by Joe Tyburczy
Several years ago amid the quiet, pastoral landscape of New England, an event took place that antique radio enthusiasts, frequenters of swapmeets, flea market cruisers and auction hounds still talk about. You may overhear grizzled old men speaking in hushed tones, recounting the tale like a mythological Greek epic. But no Trojan warrior ever faced a moment like the one I'm about to tell you of. Yes friends, I'm talking about the day that Hank took on the Giant.
To set the scene, you need to know a bit about Hank. There are few people alive today that can surpass the undisputed mastery in the art of verbal negotiation that he so easily wields during even the most casual of transactions. As far as I know, Hank has never paid more than $1 for anything. Luxury cars, precious metals, beachfront property, you name it, never more than a single folded bill has ever left his pockets.
Because of his uncanny talent, Hank's attic historically bulged with rare and exotic items picked up in the course of his flea market wanderings. Pristine Philco Predicta TV sets. Breathtaking bakelite table radios. Marconi's first shortwave receiver, serial number 001. The telegraph key used by David Sarnoff to send news of the Titanic tragedy. You get the idea.
And from time to time, Hank appears at radio auctions and swapmeets to unload some of his excess baggage -- at a handsome profit.
"Jeez. I wish I could be there to watch you in action" I told him once. He thought about this for a minute. "Well, " he said, "I suppose I could set up my video camera and let it run. I'll send you the tape. Watch and learn. Heh-heh".
Thus, the great wheels of the cosmos were set inexoribly in motion.
A week later found Hank in Deerfield, New Hampshire, the site of the annual Hosstraders Swap Meet. Crisp, fall breezes played over several acres of fairgrounds jam-packed with hundreds of sellers and electronic surplus bargain-hunters.
He had arrived early, setting out his wares on a blanket as was his custom. "The blanket," he once advised me, "focuses the eye on the goods. With proper placement, you can make a busted pair of binoculars look like the Hope Diamond".
Hank's virtuosity in the seller's art was quickly confirmed. His wind-up Victrola was carried away by a tearful grandmother-type. A boxful of unknown PC boards went into the greatful hands of two college students. Three or four carbon microphones, a dented transistor radio, and a reel of 1/4" magnetic tape were swept away in similar fashion. Soon, all that remained was a homely-looking, 12" black and white General Electric TV set.
A short, wiry fellow in a baseball cap emerged from the passing crowd. He eyed the TV set. "Does it work?" he asked.
"Sure," said Hank, "like a champ". This was only a slight enhancement, since the TV received one channel fairly well, especially during the full moon.
"Like the tag says," said Hank, "75 bucks".
The fellow stood twitching, trying to process the information. His eyes strayed from the TV set on the blanket and over to the back of Hank's parked car. There in the open hatchback was Hank's video camera, tape cassette creaking, tally light winking, zoom lens pointed straight at him.
"Hey," he bristled, "I never said you could make no video of me".
"So. It's my camera. I can do whatever I want", informed Hank.
The little fellow became agitated. Hank stood his ground. Momentarily, he sensed a gradual, deepening shadow, as if the sun were going behind a cloud. He looked behind him to see the source of the sudden eclipse.
It was a man, much taller than he'd ever seen, moving slowly toward him. He wore a checkered lumberjack shirt that looked to be the size of a tablecloth for a banquet hall. A Bowie knife was strapped to one of his massive, denim-clad thighs. Boots thudding the dirt, the lumbering mammoth took up a position next to the smaller man. He was seven feet tall if he was an inch. Clearly, this was more than Hank had bargained for. This was a giant.
"Tell him what you told me", sneered the small man.
The mute giant towered over the pair, glowering at the video lens.
"Andre here don't like cameras", the man piped up.
Hank sensed by the look in the giant's blood-red eyes that this was no joke. He suddenly wished he were home in bed. Or on the subway. Maybe even jury duty. Anywhere but here. Another moment and he'd be squashed like a June bug on a Mack truck's grille. He had to try something. Anything.
"Maybe he likes TV sets" he offered desperately. "How 'bout it, guy? TV?"
The giant's brow wrinkled somewhat at the notion.
"TV?" repeated Hank.
"He kinda likes cartoons", admitted the small man.
"Fine business!" said Hank, "Tell you what. You and Andre here can have it for a buck. A seventy-five dollar TV for a dollar. Can't beat that, right?".
The little man scratched under his baseball cap. "What do ya think?" he addressed the giant.
The behemoth stood motionless for a long moment. Then, he stirred. Hank stood riveted as the giant's hand slowly moved to its thigh and clasped the hilt of the Bowie knife. Slowly, he withdrew it from the sheath. The blade glimmered evilly in the afternoon sun. So this was how it would all end! Murdered by a 7-foot giant in Deerfield, New Hampshire! When suddenly...
THWAP! The knife stuck in the ground at Hank's feet.
"That means he's happy", said the little man.
Hank breathed a sigh of relief. The seventy-five dollar loss hardly mattered. He would see other flea markets. He would live to trade Crosley radios and vintage Super-8 movie cameras another day.
Andre plucked the TV set up like a child would a buttercup and tucked it under his trunk-like arm. The small man handed Hank a creased dollar bill.
"Enjoy the TV," said Hank, "and no hard feelings, right?"
"Yeah," said the little man over his shoulder as he and the giant plodded away, "fine business".