The Salesman

Submitted into Contest #65 in response to: Write about someone’s first Halloween as a ghost.... view prompt

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Funny Drama Thriller

“I’ve told you a hundred times, Justin...

Quit making me out to be the bad guy”

“But, I said I was sorry. I don’t know what else to do at this point”

Justin said, squeezing his temple, as though to mitigate the pounding of his recurring stress headaches.  

“Look, you know I love you, but, yeah...

at this point I don’t know, like, what to do...”

Laura looked down at the newly purchased silver bracelet with the aqua marine Aquarius charm Justin had wrapped around her wrist. 

He didn’t want to mention how he had sacrificed a credit card payment for the bracelet. Real estate business was slow, and debt was mounting, and meanwhile, Laura was also in persuading him to buy a Maltese. 

“Like, did you think you coming home with this would actually solve the way you acted that night?”

Justin stopped for a moment, his eyes set upon the bracelet. he felt his anger rising. Weeks had already gone by, and Laura still wasn’t over it? He wanted to lash out at the perceived injustice he’d been subject towards.

Despite his relentless apologizing, he still felt right in the way he handled himself that night on Laura’s birthday celebration.  Laura had had the nerve to yell at him in front of all her friends, all because Justin was late to the club. How could she?

Justing felt he had every right to give her the silent treatment for the remainder of the celebration. She knew it was also his little sister's ballet recital and Justin had made the commitment to split the evening between both her and Laura; a compromise. A compromise which, as Justin continued to indicate, Laura herself had agreed to. 

Justin had the moral high ground, or, at least in his own mind, he did. With the memories from the night resurfacing, he felt progressively less and less sympathy for Laura’s feelings, while also sillier and sillier to be making such a spectacle of apologizing— doing everything In his power trying to patch things together with Laura— with all his efforts being thrown back in his face-even when he had been the innocent one all along. 

“I can take it back, you know...”

He said, looking down with disgust at the shining blue Aquarius charm dangling from her wrist. 

“Oh how mature. See? You’re not even sorry...“

“Look, baby...”

Justin said as he looked down at his own, shaking hands. 

The shaking hands coupled with the veins popping out from his head made Laura shudder with revulsion. She could sense the insincerity and desperation in his voice, lurking like a pungent odour masked by a budget brand cologne of smarminess. 

“I- I- I don’t know what else to do. I’m- I’m sorry. “ 

Justin croaked. 

“I think I need a few days...

Maybe longer.”

Laura said. 

“I’m hurt.” 

And then, before Justin could say anything, Laura looked out the window to see a car pulling up. 

“That’s my ride.” 

“Your ride?”

Said Justin, his voice rising. 

“Where are you-“ 

“Ill call you when I’m ready to talk” Laura said, fixing her hair. 

“Goodbye, Justin” 

Justin stood to see her out, but Laura was already halfway through the door.  As she went down the icy walkway to the black sedan—speakers booming rap music from the inside—Justin saw the bracelet glimmering  beneath the streetlamp. 

Laura opened the passenger door and got inside and without ever looking back, closed the door before Justin could make out who the driver was behind the black, tinted windows. He stood dumbfounded in the breeze as  the car sped off into the darkened streets. 

Justin didn’t have much time to collect himself, and address the feelings of betrayal and suspicion lurking inside of him, before the phone rang. 

He answered it through gritted teeth, and immediately a bead of cold sweat formed a line down his back as soon as he heard the sound of Mr Strom’s husky voice greeting him

“Farber.”

“Mr Strom?” 

Justin’s voice was suddenly muffled. His hand immediately latched to his temple and gave it a firm squeeze. 

“Who else?”

“Is something wrong? I wasn’t expecting a work call at this hour.”

“Sorry, Farber. Didn’t figure a 20 something like yourself would be in bed at this hour...

Hm, I guess I should hand the opportunity off to Getz, instead?”

Reflexively, Justin’s mind jumped back to Laura--now far off in the matte black sports car she had disappeared into--and then to the overdue bill notices Justin had hidden from sight before she had arrived. 

“W-w-Wait...”

Justin said, snapping himself into consciousness. 

“Don’t. Don’t give it to Getz. Please, Mr Strom...

I need this.”

“Damn right, you do.”

Said Strom. 

“You need this more than you think. If you don’t get a fucking deal, you know what you're gonna need even more? A copy of the damned classifieds and a trip to the nearest loan agency.” 

“I got this, I got this.”

Said Justin, struggling to breathe. 

“Just tell me when and where. I’ll close.”

He tried to say convincingly, not at all convinced himself.

Justin never suspected that selling commercial real estate would be so difficult. However,  since Getz had started there, Justin had come to think maybe it wasn’t such a hard thing to do after all; maybe he himself was just inept at it. 

