Beautiful and Splendid

When I speak to Dave on the phone the first time, he tells me his father died from cancer, that what he’s selling is part of his Dad’s huge collection of vintage stereo equipment. I’m sitting in the parking lot of an animal hospital in Northern Virginia, where I’ve just dropped off my dog Swayze for palliative radiation for her own cancer.

I tell him I’m sorry to hear it.

“He didn’t do anything but sit in a chair for two years while they kept him alive. He’s better off dead,” Dave says. “He was 82. He lived his life.”

I’d driven to Virginia from Maryland’s Eastern Shore where my wife, Susan, and I live and was trying to arrange a time to visit Dave back in Maryland so I could look at a few things he was selling on Craigslist: two reel-to-reel tape players and a vintage 200 watt Kenwood receiver, all listed far below their value. I’d buy the stuff from him, and then sell it at market value on eBay. The money would help pay for Swayze’s chemotherapy. I didn’t want Dave to know that though.

“My Dad worked for RCA for years, serviced all this stuff himself,” Dave continues. I’m having trouble hearing him, but he talks to me at length about capacitors he’s replaced, the phono stage on the Kenwood, how the receiver rattles the walls of his house it’s so loud. He likes to listen to LPs he’s recorded onto reels, and he prefers the Pioneer player to the Akai, but it’s my choice. I tell him I might be interested in both. I’ve concocted a backstory about why I want the stuff, but he never asks. He’s happy to go on telling me all about the equipment, doesn’t care why I want it, which is fine with me.

I ask him if I can come look at it all. I’ll bring cash, I’ll be quick.

“Sure,” he says, “Call me around six.”

I have this idea that I can make extra money buying things from Craigslist and selling them on eBay. I have alerts set up for new listings of stereo equipment and I’ve watched terrible YouTube videos late at night about how to do this successfully. So far, I haven’t made a dime from this enterprise.

When I found Dave’s listings, I thought I’d hit upon a sure thing, though I knew he was probably a scammer because his prices were too good to be true. But after listening to him describe the equipment down to the wiring in his thick Eastern Shore accent, and because he’s willing to demo the stuff at his house, I’m convinced he’s legitimate. I try not to think too hard about it.

When I ask Dave for the address, I don’t quite understand him. The background noise from wherever he is makes it tough to get the numbers.

“One oh one?” I ask.

“Just call me at six, I’ll be here.”

“One zero one?” I ask again, more slowly, louder. It sounds like he’s talking to me from beside a busy highway or from inside of a car with the windows down. I imagine he’s in a van, for some reason.

“Eleven,” he says.

“So one eleven?”

I write it down, and repeat. “One one one?”

“Just call me at six, I’ll be here!”

Swayze will be at the vet most of day. Her diagnosis has been a long one coming. In March, she began to favor her left back leg. I took her to her vet in Michigan, where I live and teach most of the year while my wife, also an English professor, lives here in Maryland. The vet in Michigan is a young guy who went to veterinary school in Scotland and is married to an Italian woman who can’t get a visa, so they have an even longer distance relationship than my wife and I. I like him and always feel like we’re on the verge of arranging a time to grab a beer, but it never quite happens. He x-rayed her and couldn’t find anything wrong, maybe a little arthritis in her hips. He told me she could lose a little weight, and prescribed Rimadyl, a chewable pain reliever.

After a week, she started limping again. I wondered if he x-rayed the wrong leg, if there was something worse going on. The semester ended and we headed back to Maryland where her vet here told me she needed to lose more weight (she’d lost 3 pounds!) and that arthritis is really common. She prescribed another painkiller, and we agreed to come back in a few weeks.

Swayze’s limp didn’t improve. We went back to the vet again, and then again, but this time the vet noticed her leg felt larger—strange, since it should have been slighter from muscle atrophy. She took another x-ray, and there in the light we saw a long tumor on her femur.

The vet explained that the tumor was most likely osteosarcoma. Bone cancer. But then she said it’s strange for osteosarcoma, that maybe it’s chondrosarcoma, a rarer, slower growing cancer. If it’s chondrosarcoma, and it hasn’t spread, it can be treated with amputation. She explained there was a slim chance the tumor was fungal or viral. Whatever it was, she said, wasn’t good.

