I think Henry has been afraid to visit Rossi’s Pop-Up Market ever since I posted the essay I wrote about it for a writing class at Pitt, but every once in awhile he gets a hankering to peruse a blighted pastiche of some hick’s grandma’s soiled doilies and the contents of Leatherface’s tool shed splayed out on a card table for $1 a (rusty) pop all while enjoying the warbling notes of doo wop classics crackling out of a retro sound system.
Or maybe it was the fact that he had money burning in his pocket after THREE KITTEN SELLERS pulled out from under him, but I am not allowed to write about it because “it didn’t happen to you!! It happened to me!! You don’t know!! If anyone is going to tell the story it’s me!!”
OK, Mr. Leave My Life Outta Your Blog.
Anyway, I was happy to tag along because I have found some great religious bullshit at that place in the past (all of which is in my bathroom), and also the best 50¢ picture frame of all time.
Gary Puckett serenaded us with his cautionary & subtly-statutory love song “Young Girl” as we regarded a cesspool of 1980s board games and framed autographed photos of old Steelers inside one of the rooms of the abandoned multiplex-cum-bargain basement; I wished Henry had crooned that to me eleven years ago. Maybe I would have heeded the warning.
BETTER RUN GIRL. YOU’RE MUCH TOO YOUNG GIRL = why didn’t anyone say that to me back then?! OH WAIT. Pretty much every single person did except for HENRY who was practically prematurely ejaculating at the thought of my cradle.
We had made it to the parking lot portion of Rossi’s just as my 11-years-too-late musical warning was ending. Chooch and I made the mistake of lingering a bit too long at a table of still-packaged singing stuffed animals.
“TWO BUCKS FOR THAT RIGHT THERE” a Marlboro-ravaged voice rasped threateningly from a few feet back. I dropped the stuffed toy down on the table and mumbled a few non-committal syllables while shoving Chooch away from the threatening Rasper. Making eye contact AND conversation with a junk vendor is pretty much the kiss of death at flea markets.
I took a few casual steps and then ran away, using my jazz hands to accelerate.
This shit never happens to Henry.
Chooch: I want a rainbow snocone.
Henry: Okayyyyy….what flavor is that?
A duet of Chooch & Erin: Rainbow.
Henry: So….what? Like, lemon….lime….[lifts his glasses up to see the picture on the side of the truck better.]
Me, annoyed / Chooch, still slightly forgiving: RAINBOW.
Henry: Yeah, OK. I know that, but what flavors?
Me, losing it: RAINBOW. RAINBOW RAINBOW RAINBOW. READ THE MOTHERFUCKING SIGN — RAINBOW.
Henry, squinting at the flavor menu: Oh. I didn’t know rainbow was a flavor.
Probably because it was invented while he was in the SERVICE; that’s his excuse for everything he doesn’t know about: snocone flavors, birth control, grammar and the pilot episode of Miami Vice.
Meanwhile, Chooch had to pee and the line wasn’t moving, so Henry tiredly asked me to take Chooch inside to pee. Me! Of all people!
“Uh, do you even know what you’re doing?” Chooch asked in the tone of a sixteen-year-old watching his mom fumble with a bong as I steered him in between ain’t-slinging barterers and garbage cans full of empty Skoal tins and last night’s vomit until I finally made it to the entrance of Rossi’s interior without getting redneck juice wiped on me.
Funny how Chooch’s need-to-pee was suddenly silenced when he came upon a table full of Hot Wheels.
“Keep moving,” I said, steering him toward the restrooms. Nothing very interesting happened while I waited, which is surprising. Chooch came out on the heels of several older men and loudly announced, “OH MY GOD, IT REALLY STINKS IN THERE.” Well, there’s something you might not have known: a flea market restroom STINKS. Thank you Chooch, astute as always.
He almost knocked over a mannequin on the way back out. That would have been amazing, and I would have been Some Stranger helping him find his mommy and daddy.
“I don’t even want this now.”
“Henry can I—”
He did however actually let me buy a blinged-out elephant bracelet. (When I say he “let” me, please note that yes, I have a job, but Henry is the one with the foresight to take money out of the ATM before we go to the flea market, while all I have on me is plastic. Which means I have to play the But I’ve Been So Good! game. Infuriating.) It was expensive for a flea market buy (a whopping $12!), but I had to have it. Chooch was with me when the transaction went down and conned a dollar from me, which he carried at his side with a PURPOSE.
Rossi’s employs their own MC, who sits outside on a stage and periodically announces things like, “Jimmy Maplebitch finally scrubbed out the feces in the corner of his stall and wants ya’ll to go and check out his shitty baseball card collection! That’s Jimmy Maplebitch’s stall inside, next to the colored girl’s wig stand.” I don’t know what he was saying that made Chooch stop dead in his tracks, but when I tried to get him to keep walking, he held up one hand, shushed me and irritably barked, “I’m tryna listen to him.”
During one of his spiels, he got unreasonably patriotic (the MC, not my son) and excitedly suggested that all the Vets and SERVICE people (what are they called?) go up on the stage with him, at which point I basically turned into a tug boat in my effort to drag Henry to the stage. He just shrugged me off with one swift motion and stalked off into a sunset of broken weed wackers and Jane Fonda work-out videos on VHS. This makes me think he went AWOL while he was in the SERVICE.
Chooch finally found a track set for his cars. He was satiated (for a whole 20 minutes).
As we were about to go back inside the old theater, that goddamn MC got all serious and exclaimed, “LOOK! DO YOU SEE THAT!?”
“What?!” I yelled to no one, just the sky and the ghost of the ringworm that I had in 2002. (Lionel. That was his name, and he is always with me.)
“IT’S A STEALTH BOMBER!” he hollered, and I was spinning around on my heels now, looking like a fat man playing a ballerina, except that I am a girl but just as clunky and oafish.
“Where?! I don’t see it!” I whined, just as that fucker laughed into his stupid microphone and said, “You can’t see it because it’s so STEALTHY!”
Henry rolled his eyes at me for falling for it and kept ten paces ahead of me after that.
We ended our flea market experience with cupcakes that some broad was selling, and since I saw stacks of pretty pink boxes behind her counter, I took that to mean she was legit and not baking her cakes in a moldy Easy Bake oven purchased right there at Rossi’s yesterday. The one with the jelly splooge was mine: there’s always time for cupcakes, especially when it’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time.
It was good enough to bring me back out to Rossi’s more than just twice a year, that’s for sure. I’d probably still eat it even if it was prepared in an Easy Bake oven.
Right before we left, Henry stopped to buy some cookies off an impatient grandma. Some guy let Henry go ahead of him, which apparently frazzled him, so Henry ordered one chocolate chip cookie and that was it. On the way to the car, he moped about wanting to also order a banana split cookie, which sounds utterly disgusting to me.
“So, why didn’t you?” I asked impatiently.
“Because that guy let me go ahead of him and I felt rushed!” he whined.
And he talks about me.