“I don’t know. Hang on. Let me check,” he reached into his back pocket for his wallet and withdrew a small piece of paper tucked behind his driver’s license where it had been kept warm for well over two years. He unfolded the slip and silently read the list, his lips almost moving. “Nope. How much?”
We had already uncovered about ten volumes of the Hardy Boys books, the blue bound ones published in the sixties by Grosset & Dunlap. It was our goal to complete the collection of all fifty-four. We liked the way they looked next to one another, the dual profiles of the boys on each blue spine, and we made the search into a little game. We wouldn’t pay more than a dollar for any of the books we found. It’d be too easy to go into a used bookstore and pick up any one we wanted for five to ten dollars but what fun is that? We would walk into an old bookstore or see one at a flea market and it if were a dime over a dollar, we’d walk away happily knowing that there would be another one right around the corner, somewhere at some time.
There was a point, at the beginning of our collection, where we’d see them all the time, and our stock was quickly rising. However, they were starting to become more rare as we narrowed the field of possibilities. We had amassed a little over twenty and I suppose some titles were harder to find than others. Billy had done research, getting all of the titles to all of the volumes and their respective numbers. It was the number list he had created for his wallet.
“Four dollars,” I answered his question, knowing he’d say “No way!”
“What do you think about this?” he held up the bronco.
“I don’t know. Where would we put it?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the backyard?” he was clearly enamored with the statue. It fit into our overall theme of the house; decorate as if we were little boys with a bigger budget. We had collected old toys, cowboy linens, a bright red dresser with nautical trimmings, an authentic Prisoner Of War sign once at the desert internment camps during World War II, which was way cool, and a Boy Scout toilet.
“Okay. How much?” I asked back.
“Ten dollars,” his voice dropped in a way that I knew we would be going home with it no matter what.
"Great. Let’s make a deal,” I said. It was my job in the relationship to do the negotiating, whether it was for a Hardy Boys book or a brand new car. Billy would busy himself somewhere else, not wanting to be in on the dirty details of wrangling a price down.
I walked up to the woman running the yard sale and asked how much for both the book and the horse.
“Fourteen dollars,” she gave a slight glance over at what I was holding.
“Eleven and your day just got a little shorter,” I said to her, knowing from our own yard sales that it was more about getting rid of the merchandise than getting retail prices for the wares.
She paused for a moment, for affect, and nodded approval. I paid her and turned to find Billy, who was now looking at a beat up old turntable.
“We got them, honey,” I held up both of our purchases.
“Yeah,” he said and we walked back to our car, knowing we added another book to the shelf. Where the bronco would go was an afterthought although it ended up on the table in the backyard for a good four years.
We only ended up with twenty-eight out of the fifty-four but it fit our old built-in bookshelf in the front house perfectly. I haven’t searched for any more Hardy Boys books, not since Billy left for the Alternative Color Guard. The game is over and there just doesn’t seem much point in finding out about the further adventures of Frank and his younger brother, Joe.