At home, we cried and worried and all day I Googled images of osteosarcoma and felt good because our dog’s cancer didn’t look anything like that—it’s not a starburst, it doesn’t comeout of the bone—our dog on the floor, just being herself.

She’s too young for this; we haven’t had enough time. She is the best dog in the world, we said, how could something like this happen to the best dog in the world? She is beautiful and splendid, something a little girl once said when we were out for a walk.

We went to the beach at Assateague, where Swayze and our other dog, Stella, a deaf Australian shepherd, played in the ocean and dug in the sand. Stella played in the surf even though she’s normally terrified of getting wet. We took turns swimming in the deeper water while the other kept an eye on the dogs. I remember watching from the water, my family: Susan, Stella, and Swayze, thinking how could anything be better than this. I’ll remember that moment when Swayze’s gone, remember how everything then was fine, when we were all together.

 

I haven’t spent much time in the D.C. area since moving away in 2007, but now I find myself alone on a Monday morning with hours to kill while I wait for them to irradiate the tumor in Swayze’s leg. We’d been here once, to the animal hospital, where the oncologist told me frankly, but with compassion, after an x-ray of Swayze’s chest, that the cancer had spread: a single, solid tumor, at the bottom lobe of her lung. They aspirated the nodule and confirmed that whatever it is, it is the same as the tumor on her leg. They still can’t say what kind of cancer she has with certainty. She repeats what our vet at home said: whatever it is, it’s not good.

The oncologist’s plan is to do two courses of radiation—one on Monday, the next on Tuesday. It’s a two-hour drive from our house in Maryland to the animal hospital in Virginia, but I’m so used to driving between Michigan and Maryland, it doesn’t seem so bad. Taking her to a special vet in D.C. seems like doing something. Here, there is a chance.

After radiation, she’ll start Palladia, a recently approved chemotherapy drug for dogs that can be administered at home. The vet says though it’s expensive, it’s been shown to shrink lung tumors. It is expensive, but we love her. We’ve made a promise to her. We want more time with her, to make her as comfortable as possible.

The oncologist thinks the radiation might shrink, or at least subdue, the tumor in her leg and that the Palladia has a good chance of stopping new tumors from appearing in her lungs. She uses the word “control”—we might control the cancer.

I think maybe these treatments will shrink the tumors, maybe get rid of her cancer—a cancer that should have killed her months ago. She shows no signs of illness except for that limp. She is still happy and wagging and chasing squirrels and asking for belly rubs. The oncologist says this might buy her six months, maybe a year, but I don’t believe her. She is too beautiful and splendid to die young.

 

I wait for Swayze on the National Mall. At the Hirshhorn, I go to a Don Flavin exhibit in the basement and though the exhibit itself is only two pieces, one piece is truly stunning: a long row of blue fluorescent tubes arranged in a repeating, geometric pattern in a dark corridor. My first thought is that it will make a good Facebook cover photo, and I feel ashamed, but I do it anyway, and it turns out I’m right—it is a good cover photo. There is some peace there, just me and the security guard, bathed in blue light.

Upstairs, I stand in front of the Agnes Martins and want to stay there as long as possible, to stare into them, when a person walks in front of me, and then another. A buzzer goes off and I think I’ve gotten too close, but it’s somebody else. A security guard says something to me about the Detroit Tigers from across the gallery.

This is one of my fears. I barely follow the Tigers. I bought two Tigers caps at the Ann Arbor mall because they were on sale. I just wanted to show my love of southeastern Michigan while in Maryland for the summer. He’s the first of three guards today who want to talk about the Tigers. I only want to focus on the art, to empty my mind and stop time, but it’s not happening. Today, the Martins are just grids.

The Hirshhorn is kind of a shitty museum. It’s circular, like the Guggenheim, but it’s small and the space is uninspiring. I hate how the art is divided—the paintings in the outer ring, sculpture in the inner ring. I feel no joy, only fatigue, and because the museum is circular, not a spiral, I walk in a seemingly endless circle around the sculpture trying to find a way out, not sure if I’ve completed the loop or not.

