Here is the start of a story, inspired by a door-to-door salesman that got a little frustrated when Cam informed him we didn’t want to spend $40 on all purpose cleaner. After it happened, Cam and I dreamed up poor James’ life story. Forgive all grammatical errors and typos. A first rough draft left unfinished when I ran out of steam.
Staring at the wooden door with the huge glass panels, James can peek inside. It’s just a foyer, a few pictures on the wall, a decorative rug on the hardwood floor.
He reaches to press the doorbell, but it’s jammed. Nice rug in the hallway. Solid antique rocking chairs on the front porch. Meticulously groomed lawn. But too cheap to fix a fucking door bell. Hopefully not too cheap to buy some of James’ stock.
He knocks on the door. Waiting for an answer, he shuffles his weight back and forth on his feet idly. When he sees a figure inside moving toward the door, he’s suddenly overcome with anxiety. He’s sure this guy will know he has $80 tucked inside his front pocket. He needs that $80. With a fidgety left hand, he pushes into his pocket and grasps the wadded bills in his fist. He tries to mash the wad of cash against his thigh, flatten it out so it’s less noticeable. His fingers find the beginnings of a hole in his pocket lining. He probes it – wasn’t there before – and in so doing he rips the hole larger.
He needs another $40 today. He needs this sale, but now his mind won’t leave the hole in his pocket. He needs to move the money before someone sees him, maybe to his shoe. He keeps it there sometimes with his expired driver’s license.
Distracted by the money, and the hole, and the idea that someone will realize where he has his money, he is startled when a man opens the door.
There is an awkward silence as James tries to open his mouth and not reveal where he has his earnings hidden. The guy raises his eyebrows and cocks one ear out, waiting.
“Good afternoon, sir. You have a very beautiful house here. I bet you keep it real clean inside, am I right? My name’s James and I’ve got just the thing to help you ease the housekeeping load and leave your home smelling as clean as fresh squeezed lemon.”
The man starts to speak, but James continues. James has recited the spiel more than a few times. Knows it like the back of his hand. The homeowner lets James continue and steps out on the porch, closing the door behind him. James pulls a spray bottle out of his open duffle bag and a rag from his right hand pocket. He sprays along the column of the porch and wipes it with the rag.
“I’ve traveled here all the way from New York, trying to better myself and take advantage of opportunities right here in the beautiful state of Kentucky where all the kind, loving, church-going folks really appreciate a man who is trying to pick himself up by his own bootstraps and take care of himself.”
The man opens his mouth as though to speak, but James continues his well-rehearsed lines. “Look there. With the powerful cleaning agent specially formulated in Precision Target cleaner, this beautiful white column is cleaned with ease and no heavy scrubbing.”
The man raises his eyebrows and sighs impatiently. A more astute James might have noticed. But he’s hit his stride. “Precision Target is the most powerful cleaning product on the market today.” He hands the man a slightly wrinkled brochure. “Not only am I an independent sales consultant of Precision Target, it’s the only thing I use in my own home,” he lies.
He sprays another area of the white column and wipes it with his rag. “Here, touch it. Feel how clean it is.” The man gives James a bemused look after the request. James fails to notice this too, as the man obliges.
“I can get you a 1 liter bottle of our concentrated formula today for only $40. Now that’ll last you for a long time. You won’t need to buy anything else.” James starts to open his dufflebag and pull out an opaque green bottle.
The man shakes his head and opens the door. “I’m sorry. I am really pressed for time today. I don’t really have the money for something like that,” he finally manages to interrupt James’ speech.
James’ problem is he has a bit of a temper. His skin isn’t very thick. He can see that the man just wants him off his porch with the huge white columns and rocking chairs and fancy door with the broken doorbell.
“As an independent sales consultant, I can offer you a special deal today if it’s the money that is holding you back on a great quality cleaning product.” James retorts quickly, displaying a green opaque bottle in his hands and a smile on his face.
“I’m sorry, I can’t spare it right now. You have a great day though and good luck,” the man replied.
James’ smile becomes forced. “I’ll need my business card back. Thank you. You have a pleasant day.” He snatches the worn card from the man’s hand. The man looks at him strangely, smiling awkwardly, but quickly moves inside, locking the door behind him.
What the fuck? Didn’t he hear anything James said? James is trying to better himself, and here’s this guy being a bastard for not sparing a few bucks to help James now. He’s tired. He’s been on his feet all day, walking up and down these streets, carrying his duffel bag on one shoulder. He deserves a little respect too. It’s fucking hot out here wearing this goddamn dollar store necktie and Goodwill high tops.
Fucking hell, James.
Chill. Just got rejected by one customer after having a good day selling two bottles in a row, that’s all. There’s no need to get pissy with one customer who doesn’t buy your all-purpose cleaner. This ain’t the first time somebody turned you down. Fucking hell.
As he gathers his bag and walks away from the house, the concerns of his cash and the hole in his pocket rush back to him. He quickly removes the money and shoves it down the back of his sock, where it sits safely next to his expired driver’s license.
James takes a deep breath. He loses his temper sometimes. He used to count backwards from 10. That’s what they taught him at Western State Psychiatric Penitentiary before they closed it down. He was one of the lucky ones. A lot of guys got moved to maximum security. James was reformed. He was released; a new man.
That what James does now. Any time he thinks he’s going to lose his temper like this, he counts backwards from 10. If that doesn’t work, they told him to count backwards from 100. 10 is enough today. He glances at the business card he crumpled in his hand. Fucking hell, James. If you weren’t so rude, you could have come back after he had more time. He might have called you, changing his mind because he needs Precision Target to clean those big-ass fucking columns in the front of the house.
Fucking hell. James sighs as he walks up the street. It’s getting too hot anyway. Maybe it’s time call it a day.
James sighs, dreaming about a day he wouldn’t have to sneak around living in a storage unit, walking door to door every day. Picking up on of his opaque green bottle with one hand, and unscrewing the lid with the other, he takes a long gulp of the liquid to quench his thirst. It has a bit of a kick to it – the lemon juice when it’s not diluted in the spray bottle. James uses a half and half recipe for Precision Target. Half lemon juice, half water. He never tells his customers this. Saying it’s “naturally-derived” or “aromatherapeutic” or “antioxidant-infused” works better. He doesn’t know what half that means, but his customers seem to respond to it.