joined W&RE Press. It was 7am on a Saturday morning in late May, and he’d said it as he moved aside the orange traffic cones in their driveway to let people in. He was surprised by the crowd quietly waiting, many with children in tow. His wife had done a terrific job passing out her artsy pastel flyers, that’s for sure. She’d written her heart, and they ended up in the hands of the right buyers:

Garage Sale on Dillingham Avenue, 7am Saturday.
Mostly books for the young and the never old.
We’re Voracious Readers, and need to make room on our bookshelves for more.
Wonderful children’s selection. Selling cookbooks, our art and craft magazines.
There will be other household and family-loved things.
Goods you normally find at a garage sale when the kids grow up, leave home.
Mom can stop working! (long-time party planner, selling those wares too)
Hope to see you fellow readers; we’ll brew coffee.

As promised, they had an amazing number of books to sell, but there was much more, accumulated through years living in the same neighborhood raising an active family. His wife charmed as a seller that morning, and Jacob was instantly put to work as the banker. Head down, he pecked at his calculator buttons to be sure of each purchase total, bagged up their old life in recycled grocery sacks, and doled out change non-stop for at least the first two hours of the morning. When he finally got a breather and looked up, Jacob was amazed at what he saw.

Part of their wares included a few dozen straw mats left over from a beach party his wife had done, and they were now spread out on his front lawn, under the shade of their huge avocado tree. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in assorted family combination were sitting and quietly reading, having dragged their sale boxes of books out with them like some literary bonfire crackling warm in their midst. They flipped through short stacks of books on each mat and sipped their coffee, trading with each other, enjoying the morning and in no rush to decide which they’d buy. And they did buy. They even bought the books they’d already read. They were buying their morning reading under that avocado tree, taking it home with them.

Jacob had looked at his wife, smiled and said, “Whoa, we’re open for business alright.”

A woman trying to choose between some paper lanterns caught their attention as she shushed her little boy, saying, “I’m trying to hurry Matthew, please give mommy just a few more minutes.” Matthew was about four and he’d already chosen three books, held close to his chest. “Hey sport, how ‘bout I read one of those books to you until your mom is done?” Jacob asked him.

After getting “It’s okay, go ahead” from his grateful mom, Jacob and Matthew grabbed another mat and joined the crowd on the lawn. By the time Jacob had finished reading Where the Wild Things Are, something was stirring, something big. It had to do with Matthew and the other readers, with the books, and with the reading so irresistible that morning. Jacob didn’t know what it was; he only knew he wasn’t as ready as his wife was to retire. Not yet.

Within a year, Jacob was throwing open the doors of a book launch with his new boss Andrew Edgewater, and a very excited first-time author. “Another author open for business.” Andrew had said. “You ready?”

Trailer of the movie to be released next month!

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
About the #FridayFlash fiction community. This is the 4th time I am participating, with fictional stories that do reflect some of the struggles we have in our workplaces today.   My first 3 stories: The Vision, and The Manager (Learn more about Ally in that one) and last week, The Truth Will Set You Free.

Several different thoughts collided in this one for me.
1. Continual business reinvention is a must, and personally I feel the publishing industry is a potent example and might be fun to explore. Giving this company a name might get me to work in more story versus non-stop character development, fun as it is!
2. Seemingly happy, successful people like Jacob can get so neglected in the workplace. Managers’ attentions get diverted as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and their stars are not kept happy. They are not challenged.
3. Like Jacob, many of us are not quite sure what we want; we just know we want different. Leadership may still be a buzz word, but that doesn’t mean we want it any less.
4. I feel I need to address The Vision again in a future installment, and this was a stretching/playing until it comes to me. Jacob had a very strong vision at one time, and it came from the most unlikely place. We still don’t know about the outcome of his promotion battle with Camille —does he even want it?
5. And last, we just had a garage sale this past weekend for a similar clutter busting, though I would never sell my books!

Any workplace familiarity in this one for you?

If you are a #FridayFlash writer, how would you have edited this to make it shorter?

