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Flea Market Grail was previously published in Under A Veil Of Darkness - The Short Collected Fiction of Bob Gunner, published by Cyber-Pulp Press in 2012 and available for purchase in a trade paperback version for $14.99 at LuLu.com, just click here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/bob-gunner/under-a-veil-of-darkness-the-collect...
When James Pendington Whiffle goes shopping, it is usually so he can find himself a ‘bargain’. Yes, that’s right because Whiffle sure loves those
‘bargains’. He has an obsession of sorts to shop for antiques, collectibles, and most of all, those really ‘tacky’ household widgets that the female species of the world would rather sell or burn than let a man keep.
Oh, you know the kind. The neat stuff people buy after they get a few too many drinks in them and decide to go to the mall? Religious pictures with eyes that follow you around the room, painted ceramic owls with red lights inside their belly to make plastic eyes glow in the dark, and yes, even lava lamps. All of those unusual types of senseless and completely useless contraptions most people pass up on buying.
If you personally knew James, you would know just how much he enjoys flea markets, rummage, yard and garage sales. James claims the people who are selling their wares at these events are usually just getting rid of unwanted junk, or odds and ends they have grown tired or bored with. But to James it just doesn’t matter if it’s junk or not, other peoples ‘junk’ is definitely James
Pendington Whiffle’s ‘treasure’.
James isn’t exactly the wisest man in the world, nor is he what you would consider a rich man. He came from a relatively middle-class family with predominately simple needs and dreams. James has spent his whole life (thirty-two years to be exact) in Templeton, Texas. Ten years have been spent working at the Bippy Burger on Lilac Street, right across the road from Davy Crockett Senior High School (which was his alma mater).
James began his career at Bippy Burger by specializing in the art of making french-fries (his only claim to fame), but soon he had moved his way up to burgers, and two years ago, he was promoted by old man Gepezzi (the owner) to night shift manager of the operation.
Other than the small garage apartment he shares with his pet armadillo named “Godzilla”, and his collection of flea market treasure, Bippy Burger is really all James Pendington Whiffle has to live for.
There is one young lady named Cindi Johnson who works on the night shift with Whiffle who has caught his fancy, but she’s only seventeen, and a hell of a lot more interested in high school football players than dorky-looking nerds like Whiffle.
It was on one of James early morning excursions to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market on the edge of town he first saw the Grail and bought it. The antique- looking silver chalice was sitting in the middle of a dusty weather-beaten card table surrounded by multitudes of other strange odds and ends looking as though they might have been fetched from the trash.
James picked up the cup to admire it, and holding the interesting piece, he felt quite excited and almost overwhelmed by the artistic workmanship.
This was the Holy Grail. The thought flashed through his head in daydream fashion as quite a few thoughts often do in Whiffle’s feeble mind. And he thought to himself, wouldn’t it be a kick if this really happened to be the Holy Grail? Oh well, of course it would make an interesting knick-knack anyway...
An old woman dressed in a yellow rain slicker and striped knit stocking cap smiled her toothless grin as she watched him examine the silver cup, looking for some kind of indication of who the silversmith or craftsman had been. There was no mark.
“It’s handsome, is it not? It’s not only handsome, but it’s real you know?”
the woman asked.
“Yes, it was one of many items from a prominent German businessman’s personal estate I bought at an auction in Houston last summer. It was listed on the manifest as a ‘religious artifact’ you know. You interested in buying it?”
“I don’t know, how much are you asking for it?”
“It’s real silver you know, but I guess I could let you have it for say fifty dollars, besides, I do need to sell it.”
“Would you take thirty dollars?”
“I’ll tell you what young man, you just give me thirty-five dollars and the cup is yours.”
In a swift transaction, money and Grail quickly exchanged hands. Whiffle smiled as he patted and caressed his new treasure. The old toothless woman smiled deviously through her bad teeth, and quickly slipped the cash into the left cup of her bra.
“Oh, one word of caution young fella,” she added as he began to walk away, “A handsome silver cup like this should be taken care of carefully, it is very valuable. An old Gypsy legend has it that he who possesses a fine silver cup, often possesses great supernatural powers too.”
“Yes,” Whiffle replied, “I will take very good care of it, I can assure you it will receive the greatest care.”
Returning to his modest apartment, Whiffle sat the flea market Grail on the mantle of his fake fireplace (bought from a church rummage sale) and began searching through cardboard boxes of ancient hard covered books that he had stored in one corner of his messy abode.