“Sure about that, Farber?”

Said Mr Strom. 

“Not a doubt in my mind” 

said Justin, doubting himself. 

“Then pack your bags and hit the road. The meeting is tomorrow morning in North Hudson.”

“What? North Hudson?” Said Justin, his voice taken aback. 

“Should I call Getz?” 

Said Strom, the impatience in his voice sending a  chill through Justin’s already ice cold fingers. 

The thought of North Hudson at that time of winter made his balls shrivel up. 

“I’ll get my parka on.” 

Said Justin, the level of his sudden affirmation surprising even himself. 

They worked out the remaining details and Justin threw contents into an overnight bag while considering what to do about Laura. It didn’t quite matter, since when he finally called her to let her know he was leaving to North Hudson, she didn’t answer the phone anyway. 

Justin drove through the night, unable to drown his anxieties with the radio or the pack of cigarettes he had decided to buy at the fill-up station despite never smoking a day before in his life. On top of that, he tried to swallow the revolting taste of the beer he had also packed for the trip. Nothing sufficed to cure his ailing, anxious mind. 

Not even the endless stream of jokes from standup comedians on the comedy radio station playing in the car could help his  to ease his restless worry. Indeed, it seemed to make him feel even worse. 

“Ever notice how your girlfriends personal training sessions somehow end in her being much happier, but not all that much more fit?” 

One comedian said.

“Buying gifts for my girlfriend every year is tough. I feel like each year, I have to out-do whatever gift I bought her last year.  On top of that, I have to out-do all the gifts from all her other boyfriends!” 

And again, the thought of Laura entering the black convertible entered Justin’s mind and sent a tremor through his soul. 

“I need this deal.” 

He told himself. The sparkling bracelet reflecting in his mind's eye.

“I’ll get this deal. My job will be safe. I’ll get Laura back. We’ll go to Dad’s birthday lunch Saturday. Everything will be fine.” 

He wondered if the black sedan by his driveway had been Getz’s. He had remembered Getz buying a new black car not too long before then.  He also remembered Laura and Getz exchanging laughter by the hors d'oeuvres table at the office Christmas party which had brought Laura to- a mistake, now that he looked at it in hindsight. 

“I need this fucking deal.”

He said to himself. 

The comedy station kept playing; He didn’t laugh once. 

...

“Ehh, not too sure about this deal, buddy.” 

Said Mr Teslon, wearing his brown suit in the wood paneled office, sitting behind his oak desk with a cigar in his mouth. 

“What is it specifically you’re unsure about?”

Asked Justin, sitting uncomfortably in his suit, drenched with sweat from head to toe. He was doing his best to handle objections, trying to apply all the lessons had learned from all the books he had read on the topic of selling. 

“Not sure it’s really a good area for us. We’re looking for something a little more upscale. More prestige, you know.”

The thought of Getz in his blue suit and slicked back hair ran through Justin's mind. What would Getz say? By that point,Getz would've been shaking hands and smoking cigars while the ink was drying.

“It’s really up and coming. I know it seems underdeveloped, but that’s why it’s such a hot deal right now. Give it a couple of years, it’ll look like something out of a Hollywood movie. I'll guarantee that.”

“You can’t ‘guarantee’ anything. That’s the problem with you salespeople. Too many guarantees. Not enough results. I’ve been burned before. Too many times, my friend.”

Said Mr Teslon, leaning back and puffing on his cigar. 

Justin stared wide eyed, pupils dilated —wired from lack of sleep and nicotine — fixated upon the brown ring at the bottom of the empty espresso cup on the desk in front of him. 

“Not this time”

Said Justin. 

“You won’t be burned.”

He felt hungry and desperate, almost ready to lunge across the desk and force Teslon's hand to sign the document before him.

“Sorry, kid.” 

Said Mr Teslon. 

Justin packed up his briefcase and walked outside. As he walked back to his car he found a parking ticket on the windshield. He was cold and underdressed for the freezing temperatures of North Hudson.  He scurried into a dim, cozy looking coffee shop to get himself a quad americano to take him through the six painful hourlong drive ahead of him. 

The barista smiled at him as he ordered. 

“Quad shot, huh?”

Justin nodded, handing her cash for the drink with extra for a tip. 

“Long day ahead?” 

She said, taking the money.

Justin nodded and looked up to see her green eyes meet his. 

“I hope this helps.”

Justin's eyes fell upon her cherry red lips as they spoke. He was mesmerized by the stark contrast of her pale skin, her dark hair, her full red lips, and her staggering green eyes. Her face looked smooth and warm as the milk she frothed for the latte she'd made for another customer. Her speech had the sweet tasting, kind, relish only to be found in quiet shops in quiet towns like this one.

