The Yard Sale Miracle

A runaway car barrels down a hill toward a yard sale full of people, but a guardian angel guides it along a safe path.

- Posted on Apr 19, 2011

Jessie's vintage plates and saucers

Measuring tape, hand wipes, magnifier, jeweler’s loupe, and a pile of dollar bills for negotiating. I was armed and ready for the yard sales Jessie and I planned to hit that day. I even had a little surprise to show my friend when I drove up to her house in my silver Olds.

“Check out the bumper,” I said as she came out to the car. I didn’t want her to miss the new hot pink sticker I’d applied: THIS CAR STOPS AT ALL YARD SALES.

“That’s us,” said Jessie as she grabbed the classified section off the seat and got in. I’d circled destinations in black marker. You could never be too focused on finding a good deal.

“I figured we’d shop the old brick homes on the south side from eight to nine, then hit that big moving sale in Ritter Park,” I said. Jessie studied the paper beside me. “By ten the sales off Washington Boulevard ought to be going strong. When we finish there we’ll have to hightail it over to Oakwood Road.”

“The one with all the Victorian furniture,” said Jessie, reading the ad. She knew I couldn’t resist that.

Jessie was happy to follow my lead. I was an experienced yard sale shopper and I had a system. My car filled up fast, but most of the merchandise was Jessie’s.

She found some great deals on glassware. Highly collectible Fiesta plates in every color of the rainbow, green Depression-era dishes, and a fantastic English cottage ware pitcher and cracker jar. Jessie didn’t like to waste paper or cardboard wrapping things up, so we just piled it all up in the backseat.

“I’ll have to drive carefully,” I said as we pulled away from Washington Boulevard. “We don’t want anything to crack.”

Jessie was giddy over her purchases. “I can’t wait to get it all home and washed up,” she said. “That cottage ware is going to look perfect in the hutch I just refinished.”

I checked the rearview mirror nervously every few seconds. The pitcher and cracker jar wobbled and jumped like rambunctious children just itching to leap on each other. But they made it to Oakwood Road all in one piece.

I scanned the street for a parking space. Jessie pressed her face to the window as we rolled by the blue Colonial-style house, its contents covering the front yard and driveway.

I couldn’t help slowing down to scour the merchandise. The picket fence was draped with clothes. Picnic tables were stacked with housewares and electronics.

My eye went straight to a Victorian wishbone dresser. It looked to be made of walnut wood. I could already picture it in my bedroom, right next to the vanity set I’d picked up at another sale. The white marble top would compliment the other piece perfectly.

I turned the car around, impatient to get to “my” dresser. I could see the price tag from the car: 75 dollars. If I didn’t lay claim to it soon, it would surely be gone. “Where can we park?” I moaned. “We have to get over there.”

“Look,” Jessie said. A neighbor across the street was motioning to a free space at the top of the hill.

I waved a thank-you and headed up the hill as fast as the glassware in back would allow. I planned how I’d get the dresser home: I’d pay for it now, then send my husband back later with his truck. That is, if somebody didn’t snatch it up before I parked! “Jessie, run down and tell them that dresser’s sold.”

Jessie jumped out, as caught up in the thrill of the hunt as I was. She sprinted down the driveway. I jammed the car into a parking space and leapt out after her. A few feet down the hill I heard something behind me. The sound of wheels on a road.

I looked over my shoulder and saw a car coming toward me. No, I saw my car coming toward me. “Oh my gosh!” I said. In my rush to get to the dresser I hadn’t fully engaged the parking brake. My silver Oldsmobile was now rolling downhill—right at the crowd of people at the yard sale!

I let out a scream. There was no time to warn anyone. The car picked up momentum. Now all the shoppers were screaming. But where to run?

“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” I begged. It was the only word that came to mind, and it seemed useless. The car was already on the lawn!

It skimmed past a mother and her little girl, missing them by inches. It missed the man with the VCR. It missed the woman with a handful of teacups. It missed every single picnic table and every human being in the yard.

It cleared the sale without a scratch and sped toward the exquisite rose garden of the English Tudor next door. I winced. The blossoms would be destroyed. Better roses than people, I told myself.

The roses were surrounded by a little stone wall. The car hit the wall, flew over the roses and landed flat in the neighbor’s yard, as if it had arrived on the front lawn to pick up a passenger. I ran over to the garden. The roses stood tall, completely untouched. Even the wall was undamaged.

I laid a hand against the car to steady myself. Through the back window I could see Jessie’s glassware. It was lined up just as we’d stacked it earlier. Even the pitcher and the cracker jar were unbroken.

I turned around to face the stunned faces of the yard sale customers. They stood frozen, some clutching each other, some still holding the clothing or toys they’d been examining, the shock I felt mirrored on their faces. Jessie waved weakly to me from beside the dresser, price tag in her hand.

They’re okay, I realized, but I still couldn’t believe it. Everything is okay.

Later that evening I sent my husband over with a dozen donuts and some mortar mix in case there was any damage I’d missed to the stone wall. But there was nothing. Even the grass wasn’t damaged by my runaway car.

“Maybe it is possible to be too focused on getting a good deal,” I said to Jessie on the phone a few days later as I admired my new dresser and vanity set. “It was a miracle nobody was hurt. Even your dishes were okay!”

Jessie chuckled. I didn’t see what was so funny. Someone could have been hurt. But Jessie kept laughing. “What is it?” I finally asked.

“I just keep thinking,” she said, “about that bumper sticker. When you said ‘This car stops at all yard sales’ you weren’t kidding!”

Jessie had a point. My car definitely did stop at all yard sales. Even if I wasn’t driving it.

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