Suddenly, something came scurrying out the bedroom door towards him. Rushing like a maddened Chihuahua with hurting hemorrhoids. The quick rat-a-tat-tat of tiny painted toenails slid across the often-waxed wooden floors. With all the determination of an armed Sherman tank plowing the front lines of a battlefield. Daa-da-da-da...Godzilla, ‘the wonder armadillo’ made his entrance...
“Godzilla how’s Daddy’s little possum-buddy on a half-shell?”
The animal crawled over to Whiffle, then up into his lap, where it licked his hand as he pets it. “Dad’s looking for a book we bought about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, do you know where he might have put it?” The creature just stared at Whiffle through tiny beady eyes and said nothing. “Ahh, here it is my hard-shelled ‘munchkin’, right under the book on ‘etiquette’.”
James Pendleton Whiffle excitedly fanned through the yellowed book’s pages until he found the one illustration he was searching for, “The Holy Grail”. Whiffle compared the art in the book with the Grail on the mantelpiece, and they were almost identical!
“Wow Godzilla, it even looks just like the Holy Grail!”
He read the text under the drawing- “The Holy Grail was the chalice or crafted cup used by Jesus Christ, the son of God, during his departing ceremony at the last supper. The last supper is the event which is said to have taken place before Jesus went to pray in the garden, just before his arrest. After his arrest, he was crucified according to legend on a cross. Christ was said to have transformed wine in the cup into his blood, which he then used to perform the rite of communion with his Apostles.”
“The Holy Grail was said to have amazing and unexplained powers which could benefit whomever possessed it. The Grail was the subject of a quest undertaken by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
The Grail made a few appearances during the next few centuries, surfacing here and there in several middle east countries, but then disappeared in the 1940’s when according to under-cover military surveillance, it and other religious artifacts and art pieces were stolen by agents of the dictator Adolph Hitler, and hidden away in a secret location somewhere in Nazi Germany.”
Whiffle closed the dusty book, and let it drop to the floor. He put his pet back down on the floor, and side stepped over to the mantle, surveying his prize.
“The old woman said she bought the Grail at an auction of a German businessman’s estate in Houston. Houston is a major city with a lot of importing and exporting traffic. She said it was listed on the manifest of the auction as a religious artifact. The Holy Grail is a religious artifact. You know Godzilla, this here cup could very well be the Holy Grail. The book says whomever possesses the Grail, also possesses great power.”
Whiffle picked up the silver Grail and looked at his image reflected in it. “You know, I think it’s about time our luck changed Godzilla. If this is indeed the Holy Grail, I should be able to get just about anything I want. Yes sirree, we can have all the wealth and women we want!” Whiffle felt the raw power emitting from the Grail now, and he even swore he saw it glow with
an aura of fluorescent electrical energy...
This was the big break Whiffle had been waiting for quite a long time. He schemed his next move. Such power must be used wisely. But, what were his three most important needs? Money was important. Yes, with money you could have just about anything you wanted. Second, he would need a mate, a companion and wife who was not only beautiful, but also smart and loving, someone to help share his riches. Third, he would need respect and admiration from those around him.
The only way Whiffle could accomplish this would be if he went into business for himself, or became a part owner and business partner in Bippy Burger with Mr. Geppezi...
Mr. Cannon was standing at the cash register of the Buy And Sack convenience store when Whiffle made his entrance into the establishment later that morning, Grail in hand. He walked directly to Mr. Cannon, who greeted him with a friendly, “Afternoon James, how you doing today my boy?”
Whiffle smiled at the older man and answered raising the cup up to him, “Well, I’m doing just great Mr. Cannon, except for the fact that I need a couple thousand dollars to make my day really grand. So why don’t you just give me all the money in your cash drawer?”
After those words, Mr. Cannon seem to just freeze and with a dazed hypnotic look in his eyes (like he had fell victim to a magic spell or something) pushed the drawer button on the cash register.
Then he started to pull the different denominations of paper money out of the cash drawer, and stuffed it into a brown paper sack, which he handed to Whiffle. Mr. Cannon appeared to stay frozen in his spot, as Whiffle laughed to himself (as he left) about how easy it was to get whatever you want when you are in possession of the Holy Grail.
