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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Short Story - The Art Of Salesmanship

The sun beat down on the jaded tar road sending up heat waves and plain discomfort. His view was distorted. He could see jelly like outlines of cars in the far distance. Beautiful creatures in beautiful machines. As a luxury car zoomed by, he caught a glimpse of the good life. Arm in arm, cuddled together. It’s a miracle that the man is able to drive..he thought. Someday….Sweat trickled down the sides of his neck onto the grimy frayed collar of his shirt as he trudged on...bag full of disinfectants and mothballs in hand. He was really close to his objective. A lot of planning had gone into this particular day. This was it….just concentrate…he thought to himself. He hadn't eaten much, just to keep himself alert and focused. A light stomach would definitely help.

The colony loomed into view. Resplendent in it’s unabashed vulgarity. There was a board on the entrance which said ‘Salesmen and peddlers not allowed’. His heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t seen that board before. Never. Now what? He thought. He made his way cautiously through the open gates. There was no one manning them. He then went to the building where he wanted to go. Third floor, first flat to the right. A series of carefully measured, well rehearsed steps. He knocked on the door.

“Who’s there?”, a trembling voice shouted.

“Salesman”, he replied.

“Please go away..I don’t want anything. I am doing something really important, and I don’t want to see anyone….”

“Maaji, please consider…I have been walking in such pathetic conditions..I haven’t had a single sale..I have to make a sale or starve… please just see what I have to offer at least….”

There was silence for some time.

He waited and waited..refusing to budge. He couldn’t turn away…not now.

Slowly the door opened just a crack, the chain in place. A wizened old lady peeked out at him.

“What are you selling?”

“Phenyle, mothballs, disinfectants, Baygon Bait”

“I don’t know…”, the old lady looked doubtful.

“Please?” , he said, putting on his most ingratiating tone of voice.

“Well ok…but I will return them if they are not effective enough…do u understand?” she snapped.

“Whatever u say ,maaji”, he said, and started to hoist his bag down.

“Come inside”, she said, and opened the door.

If he was taken aback by this invitation, (could this get any easier?!!) he tried hard not to show it…he meekly followed her inside. And gasped. It was a lavishly furnished apartment…marble and granite everywhere….The air conditioning was a welcome relief from the heat..as the sweat dried from his soaked shirt, he felt an urgent thrill. His heart started beating faster and faster. He felt that the old hag could almost hear it, and tried to calm himself down.

“Would you like some water?”

He kept staring at the furniture, the antiques, the wallclocks..

“ Hey you! Are u deaf or something? “

“What did u say?..I’m sorry..”

“I asked u whether you wanted some water..”

“Yes please!”

As she went inside..he braced himself…taking some deep breaths..pacing up and down like a caged animal.

The old lady came back with a glass of water..He gulped it down nervously.

“Why are you sweating so much?” she enquired, her voice kind, warm, motherly.

He didn’t answer, concentrating on finishing the contents of the glass.

“Your life must be real hard…walking around the whole day, getting doors slammed in your face. Don’t you feel insulted when somebody does that?”

“You have to take it…a man has to earn his living somehow..”, he said, hoping there was some degree of conviction in his voice.

She nodded.

“So what are you selling? Anything that this lonely old lady can use?”, she asked.

You didn’t have to tell me that you were lonely, you stupid old fool..he thought to himself. I haven’t watched you like a hawk for a fortnight for nothing... I know exactly who your relatives are, that you have a live-in manservant, and that your children don’t give a damn about you. All that is going to end soon..real soon.

“There you go again…are you deaf?!”

He felt a sharp stab of irritation at her voice. He placed down the bag, and inched closer to the lady. She looked at him with surprise.

“What are you doing?”, she queried.

“Shhh…it’s going to be ok maaji..”, he said, as his hands closed around her neck.

“What the hell do u think you are doing?!”, she screamed.

“What does it look like?!”, he said, as he tightened his grip.

As he strangled her with increasing force, she just did not resist. There was an almost beatific look on her face. No distress, no fear, no resolve. It was almost as if she wanted him to kill her. This irritated him, who clasped harder and harder, until he felt her life force slink away.

This had been easier than I thought, he said to himself as her limp fragile old body drop on the marble floor.

He then sat down on the couch staring at his hands. He looked around for some keys. Scouting around in all the rooms, he then picked up whatever looked valuable. He sure was spoilt for choice. As he hauled all the stuff, he just could not stop sweating. His heart was pounding as if it would burst out of the roof of his head. As his grubby hands carried the loot to the hall, he happened to glance at the corpse. Her eyes caught his in a glassy, lifeless stare, a faint smile on her lips. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead into the crevices of his neck. His ears were flaming, his hands trembling.

“Stop staring at me!!!”, he screamed. “Whom are you laughing at?!!!”

There was no answer. He almost expected one.

“Stop STARING!”

Still no answer. She is dead..he thought. I killed her. It then hit him..It hit hard..his teeth were aching..his heart rate going ballistic. One massive ferrous explosion within his chest..

The Police team reached the scene an hour later. They had been alerted by a neighbour who had heard a series of screams from the old lady’s house.

As the cops swarmed all around the place, the Inspector in charge surveyed the scene. The salesman’s body was hunched near the old lady’s. One hand clutching his head and the other his chest.

“A first timer”, he thought to himself as he chuckled. “Talk of instant retribution..”

One of the constables called out from the bedroom

“Saaheb, have a look at this!!!”

Underneath the bed, he had found a bottle of rat poison, some sleeping pills and a suicide note written by the lady…

Meanwhile, the watchman, along with the manservant crept up to the floor where the crone lived. “Are all the materials in order?” asked the manservant.. “Just to make sure..”

“Clutch the bag as inconspicuously as possible..”

As they turned into the aisle from the staircase and peered down the corridor, they saw a rush of khaki all over the place. A police team in the house?! Had they got wind of their plan somehow…but who could have alerted them? Or had the old lady smelled a rat?

“All down the drain”, they cursed aloud as they fled from the scene.

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2:52 PM, February 20, 2013
Anonymous Anonymous said...

old old post, were you reading edgar allan poe at the time...    



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