Outside it’s 95 degrees and humid. I have to walk across the mall in the sun to get to the next museum, and I’m exhausted. I walk for three blocks in the wrong direction, then another two blocks in a different wrong direction before figuring out where I am. I’m soaked by the time I get to the National Gallery.

 

I wonder if I’m going to get robbed when I go to Dave’s house. Or if Dave is going to talk to me for hours and finally decide he doesn’t want to part with any of it. Somebody will surely beat me there. I wonder if he’ll take my offer—I’m going to lowball him, because it’s Craigslist, but I don’t want to lose out, either.

I call the vet to see if Swayze’s done, but she’s just gone under for her radiation.

One of the tape decks is an Akai G-747 Reel-to-Reel player. The receiver is a Kenwood KR-9050. Both are rare and collectible—the Akai goes for at least $1000, sometimes twice that, on eBay, and the Kenwood sells for between $500-$1000.

He only wants $275 for the Kenwood, and $350 for the Akai. I’m going to offer him $500 cash, maybe $550, for both. He’s told me he has another reel-to-reel, a Pioneer, and it’s a bargain too, and though I’m already worried that I won’t really be able to sell these, that I’ll be out $500 I can’t really afford to lose, I wonder if it makes sense to just buy all of it.

I had looked around and found an old listing on eBay for the Kenwood with the exact wording and photos that Dave used in his Craigslist ad, clearly posted by a scammer, somebody in Florida, somebody with negative feedback from buyers who never received their purchase. At first I thought this was evidence that Dave was a scammer, but once I talked to him on the phone, I knew he was legitimate. Dave’s too nice and knows too much about stereos, knows too much about Salisbury, MD, where he says he lives. He even knows the firemen’s carnival in Hebron, the little town where my wife and I live. His grandfather won a raffle there in the sixties for a brand new Buick Skylark. He used to race go-karts in Hebron, not at the usual kind of go-kart track, but a real dirt go-kart track. It’s been gone for years. Dave seems like a good guy. The scam listing on eBay must be somebody who used Dave’s images and listing from Craigslist.

 

I haven’t been to the National Gallery in a long time, and I remember being bored by it, and as I walk the galleries looking for 50A, where they keep the Vermeers, I’m bored again. So many Dutch masters, so many portraits, so much oil-on-panel.

With its grand neoclassical architecture, its galleries like vaults, I start to think about how the Smithsonian is like a bank, where the government stores its treasures, each gallery a safe deposit box. The galleries feel repetitive, as if to awe viewers not with a careful collection of art, but with volume and force, a bombastic display of our country’s opulence. The museum feels like a warehouse.

I sit in the atrium, grateful for air conditioning.

 

When I pick up Swayze, she’s almost the same as when I left her, happy to see me, shaved in a new, different spot, but wagging and ready to get back in the car for a long, cool nap.

On the way home, I call Dave to tell him that I was stuck in D.C. all day and that I’ll be late. I hope he won’t ask me why I was in D.C., because I remember what he said about his father’s cancer, and I don’t want him to know I’m putting my dog through treatment. Plus, this is a guy I met on the Internet.

Of course he asks, and I mumble that I was spending the day with a friend. He says 7:30’s great.

When I get home, Stella’s not sleeping on the dining room table, where I expect to find her. She’s sleeping peacefully in the middle of the living room. It’s the longest she’s been alone. Sometimes, when it’s just her and Swayze, she likes to jump up on the table or on my wife’s desk. She can get down, but it’s like she doesn’t want to—as if she wants us to rescue her, to tell her to jump into our arms.

Exhausted, I get ready to meet Dave. I call Susan, who’s out of town, to tell her where I’m going in case I get murdered. I clean out the trunk of my car as best I can and lay out a clean towel as a sign of respect for Dave and his stereo, and to hide the sand from our beach trips. I brush my teeth.

I withdraw $500 from the ATM at the local bank, and for some reason I’m surprised when it dispenses the stack of twenties.

My plan is to keep the money separate from the cash I have in my wallet, a shrewd move, I think, because if he thinks I’ve only got $500, and I start to walk away, he’ll cave to my demands.

