The day after Irene's doctor tells her she's dying, she walks down to the Family Dollar and buys three packages of neon yard sale tags and a king-size Snickers bar.
‘You having a sale, Miss Irene?’ the cashier asks, a wad of bright green gum between her teeth. A small photo of a pigtailed girl hangs from her name tag.
‘Nope,’ Irene answers, taking her bag. On the way home she peels open the candy, chocolate liquefying in the July sun, and eats it in five huge mouthfuls. She whispers a few words of farewell to the diet she has been on for fifty-seven years.
At home, she washes her hands and spreads the colorful tags across the kitchen table. With a felt-tip pen and faintly trembling script, she begins to label and price everything she owns. Her son will appreciate her efforts when he flies in from Virginia to sell off her estate. Nothing is worth much, not to anyone else, and she smirks a little, imagining her daughter-in-law, Marjorie, fresh off the plane and picking through Irene's double-wide for antiques to hock.
Brass mantel clock: Wedding gift from Bud and Trudy Taylor, 1961, $3.
Kodak Brownie camera: Doesn't work, still cute, $1.
Wooden chess set, each piece a different farm animal: Belonged to my sister Clarice, $2.
Drawer full of cheap costume jewelry – a few sparkling brooches and strand after strand of chunky plastic beads: Help yourself, Marjorie! Sell what you don't want!
She opens a cabinet under the small kitchen island, removes a cardboard box and lifts out thirteen newspaper-wrapped dishes. She unswaddles each, slowly revealing a child's tea set, her own: Blue Willow pattern, Made in Occupied Japan printed across the bottom of each piece. Irene has watched enough Antiques Roadshow to know that this is the most expensive item she owns. She imagines Marjorie's hands unwrapping each dish, her long pink nails and Irene's mother's wedding ring.
‘Nope,’ she says.
The cashier at the Family Dollar greets her when she enters. Irene walks straight to checkout and places the box on the counter. ‘A tea set,’ she says. ‘For your little girl.’ She buys another Snickers bar and walks home. She eats it on the couch with Wheel of Fortune on the television, her feet on the coffee table, and the roomful of tags waving gently like wildflowers in the ceiling fan's breeze.