The sun was brutal and monotonous. Five hours hawking a wireless security system to people that hated me as soon as the door opened? If I’d sat down and napped in the shade of a Lexus, I’d have gotten the same number of leads.
I walked another hour and heard nothing but the kind words of renters who “Can’t make that decision,” or angry ones from people who saw me as the root of all evil, demanding to see my solicitor’s badge before threatening to call the police. I passed their BMWs and Lexi in wide driveways. I pretended every door was the first one.
Losing your enthusiasm, that magic of false sincerity? That’s what lowers the odds. And that’s what we are. Odds. Permutations and probability. Throw enough half-trained monkeys, teenagers and lost souls into the wind, and only pay them if they produce. The more you toss, the better your odds.
We odds were piled nine tight in a van and driven two hours from Walnut Creek into a California desert community where the rich and desperate live. There was no way home alone. No way to get water. No way to piss except on someone’s begonias.
“It’s a game,” the boss said in the morning 'huddle.' Fat guys with goatees loved sports analogies. “Every customer thinks you’re playing them. But they’re playing you, too. Never, ever forget that they are playing you. And your job is to let them think they’ve won, just as soon as they put their name down for a consultation. Remember, people hate salesmen, but they love free shit. If you make it seem like they beat you to get it? All the better. Lose to win.”
The van ride was more annoying than the pep talk. Eight teenage no-accounts, either kicked out of their houses or fired from their busboy gigs, each one a smartass with a phone they couldn’t afford. And me.
In their useless chatter I made a sly comment about one of them “needing attention like a baby needs a tit,” and folks laughed. My warm up for the gauntlet outside.
She was the prettier of the two girls. Lithe and Latina. Hoop earrings and too much mascara. And an ass that begged for attention. I smiled. She chewed gum with her mouth open, then said, “Hey, how old are you?”
Novelty and mystery. That’s the secret to scoring. A blow job awaited if I played her right. “Guess within a year on either side,” I said. “And I’ll buy you a drink.”
She smiled. She had bad teeth and a good smile, like a lot of her kind. “Twenty eight.”
Ten years off. “Bingo,” I said. “You’re good at this.”
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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories