Friday, September 6, 2013

The Seller by Tony Dews

When John gets fired, he calmly plans his revenge as he prepares for his new life; by Tony Dews.

Monday October 10th, 2011.

"Sorry John, I have to let you go."

That's how simply it can happen. Eight words and your whole world changes after being with the company for nearly eighteen months. Just eight lousy words. I wasn't the only one. It was a conveyor belt of people filing in and out of the bosses' office to be told their services were no longer required and they'd better start looking for something else. And find out what entitlements they were going to get. Which wasn't much very much if my letter was anything to go by. Still, I was used to it. It wasn't the first time it had happened and I survive as best I can, no matter what happens, but he really should've picked someone else, not me. Paybacks are a real bitch.

"I'm truly sorry John, but business has been really bad lately. Our contracts have gone out the window so I have to let people go and hopefully ride it out." He was a nice guy and I felt for him. He was hurting even if I wasn't. Can't be easy for anyone to see what they'd built up over the years be on the verge of falling over through no fault of your own. It wasn't something I'd like to face but I never would and I knew it, I just copped the end of it like so many others, but they'll learn, they'll learn. "It's the GFC boss, the same everywhere." Yeah, right, of course it was.

I was one of the road crew, the ones who schlep out every day to drum up new business and make sure sure our clients didn't go some place else because we screwed them over. I was the best of them too, and the newest, coming in just after I arrived in Melbourne after leaving Perth, ending up here after a short time in Adelaide. It suited me, this job, I was my own boss and being on the road was what I liked. I had wanderlust and didn't like staying in one place if I could help it. I was the perfect seller since I loved the road and I am able to sell anything, even myself, without sounding too modest. Come to think of it, losing my job might be the silver lining I was looking for without knowing it. Positive thinking, that's the key. Onward and upward.

Over the last few months doors had closed all over the city; lease signs replacing shop displays on every street. Trams and buses had blank ad signs on their sides. The company sold office products and hadn't done too bad before the rise of the big chains and the internet. These were bad enough but the financial squeeze was that one little extra straw that broke the back of the company, signalling my move on to better and brighter things. It wasn't too big either and I liked that, nobody kept too close an eye on you, they couldn't, and I wanted it to stay that way next time. Same as the last time really.

The boss looked at me. "Look, I'll call you when business picks up again. See if you want to come back." Of course we both knew the chances of that would be Buckley's. He wasn't going to call me, the bastards never do. It's as if they don't want me around anymore. It wouldn't matter even if they did, I didn't intend going back even if they begged me. Once you leave a place or a job or a woman there's no going back is there? The same with Anne, better to let it all go or you'll carry way too much baggage and for a guy like me I couldn't afford it. Memories aren't all they're cracked up to be, you know what I'm saying, of course you do.

I played along with the traditional charade. "Yeah that would be great. I'll miss this place and it will be good to get back if it works out." Empty words as they always are, devoid of meaning and used because the guy letting you go couldn't be honest with themselves and I couldn't be bothered saying different. The job was gone already, all that was left was the future and I owed the past nothing. Anyway I'd already decided to test the waters out there, call in a few favours that people owed me. We shook hands and I left the office with two weeks left to go knowing that for a guy like me there would be something out there with my name on it.

"She'll be right love," I said to Anne when I'd got home and given her the news. Anne was sexy as hell with a face and a figure that would've kept the thousand ships at home if you know what I'm saying. She was just what I'd needed when I got to the city. Picked her up in a café with the right words and a bit of style and we've been together ever since. We'd slept together that night and I was in her unit three days later. Pretty easy for a guy like me, I reckon I look like a bad boy movie star every girl secretly wants. Nicely muscled, all my own hair and teeth and a serious three day growth going on that I keep properly trimmed. It's all in the look.