When I get there, I’m five minutes late. I’m relieved that Dave’s block seems busy with people out mowing their lawns, hanging out on their porches, or watching television with their doors open. Surely, I think, somebody will hear me scream.

One-eleven, Dave’s house, is one of the nicest on the block. Inside, I see Dave sitting in a chair watching television, and his boxer is at the screen door wagging his little stump tail. I let myself in the gate and yell “hello,” and Dave comes to the screen door, opens it, and the dog comes out and won’t get down.

I like the dog—all dogs, really, especially today, so I don’t care. I pet the dog and say stupid stuff to it and ask, “Are you Dave?”

Dave is way older than I thought he would be. For some reason Dave had told me he’d been born in 1961. This guy is in his seventies.

“Dave? No, I’m not Dave.”

“I’m here to look at the stereo stuff?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Is Dave home?”

“No Dave here.”

What do I say? I don’t want him to know I have a bunch of money in my pocket.
“I’m looking for a guy named Dave. He said he lived here.” I think back to him repeating the address. Did he even repeat it? Did I hear him wrong? What else could it be? Is this the part where I get murdered?

“Nope, no Dave.”

The guy comes out of the house and begins to talk, but I’m not listening. I’m worried that if I don’t call Dave immediately, he’ll have sold the stereo to somebody else. I’m irrational, charged. I’m already late to meet Dave, and I don’t want to do anything to make Dave angry. I’ve changed the time on him. This is on me.

“Okay, well, I’ll give him a call, thanks.”

“What’s Dave’s last name?”

I have no idea.

“I don’t know, but thanks!”

Back in my car, I pull out of not-Dave’s driveway and park across the street. I point to the phone, not-Dave now out on his lawn clearly interested in my dilemma.

I call Dave. No answer. I call again. No answer again. I call a third time, and this time I leave a message.

“Hi, Dave, I’m looking for your house, I must have the wrong address.”

I wait. I text him.

I drive to the end of the street, then around the block, and then try to listen out of the window for somebody testing a really loud stereo, and even think I can hear it. I scrutinize every house on the block, and on the next block too.

Maybe he couldn’t hear his phone. I examine everybody I see. A guy mowing his lawn is too old to be Dave. Some shirtless kids get out of a muscle car. Too young. At the end of the street, not on Dave’s supposed street, but at the intersection, there’s a guy standing in his driveway. Irrationally, I wonder if Dave could have told me a completely different address.

“Are you Dave?” I ask from my car window, sounding crazy.

“Are you Uber?”

“No, I’m not Uber. I’m looking for a guy named Dave, are you Dave?”

“You’re Uber,” he says, smiling. “Tell me you’re Uber.”

“No, I wish.” I’m not sure why I say I wish. I don’t wish I were an Uber driver, though sometimes I think it might be a fun thing to try. But I’m definitely not envious. I don’t wish it.

“What’s your name?” He says. It’s definitely not Dave. Precious time is elapsing. What if Dave is selling the stereo equipment, right now, to somebody else?

“Matt. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“You Uber? Come on. You’re Uber.”

I laugh, the guy is fucking with me. “I’m definitely not Uber! I’m just looking for this dude named Dave who said he’d sell me some stuff.”

I realize immediately it sounds like I’m looking for Dave to buy drugs. I sound like a person who is desperate.

“Stereo stuff. On Craigslist?”

The guy laughs. He nods, as if he knows what I really mean by stereo equipment. “Nah, I’m not Dave.”

He flashes me the peace sign and I thank him.

I drive around the block three more times, looking, hoping for Dave, but there is no Dave.

I park in a nearby Royal Farms parking lot, like cops probably do, and wait for a signal—a call, an email, a text—from Dave. I feel undercover. Everybody who comes in and out of the Royal Farms could be Dave.

He calls, and I pick up, but there is only the strange sound of throbbing warped or synthesized bass on the other line, and maybe the sound of children laughing like goblins. Hello, I say, hello? Dave? Is that you? I can’t find your house. Dave? Hello?

