I knew from experience that I had to act quickly. But I almost didn't bother, it seemed so unlikely that the effort would be worthwhile. Gas refrigerators are either worthless or expensive, sometimes both, as I'd just found out when our three-year-old previous purchase inexplicably lost its cool.
``Are you sure it works?'' I asked the man over the phone.
``Feller I got it from said it did.''
``Do you think he was telling the truth?'' I persisted.
``No reason to believe he wasn't.''
I'd seen the ad in ``Uncle Henry's'' and was the first to call. ``I'll be there around 8,'' I said.
If it hadn't been such a beautiful evening, I don't think I would have bothered. It was a good hour's drive, and by the sound of it I could easily get lost somewhere out there in the Maine boonies.
We finished dinner early, however, and the June sky was firing up for a great sunset as I drove west across hills to an area I'd never been to before.
``Turn left after the cement bridge; take the fourth road to the left. It's the first house on the right,'' he had said.
It was still beautiful when I got to the cement bridge, but the first road to the left wasn't for three miles, and I began to wonder how far west I was going to have to go before I ran out of gas.
But 10 minutes later, I pulled into his yard. And almost pulled right out again. Junk was all over the place. There were six visible cats and a large, half-built barn with more junk inside.
``No way....'' I thought. And then this young-to-middle-aged man appeared: He was tall and lanky, with a long, wispy beard, a crazy look in his eyes, and a trucker's cap pulled down over a tangle of brownish hair.
``Deliver me,'' I thought, and was about to start the car up again and make my hurried excuses when he spoke.
``There's been six calls,'' he said. His voice was soft, musical. ``But I told `em you was comin'. I was going to give you another half hour.''
``Thank you,'' I said. ``It's been a long drive.''
The refrigerator was in the ``barn,'' and as we walked there he told me that a man from Brunswick - about two hours away - had offered him $60 for it sight unseen and wanted him to save it for him. ``I told him you was first to call. Three others before him.''
The refrigerator, a Swedish model made for a recreational vehicle, was smaller than I'd expected and very dirty. The door didn't close properly, and there was a certain amount of rust.
We carried it outside into the dimming light, and he told me that he didn't know the first thing about these machines, that he'd taken this one in trade from a man who owed him some money.
``My problem,'' I said, ``is that if it doesn't work, it's useless to me - $60 down the drain.'' He nodded his head, as if I'd said something profound. I explained that I'd have to have it checked, that I stood to lose a good deal more than $60, actually.
``How about this,'' I said. I was still really thinking out loud. ``I'll give you the $60, and then if it doesn't work, I'll bring it back.'' I would pay for the testing, something he should have done, I implied.
``And what would I do with it?'' he said. ``Wouldn't be right to sell it, now would it?''
``No, I guess not.'' I felt a bit as if I'd been caught with my hand in the till.
``How about this, then,'' I added. ``I'm not really a betting man. But I'll give you $30, and then if it doesn't work it's my loss.''
``All right,'' he said. ``Sounds fair to me.'' Was this a clear sign that he knew the refrigerator didn't work? Somehow, this thought never crossed my mind. I simply considered what he had said.
``Sounds fair to me, too,'' I said, and we shook hands on it.
We slid the refrigerator into the back of my station wagon, I paid him the $30, and as he pocketed it he said, ``Course, it's not the money. You got to do right. Same as if you was selling to me.''
``Of course,'' I thought, nodding my head in agreement. The fact that he could have simply accepted the higher offer didn't even come up.
This is really the end of the story, but I suppose you want me to tell you whether the refrigerator worked or not.
Well, it cost $40 to find out, but yes, it did.