An hour later, sporting a new suit and a fancy greased back haircut, Whiffle entered the front door of Bippy Burger. He had several hundred dollars worth of bills poking from his jacket pocket like a fanned handkerchief. And he was pulling drags off of the biggest and smelliest cigars you ever did see. Cindi Johnson was working the front counter when he entered.
Whiffle walked up to the shocked girl (busy painting her fingernails) and held the Grail up to her pretty make-up painted face saying, “Cindi girl, this is your lucky day Babe. From now on you’re gonna be my old lady darling. If any of those football playing boyfriends of yours should come around, you just let them know I’m the only man capable of caring for you now, get it?” Cindi just stood with a wide-eyed and open-mouthed expression on her shocked face saying nothing.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes baby cakes,” Whiffle said as he headed towards Mr. Geppezi’s office in back of the establishment, “You just wait here for me doll.”
Whiffle entered Geppezi’s office, but the man wasn’t in. Geppezi lived in a little house right behind the hamburger stand, so Whiffle sat down at the empty desk and dialed his home phone number...
“Hello, Geppezi residence.”
“Yes, who is this?”
Holding the Grail up to the phone, Whiffle answered, “Geppezi, this is Whiffle. You probably wonder what business I have with you this early in the day don’t you? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about my future sir. And I think it’s about time you go ahead and sign half of Bippy Burger over to me.”
“Oh you know, make me a full time partner, what you say huh?”
Whiffle heard the sound of the phone being hung up on it’s cradle, and only the sound of a dial tone. “The old geeser must be on his way over to sign the papers,” Whiffle giggled as he rubbed his fine silver chalice.
After a few moments, Whiffle heard the sound of footsteps approaching the door. It suddenly was slammed open, and a pissed off Mr. Geppezi stood glaring at him from the doorway.
“Whiffle, you better have a pretty good damn explanation for this.”
“Well Mr. Geppezi, I’m afraid this is the only explanation you need,”
Whiffle said, raising his Grail to Geppezi.
Geppezi reacted by taking one step forward, grabbed hold of the silver cup, threw it to the floor and stomped on it, bending it’s rim inward. “Don’t you dare threaten me with a damn cup ever again Mister!”
“But wait, it’s not just a cup, it’s the Holy Grail!”
“Look here young man, I don’t know just exactly what kind of drugs you have been doing, but you’re fired. Just get your butt out of my office now before I get really mad and call the Sheriff to file charges!!!”
With the look of a kicked puppy-dog, Whiffle picked up his bent Grail and exited to the front of the building where he was greeted by Cindi Johnson and several of her football playing boyfriends, “That’s him guys, that’s the asshole who said all those things!!!”
Whiffle dived for the door and ran as fast as he could down the busy street, followed by a small mob of angry screaming teens.
Unfortunately, after about a block or so, his path was suddenly cut off by the Sheriff’s patrol car, it’s siren screaming and emergency lights spinning wildly. Mr. Cannon and Sheriff Brown leaped out from the vehicle.
“That’s him Sheriff, that’s James Pendleton Whiffle, the young man who robbed my store!”
Whiffle stood shocked and confused, holding tightly to his broken chalice, his Holy Grail.
“But, but this is the Holy Grail. Anyone who possesses it has great powers...” and as an ambulance screeched to a stop nearby, several
uniformed men wrestled Whiffle to the sidewalk, buckling him into a straight jacket.
They took him away to the County Hospital as everyone who was anyone in Templeton watched on, his screams bellowing out in the distance. The Sheriff bent over and picked up the oddly bent cup from where it lay in the street, shook his head, and tossed it into a trash can on the curb waiting for the next garbage collection...
Meanwhile, at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market on the edge of town, the old Gypsy woman watched a young lady as she eyed the workmanship of the silver cup on her table.
“It’s handsome is it not? It’s real handsome, and it’s real you know?”
The Gypsy told her tale of German businessmen and religious artifacts to the woman, and soon another flea market deal was complete. As the younger woman walked on, she smiled, holding firmly to her treasured Holy Grail, and dreaming of the power which mythology and legend now said was hers for the taking.
And the Gypsy watched her leave in the distance, and opened the back of her battered ‘67 Ford Van, and uncovered a box hidden under a tarp inside.
Stenciled in big bold letters on the side was: “First Class Imitation Holy Grails, Made In Japan-One Gross.”
She laughed and hummed a snappy ragtime tune as she retrieved another silver cup from the box, and neatly put it in place of the one she had just sold...