Hamilcar Ball the Flea Market Kings (intro)

1 taiwan warning sign snakes and hornets

Apparently, according to information superhighway sources, Oscar Wilde once said something to the effect of: the true artist takes no notice whatsoever of the public, the public to him are non-existent. Well, who couldn’t love such a gutsy and irreverent idealism? Hamilcar Ball loved the idea since he was in high school and could grasp that worrying about what the neighbors had to say was horribly debilitating. Wilde was also apparently famous for saying, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Which, if you get right down to it, seems to impart the opposite rumination.
Hamilcar Ball rested his head in the palms of his hands. His old man had been a history major with an antiquities minor at UNC Pen-Broke. He had always wanted Hamilcar to go to Pen-Broke too, but as Hamilcar liked to say, his pen broke. Hamilcar did eventually go to Pen-Broke but accomplished so little he often denied having ever gone.
Hamilcar’s old man grew up in a little town nearby called Carthage. But his old man, Hamilcar’s grandfather, grew up in a tiny town further north called Habama. It’s not pronounced like you might think because it’s actually made up of the first two letters of three prominent family names: Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Ball, his obstinate and bossy neighbor Haywood, and their wealthy, but curiously overtly social, celebrator of all possible celebrations, Marshall. Marshall was said to be very dark-skinned in the summer, and often held parties that focused on the use of lights or colorful powders tossed about. Folks thought Marshall was just a bit touched, especially when he grumbled unintelligible syllables under his breath. In those days, however, everyone was polite enough to only wonder. Marshall enjoyed everything from births to weddings, and even often funded local funerals as well. Many Balls are buried up on the property still owned by the Marshall family. It’s said that when Hamilcar’s great-grandfather was told one day—while visiting the big city of Raleigh—that his pal Marshall was a Hindu, he hauled back and punched the dude in the face.
Haywood was constantly one of those organizing forces arranging himself to the top of the chain of command. At least, so say the Balls. Haywood ran for many offices he himself created: head of committees for everything from proper barn erection and road maintenance to pig weed control. He was always a self-appointed coordinator of ‘mule day’ parades, and mainly saw his duty as approving decisions that he did not seem to realize were already instituted. He generally did not win any of the official public offices as tiny town social systems have a way of shunting down on the overtly ambitious.
It wasn’t until long after Marshall and Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Rutherford had passed away that it was made clear that Marshall’s name had actually been Maaheshivari which meant “Power of Shiva”. And that he was indeed a Bengali who’d been the unusual beneficiary of a British officer named McGee whom Maaheshivari had rescued one night from a drunken street beating on the outskirts of Kolkata (a place improbably called North Dumb-dumb), brutally administered by a band of thuggees who had not quite understood that the British were supposed to be their superiors.
As with most such stories, the details related to a lady the British officer had roundly fallen for and his dream-state preoccupation with her damned near resulted in the loss of his life. As it turned out not only did he survive with the help of “Marshall” but he managed to smuggle the lady, and Marshall out of West Bengal and to America where, another branch of his family had managed to set up shop on the Outer Banks of North Carolina pretending to chase pirates and basically taking advantage of tourists themselves. Why Marshall was so ready to leave his home was another story, but suffice it to say the promise of the offerings of the West were impossible to refuse.
When Hamilcar was fourteen he had lunch at the Carthage McDonald’s with his dad, Rutherford Ball the Third. It was a hot summer day. Hamilcar could smell the cut fields, and watched the tractors hauling huge dangerous-looking steel farm equipment up and down the main drag. He imagined that he was somehow returning home from a long campaign against Rome. Things his dad’s obsession with the ancient world had taught him. Hamilcar imagined the city folk turning out to greet him along Route 24. His old man joshed him waving his arm out and saying, “Son, one day all this will be yours!” and he laughed as we went into the McDonald’s. But Hamilcar wasn’t kidding, he wanted it. And that’s when father told son this entire story. He asked Hamilcar never to repeat it to Mother. Mom’s a Marshall, you see, and in the summer, her skin darkens up to a nice caramel color. Hamilcar’s skin does not, it just burns raw like he’s been flogged.
Hamilcar’s head felt heavy on his palms as he tried to stay awake and running his tiny vintage record shop in the flea market at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh. Saturday and Sunday were the main days, but a number of the regular businesses ran during the week too. It wasn’t much, but it was his. He generally didn’t make enough to even pay the rent on the stall, and most of the time he found himself helping out at the key-cutting and mower blade sharpening hut, and avoiding prolonged argument with Aaron the bookseller.
Aaron LaPlante was a self-professed anarchist, a three hundred pound, fish-lipped hater of all human beings, especially his ex-wife whom many of his rails were bent toward, each of her missions twisted into stupidity and horror by him. The ex- had become his example for all things wrong with the world. Aaron had unfortunately located adjacent to Hamilcar’s record shop, and so Hamilcar was faced with Aaron on a nearly daily basis.
Aaron kept stacks of catalogs of “real spy” outfitters by his laptop. He talked relentlessly of breaking into ATM machines (Did you know, that if you request a large sum of money, and then just remove the center of it, leaving the top and bottom bills, but not touching those, the ATM will assume no one took the funds, and it will pull them back in, showing that you did not receive the funds when in fact you took all but 40 dollars!)
Aaron had purchased a flexi-light and a tiny camera on a wire made by Castlehouse Enterprises which allowed him to dream of going inside the ATM machine from his car like a surgeon, and extracting funds (somehow). Most of the time he merely tried to get the camera under skirts of the ladies who irregularly browsed his dog-eared romance novels or vintage fashion magazine collection. Then he’d share these images with a reluctant Hamilcar. Aside from being just grossly sophomoric in their appeal, they were usually technically inept photos too boot. Lady’s undies were blurred, and the meat of their thighs glowing like the moon. When occasionally, Aaron managed to get a clear shot of a nice behind it was, of course, lacking in any kind of context or sensuality. Aaron seemed to enjoy most the idea that he was duping these women somehow. He giggled gleefully at Hamilcar’s rue.
“Too bad you only get those fuckin’ hippies,” he chuckled wheezily. Aaron was always out of breath.
Hamilcar regularly wondered how the ladies didn’t notice his operations (his fat, puffing ass squatting like Hanno the Great on the other side of a bookshelf from them, fishing his wire camera through the Sci-fi section (Lem to Moore), and under the dress of the object d’amor) can only be explained by the fact that they 1, just didn’t care, or 2, couldn’t imagine anything so juvenile was going on.
Still, Aaron always saved field guides for Hamilcar. He also ended up with a great many small toys he displayed in his nook, across his counter and in the faux window space that made his stall look as though you were passing an old-fashioned sidewalk shop. A plastic ship resided along the bottom of one of the windows in it two batmen stood on the forecastle–one a full-sized Batman, the other a somewhat smaller Batman. Hamilcar occasionally amused no one but himself with the piratical story of the full-sized and diminutive batmen. . . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *