It seemed like a good deal at the time... but then, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Still, it seemed innocent enough...
Saturday morning, late spring.
The beginning of yard sale season.
Probably only imagined, but I could swear the scent of desperation was in the air as we bargain junkies, starved after a long winter of going cold turkey, climbed into our cars and began the slow crawl through neighborhoods. Peering into yards as if we had the right to deny our neighbors any scrap of privacy. We had become stalkers with pockets full of change and small bills, ready to pounce at a moments notice, scrabbling amongst ourselves for another person's castaway items.
At first glance this sale seemed pretty sparse, but my companion and I pulled over anyway and walked over to examine its contents more closely. Like a modern-day Indiana Jones I was determined to separate the gold from the dross... to haul home that hidden treasure that somehow was overlooked amidst the detritus of a life.
The box sat to one side, quietly unassuming and no one was even glancing its way. Without much hope I wandered over and was surprised to see a small box filled with lovely seashells and a bunch of sand dollars in perfect condition. A glance at the side of the box found me looking at a sticker that said $1. I snatched up the box and made my way to where the beleaguered mother was trying to keep an eye on her wayward daughter racing about the yard while also directing another family member who was still bringing out a few random items. She confirmed that the shells were indeed just a dollar, and mentioned that she and her family had collected them on a trip to Mexico the year before.
I paid for my shells and a few other items, and put it in the trunk of the car, before we made our way to yet another stop. Later that day the box finally made its way into the house, where I began counting out the beautiful sand dollars and was surprised to find nearly 30 tucked within! I was already making plans to ship these to my sister, so she could try recreating a cute garland that I had found online and forwarded to her.
The shells sat off to one side of the living room for a few weeks before I finally hauled them off to work, determined to find a way to safely pack the bits and pieces for shipping, and to sort through the other shells that lay within.
Today on my lunch break I began sorting.
More and more lovely shells went through my hands, were appreciated, and then carefully repacked into plastic bags to await a future of being displayed in a large glass jar. The flatter shell of the clam, glowing in tones of pearl and pink, gentle spirals in creams and browns, a conch or two and, surprisingly, a lot of glassy bits of obsidian. All of these were a feast to the eyes...until one little shell caught my eye. Turning it over I discovered the remains of a desiccated little clam.
Poor thing, I thought, and moved the shell to one side to be disposed of. A few shells further and I picked up a tiny conch; no greater than a nickel. Then I saw a flash of red inside the shell, something in direct contrast against the sage green... it was a dead crab that had huddled deep within its adopted shell home, only to die nowhere near the sea it had been plucked from.
Further inspection found a sea urchin that appeared to have gone in the box while still alive as well...
I had purchased a box of mass murder.
I still have nearly a quarter of the box to go and from what little I see, it doesn't appear as if any of the remaining shells hold any lurking horrors, but I won't know for certain until tomorrow. Still, I feel terrible for the poor sea life that suffered and died just so they could one day wind up in my hands. I can only hope that these little creatures weren't collected intentionally; that their inclusion in the box was due to someone thinking these items were safe to collect as their occupants were no longer in residence.
But still I wonder....
...does this make me somehow partially responsible?