“What’s got you down, Ernie?” I asked, searching my friend’s glum face. “Lottery’s Lady Luck leave you lonesome again?”
“Worse than that,” he replied, unfazed by my cleverness.
“Charles Town ponies take you for a ride?”
“Worse than that,” he answered.
“Must be serious,” I said. “Tell me. I’m your pal.”
“Too embarrassed,” he mumbled.
Ernie had a habit of getting himself in hot water with get-rich-quick solutions to life’s long-term problems. His latest scheme must have been a doozy.
Finally, he spoke. “You know that TV program, ‘Antiques Roadshow’? Where people buy a vase for $3 at a yard sale and then find out it’s worth $300?”
“Yep. I watch it sometimes.”
“Well, the Rescue Squad had one last night at the Legion hall to raise money. They called it ‘Hedgesville High Dollar.’”
“Sounds like a good idea,” I said.
“You paid 10 bucks to get three items appraised,” he continued. “They had auctioneers from all around telling you what your stuff was worth.”
“Sounds like fun,” I said.
“Yeah, lots of people showed up. Radio and TV showed up. I got interviewed by both of them.”
“Great!” I said.
“Not so great,” he replied. “My stuff was worthless. Everybody laughed.”
“What did you take?”
“I didn’t have much junk, after last month’s yard sale, so I went to St. Mark’s thrift store. I bought one of those twirly noisemakers from the millennium, a flowerpot made out of an old boot and a weird dog water bowl.
“Got it all for $4.75,” he said.
“Four seventy-five?” I said. “And you thought you might have a treasure?”
This didn’t sound promising, but I didn’t want to say anything that would make him feel worse.
“Turns out the noisemaker thing wouldn’t work — made in China, and had ‘2001’ printed on it instead of ‘2000’,” he said. “I should have looked it over better. I was really dumb.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” I said. “Everybody makes mistakes.”
“It gets worse. The flowerpot thing, well, I thought it was pretty neat. But the auctioneer said they were a dime a dozen and you could get them at any craft show. In fact, he said his wife made them out of old boots she got at St. Mark’s.
“And he said the one I had was probably one of hers. It had her initials on the bottom.”
This was going downhill fast. I could see why Ernie was upset. But the dog dish, I told him, sounded promising.
“That’s what I thought,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it. It was flat and sort of oblong-shaped. It had a big wide rim almost all the way around it, so the dog couldn’t slop water out of it and onto the floor, I guess.
“It looked old, too — just a little beat up. It was made out of metal, that dark blue stuff with little white speckles in it. My mom had big cook pots like that. So I was sure it was an antique, and probably valuable.”
The cloud over Ernie’s head was about to burst, I could see, and dump a bucket of rain on him. “So ...” I said.
Ernie hesitated. “They said it was a bedpan — you know, a potty for people so sick they can’t get up.”
I knew what was coming next and didn’t know what to say.
“Everybody cackled,” Ernie said. “Even the TV guy with the camera cracked up.
“I just took my stuff and slunk out of there.”
After a long pause he whispered, “You need a bedpan?”
“No,” I said. “Not yet. But Boodle needs a new water
bowl. I’ll take it off your hands.”
A little smile started forming on Ernie’s face, and then we had a good laugh ourselves. You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes it’s good enough just to have a friend.