It’s no secret that I collect religious things (my bathroom decor is very religious, if you’ve ever visited you may have felt inspired to genuflect in front of the commode, Janna always does that I think). One of my favorite pieces is this creepy and hopefully haunted last rites box that I purchased from a flea market quite a few years ago (8 maybe? I’ll let you know in a minute when I copy and paste the old blog post about it because copy and pasting is how I write these days).
I remember Henry was pretty against me buying this because it was during the Poor Years but I stamped my foot probably and lo, it’s been hanging on our wall ever since like the saddest conversation piece (literally no one has ever asked about it lol).
It came with the original (so the seller said) last rites accoutrement that the priest would use when he came to, you know, deliver the last rites, the holy peace out, the heavenly DEUCES.
Anyway, please enjoy the story of how this beauty came to live in my house. (And i was tight! It happened in 2012. March, specifically.)
Last December, I found the most majestic religious artifact this side of the Vatican: a Last Rites shadow box with a statue of Saint Rita inside. (Coincidentally, this is how my Saint Rita obsession started.) Of course when Henry heard the asking price, he kept walking. Erin and her stupid collector’s quirks, right Henry? You asshole.
Sunday morning was warm and gorgeous, so we decided to kill some time at the flea market before the 12:30 Pens game (no comment on that). Everything was fine, Henry and I acted cordially to each other, even allowing our hands to graze at one point. Even Chooch was obedient and seemed content with the pack of Pokemon cards and 25¢ Happy Meal toy we let him buy (I would totally not have been content with that at age 5, for the record. – Silver Spoon Girl.)
And then it happened: several rotted-teeth Steeler fans parted at just the right moment to allow a sliver of the most wondrous wood-encased sight to peek through. Henry was the one who saw it first; I almost kept right on walking but he stopped me and pointed to it.
It wasn’t the Saint Rita, but a Pieta; still, its level of divine beauty paralleled it, for sure. And it was the same man with the dancing eye-mole who was selling it.
“$75,” he told Henry, who then walked away. But not me. I stayed there, lightly running my fingertips down the side, drooling just the tiniest bit and feeling a sense of longing I haven’t felt since I was Scott Dambaugh’s 8th grade science partner.
The man noticed that I was still standing there and he came back over to tell me its history, how it was over 90 years old and belonged to his grandmother who had it built into her wall; he opened it up and showed me the spoon that was used to pour holy water over the foreheads of the sick and dying.
Meanwhile, some man began encroaching on us and I felt myself moving closer to the box, shielding him from its availability, readying my foot for the impending crotch-kick it was about to perform.
Turns out he was only looking at some stupid baseball memorabilia on the table behind it. KEEP IT MOVIN’, BUDDY.
The seller left me alone with my painful materialistic yearning to snatch money off some dummy buying something lame.
Determined, I gave it one lingering caress with the promise that I’d return, then I did my Phoebe-run down the walkway to Henry, who was several tables away by this point, looking at rusty tools and vegetables, which is all he cares about.
“I only have $50!” he yelled when I careened to a halt in front of him, pouty-lip and sad-eyes at the ready. I was really starting to lay it on thick (he still owed me for making me miss the Sleeping With Sirens show at the beginning of the month! I don’t forget this shit) so he sighed and said, “See if he’ll take $50.”
“You!” I wailed.
“This is all you! I don’t want that thing, you do!”
OH REALLY THEN WHY DID HE POINT IT OUT TO ME. I would have probably walked right past it! He just likes seeing me hurt, that’s why.
I snatched the money from him and stalked back over to the guy’s table, stood sentinel next to the Last Rites box and waited for him to finish a much-lesser transaction.
When I proposed the new price of $50, he shook his head, dragged his hand over his eye-mole, and said, “No, I couldn’t. I gotta get at least $65 for this because it’s my sister’s in North Carolina and I gotta send her some of the money. These things are worth a lot of money,” he went on. “Just shipped a really rare Saint Rita one to Philly for $125.” (MOTHERFUCK!!!!!)
And then my lip went out and the tears fell down. I was kicking myself for getting him to spend $2 on cookies moments earlier. Then I’d have $52! $52 might sound more enticing to Dancing Eye Mole than $50. “Oh sure, you can have it for $52! That is so much more lucrative for me than $50!” he’d surely not say.
But when he saw my newly distressed state, all the tears and such, he sighed, looked up at the sky and said, “Get him to give you 10 more dollars and it’s yours.”
“OH THANK YOU!” I said in my best Shirley Temple voice, swiped away the tears and galloped over to Henry.
“No,” he said immediately.
“IT’S JUST TEN MORE DOLLARS!” I screamed. “I have a $20 at home that you can have!” (Of course I had no intention of actually giving him that though.)
“No,” he said, holding firm. “I have other things that need paid that are more important than that.”
“But you OWE me!” I hissed.
He just kept walking though, so I fell back and walked alone with my arms crossed.
“Do you want to get some incense?” Henry suggested.
“Do you want to look at the stuff inside?”
“Do you want me to throw away your coffee cup?”
“Oh come on, don’t do this,” he pleaded.
He could have asked me to marry him at that moment and my reply would have been a resounding, “…..”
I made Chooch walk real fast with me back to the car. My plan was to leave without Henry until I realized he had the car keys. By the time he had left the parking lot, I had totally wore him down with my pouting and he angrily drove to the closest ATM and got out $10.
It had started raining by the time we made it back, and as I raced over to the man’s table, he was just starting to pack everything up.
“WAIT! I’M BACK! HERE I AM!” I shouted, huffing and clutching my chest.
As he was removing the candle holders and putting them inside the box with all the last rites accoutrements, he reiterated that it would have been mine for $50 if it was his and not his sister’s. Yeah yeah, just give me my fucking treasure!
He placed it carefully into my arms like a baby, and I whispered to him, “I will give it a good home.” And then I tiptoed back to the car, mouthing the words, “Don’t drop it” over and over.
As we left the lot, the shadow box resting handsome-awkwardly on my thighs, Henry mumbled sadly, “Now I don’t have any money to get pretzels.”
(Don’t worry, he dug up change.)