She didn't look like she took the news very well, probably since she'd got used to the income that let her buy what she liked, including the Nissan 370Z in the garage and the warehouse full of cosmetics in the bathroom. God knows why she would be mad though since crap happens in the seller's life. I mean to say, we aren't exactly in the business of permanence after all, ours or anyone's. Stable relationships aren't the norm for us. "I'll get the word out and score another job as easy as. Places will fall over themselves to take me on, you know that." She was a bit dubious though, God knows I would have been if I was the pessimistic type, but I look on the bright side, as one door closes another one opens. Be positive and look to the future that's the key. It's all you can do isn't it? I opened a bottle of wine and went on chopping the vegetables with a little more force than usual.

We're a pretty close-knit group us road crew. We all know the pressures and who isn't doing so well and who're looking for people to take on and who're letting people go. That's why I met Dave on Wednesday for lunch. The first couple of days hadn't been too flash, no real leads other than a couple of mumbled 'maybes' and 'I'll let you knows' that I didn't put much faith in despite my best efforts. I'd made no new sales and only had a couple of orders for more stock on Monday and Tuesday and only a couple of nibbles that weren't worth hooking that morning so I was a bit down. My plans weren't coming together as I'd expected. I didn't like failing but it was looking like it might just happen. When you're used to looking after yourself it's hard to start depending on others. In a nutshell I was beginning to not like it very much.

"Hey Dave, what's happening?" I shook his hand and sat down at the plastic-topped table of a Vietnamese-Chinese place in Abbotsford. It was typical of the style of place you get there; cheap, reliable food with an easy atmosphere to chat in, and where the waiters aren't as insistent as they can be in other places.

"Nothing much," he said as he picked up the order-by-numbers menu. "Bit slow today, what about you?" Dave sells intercoms and phone systems during the week but has been branching into CCTV and monitoring gizmos on the side. We all have to make a living no matter how we do it.

"Same. Company isn't doing too well, having to let people go. Including me."

"You're kidding!" Nothing much usually fazes Dave but this seemed to. "What happened?"

"Got my notice Monday, boss called me into the office and told me I finish Friday week. Two weeks and whoosh, out the door and don't let it hit you on the arse as you go out. Bastard even smiled as he told me."

"Mate that's a bit of a bummer, must've been a bit of a shock I suppose."

"Yeah but shit happens. Still there's work out there for a guy like me who can put the work in. You guys haven't got anything going have you?" I fished a bit of beef out of the soup I'd ordered and chewed it more than it needed to be.

"Sorry mate, nothing doing at my place. To be honest it's been flat lately, wouldn't be surprised if we started letting people go in the near future as well if things don't pick up. I'll sniff around for you though, see what comes up."

Rest of the day went like that. Asked a few people while I was out and about but nothing apart from a few vague hints. Ended up not making a sale but that can happen in this business and my mind wasn't fully on the job either.

Anne was getting dinner ready when I got home. "How did it go babe?"

"Not too bad. No sales but I caught up with Dave and he's going to keep his eyes out to see if anything comes up." I filled a glass with cold Chardonnay from the fridge. "I put a few feelers out. Should be good though, early days and no reason to be down. Got to stay upbeat eh?" She looked at me and smiled through her fringe of brown hair. Anne was gorgeous; body and mind she had it all, and knew how to use it. "No reason at all babe." She kissed me. Man she tasted sweet.

Next day was much the same. Pretty quiet and no word from Dave, probably way too soon but in this line if you snooze you lose. Jenny at work gave me my list with a smile. Pity she worked under me, if not she'd be under me for a different reason. Professional barriers you know, if you need to leave quick you didn't want any baggage left behind and I wasn't going to. Not with my plans. "Some good leads today, regulars that always buy something." She gave me my list for the day. She was spot on as usual. I got a couple of sales which got my spirits up before meeting Rod for lunch.

