"Fringe Benefits" by Jamé McCraw

One Saturday this past spring, four Channing University students went to a garage sale across town in search of odds and ends for their shared, four-bedroom home, and above all, a new couch. What the roommates discovered on this outing was more than they could have dreamed of.

"We usually just pick something up from the curb and swap it out for new pieces when we find something better," Jen Crawford said. "But this last time, the loveseat my boyfriend, David, brought home was infested with fleas. We had to convince the landlord to fumigate the place.” 

David Mankin tells a different story.

“Whether it was the couch or not that brought in the fleas is up for debate," Mankin said. "Our roommate, Jefferson, is always finding kittens. It’s like, dude, stop bringing home strays!”

Jefferson Pendleton had this to say. 

“What can I say? I love little furballs and they love me. I have only actually found two kittens since I moved into this house. Neither of them had fleas," Pendleton said. "I do not want to get in the middle of a lover’s dispute, but I absolutely think the loveseat brought the fleas in. He found it on Avenue G. I lived in an apartment on Avenue G when I was a freshman. The rent was like $300 a month. You pay for what you get. I got bedbugs. I’m surprised the loveseat didn't have roaches as well.”

The fourth roommate, Sara Conor, was in the kitchen rolling out dough on a floured surface.

“I’m making a 'peace' pie," Conor said. "There has been so much tension in the house.”

The petite, ethnomusicology major took a moment to show off her garden where Pendleton’s two cats, Piccolo and Diamante, were chasing butterflies. She was wearing a suede leather jacket with fringes along the sleeves and two tiers of fringes across the back.

“So, you’ve seen the jacket, now,” Mankin said as he entered the garden.

He is about a foot taller than Conor and has broad shoulders and thick arms. Conor removed the jacket.

“Check this crap out,” Mankin said.

He puts the jacket on and it somehow fits over his proportions and is just as flattering as it is on the waifish gardener.

I had heard of magical shared garments before from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but I always took it to be fiction. When these four friends walked up the driveway on Sycamore Street they found what Pendleton referred to as “a halfway decent macaroni pot” and a lumpy beige and emerald floral print couch large enough for the four of them to sit on during “epic evenings of Mario Kart.”

Conor and Crawford dug around through piles of clothing lain across a large crinkled blue tarp on the lawn. As they ladies tell it, the homeowners had no memory of ever owning the jacket and only charged three dollars for it. It was found beneath a stack of neatly folded vacation t-shirts in child and adult sizes.

“I like garage sales for this reason,” Crawford said. “You can tell so much about a family. They must have gone to St. Pete beach in Florida at least three different times. You can tell by the different fads featured in the designs. A few of the shirts feature little smiley faces and reference the Macarena.”

“Jen is a totally excellent detective of humanity," Conor said. "She is the most intuitive person I know.”

It is at this point, Conor is serving up the “peace pie” to her roommates. Pendleton is now wearing the jacket. He is lanky and well over six feet tall. The jacket is still flattering, and I am absolutely baffled. I ask them if any other items they scored that spring Saturday have had any mystical properties.

“I’ll tell you what, that pot cooks the best damn macaroni. But it could also be the switch from store-brand to Kraft,” Pendleton said. “Terminator over here had a successful cuddle session on a date recently. They fell asleep watching Kundun on the new couch. She had the jacket on that night.”

“He calls me Terminator. Like Sarah Connor,” Conor said. “ I keep telling him ‘One n. No h.’ He never listens.”

She goes on to explain that the 1997 film Kundun about the young Dalai Lama is her litmus test for a potential life partner.

“Everyone falls asleep during this movie for some reason, which is OK," Conor said. "I’m game for a platonic snuggle now and again. But I truly believe my soul mate will stay awake until the end.”

Mankin is washing the dishes while Crawford dries. Pendleton has his Diamante on his lap, batting at the fringes of the suede jacket. The mood in the room after Conor’s “peace pie” is calm and contemplative. It seems the magic is not so much in article of clothing with a complementary fit for the diverse friend group, but in the bonds of the companions themselves sharing a home cooked treat and being thankful for each other. 

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.