Nothing but goblins and the throbbing, like the kind of music they play in movies when characters are taking drugs at a dance club and everything gets slow and weird. Dave finally hangs up. I call right back, but after two rings, I’m sent to voicemail.

At Five Guys, I eat the smallest meal they allow, and keep looking at my phone. I call Dave again. I email Dave. I text Dave.

Where are you, Dave?

Why, I think, would somebody set up a scam like this? It’s not even a scam, really, it’s just mean, and fucked up. Sociopathic.

Dave puts some stuff on Craigslist for insanely low prices. Dave talks to people on the phone at length about his father, about his stereo equipment, about his love of vintage gear, how he used to be an AC repair guy but started hanging around in a stereo store, how he has four complete stereos and enough components to fill his entire living room. Dave sets up a date and tells me he’s going to hook everything up to show me how it works. Dave gives me his address, and then what?

How does he profit from sending rubes like me to bad addresses? It doesn’t make any sense for Dave to take pleasure in inconveniencing stereo nerds. Dave has to be real. That stereo is somewhere, in one of those houses, surrounding Dave, who’s hoarding it like treasure. Fuck you, Dave, I think, fuck you and your stereo.

Maybe Dave is sad, and a little crazy, too. Maybe Dave watches the whole thing from the house across from one-eleven, the lights out, the curtains drawn. Maybe it excites him to see eager treasure hunters bothering the old man and his sweet boxer night after night. Maybe the old man’s in on it.

Maybe Dave and I are not so different after all.

Or maybe something’s up with Dave’s phone. Maybe Dave’s kids have gotten hold of Dave’s phone. Maybe Dave himself has been murdered by a Craigslist killer, and I wonder, if Dave’s dead, will there be an estate sale, and will I be able to get his stereo equipment then? How will I find out about it? I never got Dave’s last name.

I drive down Dave’s road one more time, slowly, but there are no clues.

I pass some kids walking in the street and when they see me, now for at least the tenth time around their block, they yell, “Uber! Uber!” and run along my car, like I’m the ice cream man.

 

At home, I look at Craigslist, I check my email, I obsess. Finally, somebody posts a scam alert about Dave on Craigslist. I find another. Dave, also known as Jeff, is a scammer who asks people to PayPal him money. Mystery solved, I guess. But still, I wonder why on earth Dave would send me to a house? Dave’s sadism will remain a mystery. I email the guy who posted the scam alert and we agree—it’s strange. I feel a kinship with him; he too thought he had found a deal.

I set up a fake Gmail account and email Dave pretending to be a new buyer. I tell him I’m about an hour away in Delaware and that I’m interested in his Pioneer reel-to-reel. I tell him I’m reluctant to make the drive, but I’ll do it if Dave still has the tape player. I don’t hear anything from Dave.

It’s over; Dave has won.

The next day, I take Swayze back to Virginia for more radiation. She’ll start chemo on Wednesday, and go on another painkiller, one that has to be ordered from a compounding pharmacy in Arizona.

The reason we haven’t amputated her leg is because the cancer has already spread to her lungs, and the oncologist doesn’t think she’s in that much pain, not yet. Nothing three pain medications can’t handle. She doesn’t think it’s worth putting her through amputation at this stage, when she’s walking, now barely limping on the pain meds.

What she’s telling me is that Swayze doesn’t have long, that it doesn’t make sense to put her through the pain of major surgery. Let’s treat the pain instead, and see how she’s doing. If the leg tumor shrinks, if the lung tumor shrinks, maybe they’ll consider surgery—amputation, a lobectomy, but right now, let’s just keep her comfortable.

I understand, but when I look at our dog, when I see Swayze playing in the morning, just like she always does, barking at squirrels, or chasing a tennis ball, she’s still the same dog. She eats her breakfast methodically and with vigor, just like always. She finds a cool spot on the floor and waits for a belly rub. She jumps up on the couch and curls up next to us, waiting to be pet. She’s still the same dog when I stare into her eyes, trying to see what’s in there, what’s on the other side, the same eyes that stare blankly back at me, asking “why aren’t you petting me?”