“You’re sweet, Kay”

Said Justin, reading her name tag.

“You know that?”

Kay blushed without saying anything. 

“I’m not from here.”

Said Justin. 

“Know where I could get a good steak?”

He asked. 

“I know a few places. I’d say Gurdy’s is your best bet. Family run. All local.” 

Kay said, as she proceeded to line up the espresso shots for his drink. 

“Care to join me? When you’re, uh, done here?”

Said Justin, almost confident in himself for once.

“Hmm, been a while since I had a steak” 

Said Kay

“Sure.”

Justin flushed with relief.

“What time you off?” 

Said Justin, the air rising in his chest. 

“5:30” said Kay, handing Justin his drink. 

“I’ll be out front” 

He said, and with a sly smile, Justin walked out the door. 

As Justin marched up and down the streets of the tiny town he felt the empty desolation of the frozen streets and the barren landscapes mirroring his deprived soul. The ache inside of him was only somewhat hampered by the prospect of Kay’s dazzling green eyes and the promise of her tender embrace. 

Justin walked through a used furniture store and he saw the image of himself in the torn, soiled upholstery of age old sofas. 

Further, towards the end of town, Justin saw the entrance into the dump.  Not far from there was the graveyard, which had been housing the town's dead residents since the town's existence began two hundred years prior. Not far off from there was an old railway bridge over the icy Kenton River. Justin stood over the bridge and watched the midday sun evaporate into space. For a moment, even in the brutal wind rising off the frozen Kenton river, the universe was a warm place.

...

It was dark by the time Justin arrived at the front of the coffee shop. He waited several minutes, checking his watch anxiously, before Kay finally came outside. 

“Oh, hey”

She said, her eyes full of surprise as she looked at him. 

“Oh hey, wasn’t expecting me?”

Said Justin, smiling while also frowning, slightly, as he eagerly searched for the smile which he'd been so taken by earlier that day.

“To be honest, I totally forgot.” 

Said Kay. The previously charming light in her green eyes was completely vacant, and instead, replaced with black holes.

“Well, surprise!” 

Said Justin, forcing a smile, trying to salvage the situation, just as he had earlier, in Mr Teslon's office. 

“Listen, I don't think I can tonight after all. I’m uh, tire-“

“Oh I get it.”

Said Justin, cutting her off.

“I totally get it, don't worry.”

His voice choked the words as he proceeded to walk off—his chest throbbing violently, the wind slapping his burning cheeks. 

Justin continued walking path his car—blind with fury, scorching hot with pain and flooded with tears-- seeing nothing but the Aquarius charm bracelet glowing in his mind. He continued walking all through the dark and empty town, through the cold howling winds cutting straight into his teary eyes and cheeks and down his aching throat, until he reached Kenton River. 

Justin went up to the bridge and laid himself down across the tracks. With his body still, he felt the weight of the world fall upon him. He felt the burdens of his job, relationship, and his own psyche all reaching their boiling point.  Justin began praying for a train to come, but after an hour, his doubts arose.  It occurred to him that trains weren’t likely to be passing through that town on a regular basis, let alone, during evening hours. 

But, Justin proved to be wrong. 

The rumblings from the train in the  next town over carried all the way across the frozen river, through the empty night air. 

As the wheels screeched, Justin became elated, but only momentarily, before the thoughts of his family went through his mind.

His family had done nothing wrong to him.  His family were still the only people on the earth who he loved and trusted with all his heart.  He saw his little sister, Sadie, flitting across the stage in her golden leotard—graceful, light, majestic—without any trace of the ills of the world Justin had come to know. The universe was warm once again.

...

Justin made it back to his car, and he drove home all through the night—straight to his parents home—  this time, laughing at the comedians on the radio. 

It was Saturday, the day of his father's birthday. The sun was out, shining over the snowy rooftops. There were a few cars parked outside his parents house. Already? Justin thought time himself. It was still early morning, and the rest of the family had been expected for lunch.  

He entered the house and heard voices from the kitchen. Voices sobbing. His mother’s voice erupted with howling screams. He walked further down the hall towards the kitchen, but no one heard him, even as he entered the room, none of his aunts and uncles, nor his parents, nor little Sadie nor even Benji their Toy Poodle, took any notice of him. 

“No! I cant! Make it stop. God, please! Please, God! Make it stop!”

He had never heard his mother’s voice scream that way before. 

“Mom! Mom! Don’t cry! I’m here! Mom! Mom?”

His voice choked. 

But, no one could hear him. 

October 30, 2020 17:41

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1 comment

Beautiful. The only thing is that you used said too much, but this story is beautiful. W O W

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