12 min read

The Sweater

Buying secondhand clothes can be scary. Weird smells, that strange stain, can disturb even the most hardened thrifter. For this Halloween, A.W. McCollough presents a story with true red flags for the bargain hunter.
The Sweater
Photo by Mukuko Studio / Unsplash

by A.W.McCollough

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Tyler Cabot sought bargains like a vulture carcasses, so driving home one evening he was surprised to discover, not a mile from his craftsman, a tiny thrift store shoe-boxed between the Seven-Eleven and the Wise Hands Massage on the corner of 23rd and Main.

More than once Anna, observing him bringing home three over-stuffed dollar bags from a church sale, had said he'd sell his soul for a cut-price cashmere. But to Tyler, nothing rivaled the excitement of riffling through unspoiled racks. Anticipation and the summer heat moistened his palms as he grasped door handle under the "Old Ones and Sons" sign.

The gong above the door tolled and a blast of de-humidified sub-arctic air dried his eyeballs. Tyler winced. He hated summer, not for the heat, but for the unrelenting yet unexpected air conditioning that rendered his sinuses arid and drove twin knives of pain beneath his eyes. Winter he could prepare for; humidify, bundle, mask, moisturize. But the summer indoors left him defenseless.

So, a quick run, then back into the nasal-friendly humidity outside. Besides, Anna promised dessert tonight and that meant brownies. Perfect brownies. Crackly surface, gooey middle, all chocolate.

Tyler stepped through the door and stopped, the closing door thumping his back. The shop, filled with clothing hung in serried rows, stretched the length of the block. He poked his head back outside into the comforting heat. Left 64 ounce convenience, right thoroughly oiled massage. Back inside and the shoes and handbags crowded the shelves atop massed clothing that blurred into shadows in the distance. Boots marched in ranks up free-standing racks, and the walls, converging to a far-off dot, were decorated with what looked like sculpted octopuses, fanged mouths gaping, wearing hats and dangling handbags from each tentacle. Fitful lights glinted dully off the tiled linoleum floor. The winter air smelled faintly of popcorn and retirement homes. He shivered.

On the one hand, the shop was mathematically impossible and made his skin twitch. On the other hand, with this much apparel on the racks, there had to be a deal.

"Ah, excuse me…" Tyler cleared his throat, "The shop appears…unlikely. I mean, isn't it?"

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