In the waiting room of the animal hospital, I meet Inga, a Saint Bernard/Great Pyrenees mix. The dog’s owner smiles the smile of somebody who approves of my taste in dogs. My wife tells me I’m a good dog picker, and I can tell this woman thinks the same. Her dog and my dog are aesthetically similar, even if they don’t look alike. Both are big, substantial, and soft, like dogs should be. Swayze says “hey” to Inga and then they come to take Swayze back for her treatment.

Inga’s mom tells me they got a DNA test. We should get Swayze a DNA test too, I think, so we know what kind of dog she is, so we can find another if we have to. I feel terrible for thinking it, but it is too hard right now to think of life without her.

She tells me her dog is ten, old for a big dog, and she had cancer too, and now she’s worried the cancer has come back. I tell her my dog’s only seven, almost eight—too young. Inga drools as I scratch behind her ears.

 

Today, I’m so tired from the second early morning two-hour drive, I can’t bear the thought of going into the city to do anything, but I start to think I might like to go the American History Museum. I haven’t been there in years, and I think they renovated it recently, or in the last decade at least, so maybe it’s better than I remember it. As I drive down Arlington Boulevard toward the city, I think it might be nice to go to my old coffee shop in Del Ray, a neighborhood in Alexandria.

I try to remember something about the American History Museum and remember they have the Fonz’s jacket, and maybe some old computer stuff, but I can’t be sure about that. They definitely have Archie Bunker’s chair.

I decide to go to the coffee shop.

All I can think about is Dave. Maybe he’ll call back and explain that his kids did get the phone after all, that he gave me the wrong address, and that it’s all going to be okay. I get nothing from Dave, but I keep checking. Checking email, texts, Craigslist. Over and over, until the vet calls to tell me Swayze’s done early.

 

On the way home, I think fondly of my conversation with Dave the prior day. I wonder if Dave has found some fool to PayPal him money. I give Dave a call, knowing I’ll get his voicemail. I listen to a podcast. Periodically, I reach back to pet Swayze, to comfort her, or me, but also to check if she’s still alive. She’s quiet, curled and sleeping. I’m so hungry I stop at McDonald’s and even though Swayze’s still supposed to be losing weight, she’s had a tough day, so I give her some fries, which she accepts eagerly but gently. She has a very gentle mouth. The vet complimented her on it earlier, and this spring, when Swayze found a baby rabbit in the yard, she carried it gently around until the rabbit squealed like a human baby and we made her give it up.

I think of Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, how Barthes says that photographs have a built-in sorrow, since the photograph captures the light of a subject who will one day die. Every photo carries this sadness. Since Swayze’s diagnosis, I have been hugging her more, giving her more belly rubs, trying to imprint not only her light, but the feeling of holding this big, sweet dog who has meant so much to my wife and me.

I’m holding this thing that will one day die, and it is unthinkable. I think of our day at the beach, how much fun we had, how the dogs were not sure what to do with the ocean, but how they played, perhaps to please us, in the surf, running from the waves, digging in the sand. How Stella barked at the birds. It was the day we found out that Swayze had cancer, a terrible day.

I imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to her for the last time, as if to prepare myself for the trauma. I think of what it will be like to adopt a new dog and look at pictures of Australian shepherd puppies on the Internet, and it makes me feel horrible. Now, I am trying to imagine future memories, future happiness, what it will be like to live without her, what it will be like to have moved on. I tell myself, tell my wife, that maybe it is good that dogs don’t live for very long compared to people, so that we may know as many of them as possible, to save as many of them as we can.

Sitting at a traffic light, I see a sticker of a dog paw on a minivan, one of many dog-themed stickers, that asks, “Who saved who?” Who saved whom, I think, what a stupid sticker, and I begin to cry.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, I’m exhausting the last of the distractions offered by the Internet, and see an email from Dave in my fake Gmail account. At this point, I’ve offered to PayPal him money, just to see what he says. In his reply, he signs off with his full name—his first and last name.

Surely, I think, he can’t be that stupid?

I Google his name and “Salisbury, MD” and a Facebook account comes up. I start to look through his photographs, mostly of yachts, Republican claptrap, and photos of airplanes. This Dave lives in Ft. Lauderdale, but is from Salisbury, MD. Something clicks. The fake eBay listings I’d found like Dave’s said they were from Ft. Lauderdale!

