The number of cars lining the side of the road and choking up the improvised parking lot, was the first portent that Jane was about to become part of something rather important.
When she saw the horde of people emerge from the side of the tent pushing trolleys, each one labouring under the weight of multiple cardboard boxes, her heart missed a diastole. "Ooh, what could there be in those boxes," she thought.
And when she noticed how each them wore that same blend of triumph and satisfaction on their faces, Jane was jolly glad she remembered to put on panty-liners that morning.
"This is it," she whispered fervidly to her sister-in-law. "I can't wait to see what's inside. I've heard stories about things like these..."she broke off, almost in reverence, as they approached the tent's entrance. "Oh my, do you think one trolley will be enough?"
"Ha! I like that question!" said a random woman grabbing her own steel basket. No doubt she'd already been inside and was privy to things arcane and mysterious.
With a very deep breath, Jane clamped her fingers around the steel of the trolley and passed through the white plastic flap of the entrance.
She'd never seen anything like it.
Before her lay shelves and shelves of stacked brown boxes. But it was not the boxes that mesmerised her. It was the items on display next to them, the ones that hinted at what was inside each box.
There were dinner services, serving plates, charger plates, casserole dishes, sauce pans, goblets, tumblers, salad dressing bottles, colanders, egg poachers, apple corers, shiny silver things that could skin an avocado and harness the energy of a hundred suns. So many things of magic and delight, and oodles and oodles of cutlery. And it was all on sale. Jane wept.
She felt the ground beneath her give a little. It was not from the sheer excitement suffusing her insides, but the thrum of a million trolley wheels coursing down the aisles.
Families, couples, singles, every type of family unit crawled over and around each other in a mad shimmering dance.
She saw wives throwing themselves onto the cutlery piles, staking claims on steak knives going at a steal, while their husbands edged away slowly, perhaps out of fear that they might be emasculated by an overzealous grandmother with a sharp potato peeler.
An arthritic woman on borrowed and now overdue time, barely escaped being crushed by a middle-aged woman missioning to claim thirty teaspoons priced at R5 each.
What struck Jane the most was the amount of newly-weds at the sale. "How did they find out about this place?" Jane wondered. She was brought here by her sister-in-law who got wind of it through her other sister-in-law who heard from her sister-in-law via that colossal grapevine that now weaved through Jane's life and tripped her up with its branches.
It really was a whole new world opening it's core to her. She understood the thrill of fingering Jenni Button Melton jackets and boots from San Marina, and now, to have that same feeling extend to olive spoons and honey-drippers, Jane felt she'd emerged from a chrysalis.
Jane was jolted out of her fugue by someone so captivated by the R25 salad forks, that everything in her path towards the display would just have to be obliterated.
Jane rubbed her smarting elbow and immediately oohed at the yellow flan pan on the shelf before her. "Must have..." she murmured, just a little drool sketching a line towards her chin. All thought of pain poofed away when she happened upon the egg cups that came with a cute little salt shaker and an equally adorable little spoon.
Jane saw pink ponies and babies playing the theme from Desperado on their violins, her mind was so lost between the bright red saucepans and the citrus juicer.
Time passed the way it does when one's under the influence of something delightfully narcotic, and she soon emerged from the tent with her own big brown box in a trolley.
"The lady at the till said they unpack new stuff everyday!" Jane enthused to her sister-in-law. She really needed a good potato-masher and the L Wechsler & Co sale ran until the first of May. With one look at the cardboard box containing her now prized cake lifter, Jane knew she'd be back.
-- Somewhere lyrics spilled out of a car radio, "You can step out any time you like, but you can never leave..." --