Sunday, July 21, 2013
The islands sing a siren song and something for Gloria
Mr. Guscott, Jack, had picked up Robert Apotienne outside his cottage and they drove together in Jack’s blissfully air conditioned rental car to the Vetter property in the southern part of the village. By city standards, there was not a throng of customers but there were shoppers. The Reading Man wondered how long Mr. Vetter had collected wire coat hangers for all the shirts he displayed on what appeared to be home-built racks of plumbing pipe. All was orderly and business-like, no clothing heaped on old blankets the way it might have been for a yard sale or swap meet. No stooping and pawing, no garments flung willy-nilly, no jostling. From the car the visitors could see there was nothing mundane about the merchandise, truly vintage patterns, fabrics and manufacturers. Their steps and pulses quickened.
Later, the two men, scarcely more than strangers yet comfortably connected as they experienced the surprising weather along with everyone else, would talk with wonder about what came over them that day. Since simply being in Billington’s Cove was akin to having been placed under a spell - not a curse, a benevolent yet often confusing spell - the feeling of control by outside forces was not lessened by the sight of printed hibiscus blossoms, hula dancers, longboard surfers and every imaginable visual reminder of the islands as represented in the 1940s and 1950s. There were no rational chambers in their minds that allowed for all-weather coats, sweaters and rain gear suddenly giving way to tropical resort wear nor could they explain, even to themselves, why it became imperative, essential, to find one, if not more, of the mostly vivid wardrobe additions, and the sooner the better. They agreed, after the fact, that the Cove might be wise to post a sign at the village entrance suggesting that linear thinking be packed up and shipped home for the duration. They laughingly discussed whether such a parcel would remain unclaimed or at the very least unopened.
On their first pass through the abundant merchandise, Mr. Guscott was captured by a softly-shaded cotton number that featured the word "paradise," a concept to which he had been introduced in his many travels. Mr. Apotienne was similarly enticed by rayon in varying shades of olive green that included small aircraft from the 1930s or earlier. He could not explain but only say that it "felt like" a favorite movie, directed by Howard Hawks, called Only Angels Have Wings, about flying mail over the Andes. No reasons expected, none required. Mr. Vetter, whom they assured could ask much higher prices for such rarity and quality, was happy with what he collected, less than $10 per shirt. It must have been quite a fire sale, that fate-directed late afternoon at the swap meet. During their second swing around the pipe-constructed racks, together they found an undersea print that fairly shouted "Gloria!" Though neither could quite imagine her wearing even a genuine Hawaiian shirt, just a few hours earlier they would have said the same of themselves. The design they chose for her had a starfish.