We met in a pub in Fitzroy, The Robert Burns, Scottish name but does great Spanish food. We took our beers and sat near a faux Spanish window to look at the pretty young things doing their shopping at the warehouse outlets nearby. Rod's a good mate who has more fingers in more pies than the rest of us can imagine. Don't know how he does it but he has a gift I can only dream of having. Always thinking of ways to make money and he never seems to be short of it. Rod has it all; kids in private school, model wife and a big house that cost a mint in a good part of town just south of the river.

"How's tricks mate?" He beamed a huge smile. He was always smiling. A front of course, but damned effective.

"Same as always, mate." I said. "Keeping afloat. Bit of a slump at work lately."

He took a swig of his beer. "Things are a bit tough all over mate That's why you need an edge to keep the cash coming in. In fact," he put his beer down on the counter and looked at me. "I'm going to a seminar tonight. Might be just up your alley. Want to come along?"

"Not sure if I can." You can't play too hard to get. "Anne might have something on for us tonight."

"Be a pity if you can't. I'm allowed a guest and it won't cost you anything except a few hours of your time."

"I'll see what I can do. Where is it?"

Rod knew he had me. "It's in Carlton. How about we meet at The Corkman?" I knew it, an Irish pub on Leicester St, polished floors, lots of wood and so many backpackers you couldn't sneeze without hitting one. "Say six? We can walk to the seminar after a feed, it starts at seven thirty near enough. Could be just the break you're looking for."

I went to the pub straight after work. Anne did have something on but I worked my way past that. She did have a point about my not going, I was always avoiding meeting her parents but I ran the old 'it's our future babe' line and in the end she copped it sweet. I'm a good talker you know and it was for a good reason. The future might depend on it.

So six o'clock saw me at the bar with a beer in my hand chatting to the barmaid - great legs and superb tits - until Rod arrived. By then I had her phone number and a promise for the future. Rod was the same as at lunchtime, all smiles and slaps on the shoulder. "Where's mine?" I signalled the barmaid for two more and we sat down at a booth.

"Glad you could make it." He said. "No problems?"

"I was supposed to go with Anne to her parents for dinner. Let's say I'm glad the doghouse has a TV and a bar fridge. So this seminar tonight. It'd better be worth it." I glanced over to the bar, the barmaid's eyes were on me as she served a regular his pot.

"You'll see. Look, you'll love it. I've been doing it part time for a few months myself and it's a nice little earner. Should be just the thing for a seller like you, you'll make a decent quid out of it and you could go anywhere, international even."

I had a sneaky suspicion what the seminar might be of course. Rod wasn't saying too much, which added fuel to my suspicions, but I was looking forward to it all the same. If Rod said it was ok for me then that was good enough to get my nose twitching. I knew I was going to be on a good thing. Rod was right on my selling, if I needed to save my life by what I sold I wouldn't be getting burned soon that's for sure.

The seminar was in a motel on Swanston St just a couple of blocks from the pub and it was getting dark when we got there. Rob was in his element and worked the crowd like a pro. Long enough to be remembered and short enough not to be annoying, that was his style, and it worked a treat. We sat in the fifth row back from the stage, on the edge, Rod in the outside chair. "Just to be sure." He winked at me and anyone who looked as they walked past. Rod always did like to be noticed.

It was Amway of course, I knew it would be and it went the way these things go. Most of the people were in the selling game too, I recognised a couple from here and there. The PR hype was in full cry, lots of 'rah rah' speeches and "You can do its!" and the mob lapped it up. Before you knew it everyone was seeing seven figures in their bank accounts and holidays in the sun floating on caviar and Dom Perignon. I was in happy land because I'd seen my future.

After the show I started to make it happen. There was a couple from the Gold Coast down to show what could be done with a positive attitude and I got to chatting with them in the lobby. They had two boats, a luxury apartment on the beach, bleached hair, white teeth, tans and in her case more plastic in her body than you'd find in a Coca-Cola factory. They were keen for others to join their team if they were go-ahead guys after easy money and lots of it. There was a place for me there once I cleared the ground here and it wasn't just selling if you follow me. I told them I'd let them know and her eyes slid past me just that wee bit too slow for casual contact.

