The grizzled old man pushed his cart into another driveway, past the "BEWARE OF DOG" sign and the overturned sprinkler, over a broken skateboard, around a pair of squabbling siblings. "Rags for trade," he called. "Trade your old, ratty rags for clean ones."
"Didn't you see the sign?" asked a voice from inside the garage. "It says 'No Solicitors.'"
"Actually," replied the peddler, "it says 'BEWARE OF DOG.'"
"Well, you're right on technicality," said the voice. Its owner popped his head up from behind a stack of boxes, a bright-eyed thirtysomething covered in a fine layer of cardboard dust. "What can I do for you, neighbor?"
"Got these new, pressed rags for trade," said the peddler. "One hundred percent Egyptian cotton, three hundred thread count. I'll take any old rag you got. Straight across."
The thirtysomething screwed up a skeptical, furrowed brow. "What's the catch?"
"No catch. Old rags for new. No cost or obligation."
"Well, lessee," said the homeowner, mucking around in the top box. "Oil-soaked okay?" The peddler nodded. "Baby spit-up fine?" Again. "Sweat of the brow? Hair of the dog?"
"Look," said the peddler, "I explained it already."
"I know," said the suburbanite. "But it's not much of a sustainable business model."
The old man sighed. "I'm not exactly notorious for my remunerative acumen," he said. The thirtysomething blinked and stared. "That means known for my business smarts. I sell thesauruses in the off-season."
"Oh," said the yuppie, tossing three rags to the peddler. "Here you go. I was just joking about the baby spit-up."
"You weren't the first," the peddler replied. He chucked three neatly-pressed rags to the yuppie, tipped his cap and turned his cart around, pushing it down the driveway and toward the busy suburban lane.
As he disappeared into the haze, the thirtysomething's wife came out of the house. "What was that all about?" she asked, noticing the new rags.
"I dunno," said her husband. "Some sort of metaphor, I guess."
[twenty-fifth in a series]