Comments

  1. says

    It was wonderful meeting Jacob. As I understand it, Ally’s qualities of fresh eagerness in taking the reins, firmly and surely, imbued him with feelings of trust a successful leader needs in order to be a positive influence in the workplace, and led him to feel that maybe this time it need not come from within him.

    I do know of one friend who has a wonderful, high paid job in communications. Yet, she is miserable and has decided to look for another. Her days are full of meetings after meetings that lead to nothing but more meetings. She is bored and frustrated…and invisible.

    Love your stories.

    Mahalo.

    • Rosa Say says

      I’m glad you like Jacob Marisa. I have some plans for him… sorting them out in my imagination still. I was grateful for what you picked up, for at this point I was feelin’ him as “still young” but getting tired, and feeling the weariness of age a bit too prematurely for the potential he has. Last week I only had Camille refer to him as “brilliantly smooth” and “determined” yet I wanted to explore if she could be misreading his motives.

      I feel for your friend. What she is experiencing is way, way too common in the workplace and it is such a waste of talent and energy. And yes, it is “miserable.”

  2. says

    This is lovely. I’m right next to Laura and Marisa trading books and sipping coffee.

    You made Jacob a very interesting person, and I’m anxious to see what happens. The corporate workplace has a way of sucking the very life out of you, and I really hope for good things for him. He seems like a really nice guy.

    You can think you have everything and still be missing the one thing that gives your life purpose. I think that’s what Jacob is missing. Purpose.

    Great read. :)
    .-= netta ´s last blog ..Long Time — Friday Flash Fiction =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thanks for pulling up that mat Netta!

      I’m wanting good things for Jacob too, but as I recall, we also wanted Camille to win the promotion last week! Time to scheme a bit if I’m to make both these people happy – that is, Ally will have to (assuming she wants the best for them too :-)

  3. says

    I loved your descriptions of the garage sale. I felt that that part of the story was very strong. I don’t think I liked the first part as much and to me they felt like two stories joined together in the middle. Actually, this felt like a middle part of something bigger, which it is. I’ll be reading next week to see if you somehow link Ally with the avocado tree!
    .-= Cascade Lily ´s last blog ..#fridayflash: Book Club =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Yes, I am feeling drawn to all these characters, going more of the serial/installment route in #fridayflash than with self-contained stories, yet it is a challenge to try doing both things.

      Ally and the avocado tree? Now that would be a stretch!

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Clive. The “crafting” I’d hoped to pull off was around that “open for business” statement, revealing that Jacob still needs to decide what business he needs to/wants to be in – not sure if I succeeded or not, but am gratified to know you’d look forward to more. Mahalo.

  4. says

    Hmmm…I think Camille should get the promotion and Jacob should get something much more creative to do. Being bored is always why I ended up quitting my jobs in the past. Loved the garage sale scene. I wouldn’t sell my books either, but what a cool idea to have a nieghborhood book exchange day (not a permenant exchange) but just a day for picnicing, reading each other’s book and introducing kids to the concept of reading as a funtime…
    .-= Shannon Esposito ´s last blog ..Friday Flash: One Last Inkblot =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Our thoughts are aligning on this Shannon (in regard to Camille and Jacob).

      As for community exchanges, it may be an idea whose time has come – or come back, given the economy we all find we’re in right now. Hmmm… perhaps another story idea on the comeback of barter?

  5. says

    Rosa,
    I liked that sentence:
    “Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in assorted family combination were sitting and quietly reading, having dragged their sale boxes of books out with them like some literary bonfire crackling warm in their midst.”
    You are describing reading as a community thing here, not as something everybody does at home, being alone. That’s a fascinating idea, to read together, and–what you don’t describe but what I would like to see–to talk about the books, to exchange impressions and thoughts.
    .-= Ulla Hennig ´s last blog ..The Chinese Garden =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      I guess we’ve become true-blue community advocates Ulla! Joyful Jubilant Learning has taught us well :-)

      When I chose to reveal this business in my #fridayflash ongoing series as an indie publishing house, my thoughts quickly went to the customer experience, and thinking about the challenges that bookstores are now facing to reinvent themselves too. Watch anyone with an arm full of books pace the aisles in most bookstores: There aren’t enough places to sit, and a clean floor becomes more important than visual merchandising!