After a few more drinks at the bar, head buzzing with ideas of how to pursue my future and clear the ground here I went home. This wasn't new to me you know, I've been here before but this had to be a bit different, you can't use the same excuses when moving on, or the same method. It's like selling, the same old same old gets stale and gets you into bad habits you can be caught out on. I wondered briefly if I should I tell Anne about my plans or would it be best left as a surprise. Yeah, I'd make it a surprise. A real big one. You could say it would be a real killer. She was still at her parents when I got home and I was half asleep when she arrived and got into bed, but not so sleepy that I didn't respond when she draped herself over me. I'm only human you know.

Saturday I went to see a mate in Collingwood. He's a chemist and has a nice little terrace joint with a shed out the back. I say 'chemist' but he's not the pharmaceutical type. Does a good line in the kind of stuff you mostly find at parties, sales rep glove-boxes and green rooms at television stations. He'll get you what you want when you need it if you don't ask questions and he was just what I wanted. He lives near a men's hostel but they never visit him, nor do the usual low-life druggies that live in the area. You can see them out the front of the high-rises and on the streets, shambling wrecks with dead eyes and bodies. They either can't afford to use his services or the hospital fees if they try. He's far too choosy to deal with trash like that.

He answered the door when I arrived telling me Kerri wasn't in, she'd gone to the shops. She disappeared whenever he was doing business so she'd be back after I left. What she didn't want to know wouldn't bother her if it meant she could keep up her fashion shopping and going to the Spring Carnival marquees. Sure she was too shallow to worry where the money came from but damn, she was one hell of a gorgeous woman. Looks, body and the vapidity of a Barbie doll. I used to have a crush on her but that was never on, not seriously anyway - I did try once and got the sexiest slap down ever. But mostly it was because Paul kept the emergency room at St Vincent's busy from time to time with recalcitrant payers and I cared too much for my looks and health to try again. "Hey mate, what are you after today?"

"Something special mate, that only you could come up with, odourless, tasteless, colourless and liquid and ready next Thursday."

"Got something special planned?"

"You could say that, I finish up at work next week and want to go out with a bang. A special event for a very deserving group of people very dear to me."

He didn't buy it, that much fake sincerity would stick in anyone's throat. "You don't have anyone dear to you and you know it. Too much the loner to let anyone get too close, not even Anne. How special do you want it to be?"

I told him. Not all of it, just enough about being time to move on and leave town for better grazing, burn a few bridges and all that. Paul is a no questions asked and answered guy, that's what I like about him, honest in his own way. Pay him well enough and he's like a tomb to anyone who asks him what they shouldn't or didn't need to know. No loose ends there to worry about but you don't want to leave too much behind when it comes time to move on. After leaving his place I went around to The Corkman to see the barmaid. Just to keep it all sweet. We arranged to meet on Wednesday, she was due to finish same time I did.

The rest of the weekend flew by. It felt like the world had shifted on its axis and the stars were finally turning my way. It felt good, like it was heralding the start of something big and new. I could smell it like the ocean on a windy day, a tangy and heady aroma that made my head spin. A brief phone call to Ms Plastic added to the feeling. Did I say she had plans? Well the call confirmed all that I suspected. As long as she didn't cross me it would be good. Dad hated people crossing him, I remember, guess that's where I got that from. You just wait your time and you get your revenge. By the time I left Perth even Mum and Dad had found that out to their cost.

Paul rang me on Tuesday. "Your shit's ready. As promised re taste, odour and smell. You really must want to leave your mark since you obviously won't be back in a hurry. Not willingly."

"Cheers mate, time and tide wait for no man. I'll be around Thursday night to pick it up. Need to have a few things ready first. Some things can't be rushed you know." I was feeling good, what a difference a week makes.

