The Collection of my Youth

Submitted into Contest #185 in response to: Someone’s beloved collection is destroyed. How do they react?... view prompt



  I took my weekly quarter allowance to Isaac’s Grocery on Saturday morning and grabbed a pop, chips, and chocolate bar and put them on the counter. Mr. Isaac’s started punching them into the cash register. Then I saw the comic rack. I had never seen a comic rack before. Isaac’s never had a comic rack before.

  I left the counter and went and spun the rack. There was the Hulk, bursting green with The Leader’s elongated head looming over him, and there was The Red Skull holding a glass cube that Captain America was trapped inside. I snatched them up and ran back to the counter. Mr. Isaac had already paper bagged the pop, chips, and chocolate bar.

   “I don’t want those. I want these.”

   Annoyed, he emptied the bag, rolled the comics and stuck them in. They were twelve cents each, and I got three ju-jubes with the penny left over.

   From then on, all my allowance, all my lunch money was saved for comics. Food I would only eat and it would be gone, but my comics were forever. I got so many that I laid an empty bookcase on my bedroom floor and stood my comics up in it so I could keep and sort them better.

   At fourteen I discovered comic shops. Then I bought bags and tape, and cardboard comic boxes to store my comics in. The comic boxes had lids so I could stack them when I stored them.

   At seventeen in Harry’s shop, I found an Amazing Spider-Man number five for twenty-five dollars displayed on a clothes line above me. A month’s paper route money. Before I was twenty, I had a complete run of Iron Man.

   I haunted Comic One asking the owner, Tom, “What’s the best comic to buy? What’s going to be valuable? What should I invest in?”

   “I’d only buy what you want to read. That way if it doesn’t go up in value, if you never get a dime for it, you still got your money’s worth.” Tom was a very nice man, and it was good advice, but I didn’t really listen to it.

   By the time I married I had twenty-eight boxes of comics, average three hundred in each, bagged, taped, and sorted. The second year of our marriage Natalie made me move them out of the second bedroom into the basement so we could have a baby.

   In the basement the comics withered. They lived in the dark. The only company they had was the few new ones I also bagged and taped and added to them. They were some neglected part of me I could no longer enjoy. I had come to hate being so careful with them. So concerned with not devaluing them. Cracking open their spines only a little and reading them sideways practically. Washing my hands before touching. Bagging each one after reading and taping them shut. Most of the older ones, that I grew up with, I loved, but I never re-read them because when I felt the urge, I couldn’t be bothered digging them out, unpacking, and unbagging them.

   I read the new ones more out of duty than enthusiasm. I could only see them as valued collector’s items. The unfinished basement was their vault. I didn’t own them anymore, they owned me.

   My son grew up with no interest in them, and my wife would argue what we could do with the money if I’d only sell them.

   One Christmas, when my Jason was eleven, he wanted to stay up for Santa. We coaxed him to bed. At three fifteen in the morning the fire alarm went off. We got Jason and all of us went out the back of the house as the living room filled with smoke and fire. We climbed the fence to our neighbor’s yard because our own driveway was filling with smoke.

   After the fire was out, after the firemen left, after the Earls offered us a place to stay, Jason told us. My wife had tea candles and a barbeque lighter she used on the mantle. But for Christmas she had a Dickens village made of balsa wood on the mantle. Jason had got up in the middle of the night, added the tea candles and lit them for Santa to see the village in the dark.

   When I went over the house with the insurance person, they agreed to replace everything. Except in the basement. Home insurance did not cover Special Collections. The fire had not reached my comic collection, but putting out the fire flooded the basement.

   As I took each comic out of its bag, I could see they were soaked, and they all smelled of smoke. The comic bags had not saved them from water or smoke damage. They dried wavy and ruined as wet books do. They were worthless. Nobody wanted the comics even as donations as mould was setting in on them. I had to say good-bye.

   Jason, I forgave, of course, because he had been honest with us.

   As years went by, I would see comics in stores but they bothered me now. They cost too much. They took up too much space. They had heroes and stories I didn’t recognize anymore. They had hardcovers with a thousand pages of my favourites, but they were too expensive, too heavy, and likely to break my toes one day.

   At sixty I retired early. The world was missing many of the things I grew up with, and I was missing them, too.

   This Christmas Jason came over for dinner with his wife and our grandchild. His mother and I were grateful to play host and have the company.

   Jason gave me a thin box, and I opened it to find a computer tablet.

   “I have a computer. It’s the one you got me two Christmas’ ago. It’s still current, isn’t it? It does what I want.”

   “No, dad, this is your comic collection.” Jason tapped the tablet and swiped and a page of multiple comic book covers appeared. He picked one, it filled the screen. He swiped again and the story pages turned like any comic. “Look, dad, it’s got everything you use to have. And if you want the newer ones, they’re way cheaper online than buying the books and paper. I got you complete runs of the Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. Merry Christmas.”

   It was all the old ones I liked to read. And they didn’t have to live in the basement. And they didn’t take up any room. And I didn’t have to bag them or unbagged them. And Natalie wouldn’t be able to see if my collection started growing again… 

February 12, 2023 22:28

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Timothy Rennels
21:34 Feb 23, 2023

I love it! Being a compulsive baseball card collector it really struck a chord with me. Also, I've got them all off the floor now thanks to your reminder.


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Jester Patatoe
20:15 Feb 21, 2023

Amazing story i loved it everything and how you were descriptive and David.


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Helen A Smith
12:05 Feb 20, 2023

The story drew me in David. I was gutted when the MC’s comics were affected by the fire. They meant so much to him and it couldn’t have been the same reading them online. I think his wife could have been more understanding. It wasn’t as if the comics were getting in her way. There’s a lesson about letting go here which his son helped him with, but it was still a loss. Nice ending.


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