I page through his photos, and there is a house I recognize. A house on the street where Dave sent me on Monday. I look at Google street view, and sure enough, it’s 107. Two houses down from 111.

I’ve cracked the case wide open.

Could Dave have misspoken after all? But what about all the scam reports? Why hadn’t he called me back?

I want to believe that I’ll still get these tape recorders from him, that it isn’t a scam after all, that maybe Dave is just terrible at Craigslist. I do some more Googling. I find Dave’s mother’s obituary.

I email the guy who reported the scam to tell him what I’ve found. He tells me others have emailed him too, others who almost sent Dave money via PayPal. I tell him I’m trying to get Dave to ask me to PayPal him money too, how he seems like maybe he’s a pathological liar on Facebook—all the pictures are clearly stock photographs or found from Google images: pictures of yachts, pictures of the view from his condo, condos which I find rent for $4000 a month and sell for $1.5 million.

If Dave could afford this condo, would he be scamming people on Craigslist? Maybe that’s how he affords his condo, but I think Dave’s a liar. I see conversations between him and his friends, pictures of his cars, and I wonder if Dave is lonely, if Dave is just trying to get somebody to pay attention to him.

I tell my wife what I’ve found. She tells me to let it go, but I can’t, so I keep emailing Dave, trying to get him to tell me something—what I want, I don’t know, but I keep emailing him, and he keeps emailing me back. I refuse to talk on the phone—I tell him it’s for privacy and that I want some assurance that if I PayPal him money it’s not a scam. I want him to be creative, even though there’s no way I’ll send him anything. But then he does something unexpected—even though I’ve told him I’ll send him money, he asks, “Why don’t you come look at it?”

He told me in an earlier email that he was having a yard sale on Saturday to sell his father’s furniture, so I suggest I stop by then. He says great. If the tape deck’s gone, maybe he’ll have something else I’d like. I ask him about the scam report, but he doesn’t answer. He just tells me he’ll see me on Saturday.

I email the guy I’ve been talking to about Dave. He’s floored—Dave seems to like to send people on meaningless errands. I told Dave it would take me an hour to get there, and that it’s a long drive for me, so Dave knows, this is a real waste of my alias’s time. He’s already wasted more time than he can probably imagine, so if that’s what he likes, I take some pleasure in him not even knowing the half of it.

I decide to go check out 107. I don’t want to see the old man at 111, or the guy in his driveway or the neighborhood kids who all seem to think I’m an Uber driver, but I drive down anyway. I stop in front of 107, just like the picture on Dave’s Facebook page, the place where Dave grew up, where his father died. The place where he recorded records onto open reel tape for some reason. The house looks empty—there’s no landscaping, no cars in the driveway, all the blinds are drawn. I go around the block, drive by again.

At Chipotle, strategizing, I wonder what I’ll say to Dave next, if I’ll continue the conversation, or if I’ll just let it go, like my wife wisely told me to. When I get home, I check my fake email account, and get an email from Dave telling me the Pioneer tape deck has sold, but the other stuff is still available.

If he’s a scammer, why would he tell me it’s sold? It doesn’t make any sense, and even though I know there’s no stereo equipment, it gives me hope. Maybe Dave knows the heat is on, maybe he’s onto me, or maybe Craigslist has contacted him. Maybe he feels guilty, or maybe he no longer needs the money.

Swayze is on her back on the couch, wiggling her paws in the air, asking for a belly rub. The weather has cooled, and she’s been frisky all day, running around the yard, barking at the squirrels, playing with her sister. She isn’t sick at all today, and she won’t be sick tomorrow either, and on Saturday, I’ll go to Dave’s yard sale hoping to score a bargain.

 

 

Matthew Kirkpatrick is the author of Light Without Heat (FC2) and The Exiles (Ricochet Editions). He is an assistant professor of creative writing at Eastern Michigan University and can be found online at www.mattkirkpatrick.com

Photo by the author.

Olivia ZhengBeautiful and Splendid

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