As promised I met the barmaid from The Corkman after work Wednesday after telling Anne I was catching up with Rod about a job opportunity. Took her to a Spanish tapas place in Fitzroy for dinner and a few drinks, she looked good in her short skirt and tight top. I can honestly say that her uniform covered a lot of good things. Afterwards I took her home, boy she could do things a guy would think was impossible. Talk about flexible, she must have done gymnastics. I told her I was heading up to Queensland but I'd come back to see her from time to time. I sounded like my boss when he sacked me, with the same fake concern and like me then, she knew it now. It was never going to happen. She was a bit choked up when I left.

Thursday was a bit of blur. I remember having the usual beef noodle soup with Dave at the usual place we meet and we shot the breeze for an hour or so. He wished me luck. I told him I didn't need it since I had things lined up and I was finally on the up. He looked at me a bit different like he thought he knew something but at the same time thought he didn't. We parted on the footpath outside and said we'd see each other around but really, we knew we wouldn't and it seemed he was happy for that to be the case. I was glad he didn't say anything, I had enough loose ends to worry about and time was getting short.

That night I went to Paul's place and picked up what he had ready for me. "This should do the trick." He assured me. "No one will have any idea they've taken it and in twenty hours, poof!" he blew his fingers apart reminding me of a squid. "Not a trace. Toxicology won't pick it up."

I paid up, not wanting to visit A & E, and went home, buying a box of the best Chardonnay on the way. Five were for tomorrow, one for tonight. Anne loves a good Chardonnay but usually one bottle is enough. After dinner I went into the garage and made sure the bottles were ready for the next day. A guy has to make sure you know, I don't like to leave things to chance.



Friday October 22nd, 2011.

My last day at work. I breezed in early and put the wines in the fridge, telling everyone not to touch them until the afternoon. They wouldn't of course, that's part of the tradition of the last day. The done thing you know? A pleasant torment for everybody, probably why they do it. Anne was still in bed when I left. Like I said she does like a Chardonnay but she doesn't hold it very well.

I rang the Gold Coast couple during the day, Ms Plastic answered the phone and I said I was looking forward to doing business with them. They were really looking forward to my arrival, she told me. Really, really looking forward to it. She didn't exactly say that but you know women, they say more with less words than we do. To tell the truth so was I and for the same reason she was. The future was looking brighter and brighter. Just a matter of tidying up some loose ends now.

I got back to work full of life and sad to see the end of this part of my life at the same time. It always has been this way for me, a mixture of sadness and elation as one road opens up as the other is shut permanently. People and jobs come and go for me, I don't remember many of them except through a dirty glass, murky and distant. Before everyone came into the lunch room I opened the bottles and made sure everyone had a full glass. Not me of course since I had to drive. I said I had a big night planned and that was truer than they could possibly know.

I left the office at seven-thirty, got into my car and drove to the airport. I'd give a shitload of money to see the cleaners' faces on Sunday morning. Good thing I'd made sure they didn't do the cleaning that night. I needed a bit of a head start. I told you Paul was a good chemist, they didn't taste or feel a thing and I can still see their faces as the light left their eyes forever. I couldn't resist a smile as I drove to Tullamarine at the end of the day in traffic that was light and easy all the way. Man the sun shine brighter than I could remember, the glow of God was on me as I drove into a whole new future.

Oh, you want to know about how Anne felt about me leaving? Not very well I have to admit but she soon calmed down like nothing had happened. Her head nodded down to her boobs and off she went like a switch had been thrown. Like I said she did overdo the Chardy a bit and I did need to make sure the stuff worked. Much tidier than the last time. I liked that.

2 comments:

  1. The writing allows the reader to empathize with John at the start, then slowly begin to dislike him, then with the shock at the ending pretty much can't stand the bastard.

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  2. i agree with Jim, this character is well developed into a thoroughly obnoxious and arrogant bastard.

    Michael Mccarthy

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