Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

As I approached the Goodwill in Plymouth, a flamboyant tempera mural was chalked up on the glass facade. It featured a Christmas tree with presents tucked underneath. According to the painted banner winding across the glass panel, my gift on this day was to be the “Christmas in July Sale!” Even more so than used car lots, pool and spa superstores, and shady characters hocking mattresses from the back of semi trailers, thrift stores took advantage of any opportunity to have a sale. This made complete fiscal sense when your inventory was essentially free.

As I entered, I was greeted by Carl, who was wearing a shabby looking Santa hat.
“Merry Christmas!” He barked as I walked toward the pile of blue shopping baskets.
“Merry Christmas,” I halfheartedly echoed, as I smirked at him dubiously.

Right down to his name, Carl bore an eerie resemblance to every junior high shop teacher ever. He wore black horn-rimmed glasses, which marvelously accented his crew cut gray hair. He was short, slim, and wiry. He wore sensible shoes and seemed like a sensible fella. His sole concession to an alter ego rock-star persona, was the gray soul patch nestled just below his lower lip. I couldn’t picture him without it, however.

Any time I ended up at his register, he’d comment on each record I’d chosen.
“That’s a good one!”
“I don’t know this one?”
“Man, this one brings back memories!”

These were but a few of his stock assessments. He especially loved anything from the late ’50s and early ’60s. I’m pretty sure he knew both the Everly and Righteous brothers personally. From what I had gathered, he wanted to know Nancy Sinatra biblically. He’d seen Elvis play Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor Michigan at the show that would ultimately end up on the Moody Blue album. But his favorite artist of all time was easily Roy Orbison. He knew everything there was to know about the man—he was an Orbison savant.

I’d never entertained the prospect of hanging out with the various characters who worked the thrift store circuit. Most were quirky, strange, or just flat out freaks. They were the carnies of retail. But it seemed like talking Orbison with Carl over a few beers at the lackluster sports bar across the street might be a smashing way to kill a weekend afternoon.

Excerpt from Finding Fidelity, the forthcoming novel from Blake Charles Donley

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