I woke up on the couch. Thin streams of sunlight limped through the curtains; a measly veil left to hang over the wide square of blinding white that was my link to the outside: the window. I crawled away from the light, vainly attempting to dig a hole into the stained cushions like an enormous, naked mole rat in a cheap suit and tie. With one dirt-streaked hand, I covered my swollen eyes. Why was it always so bright at 11:00 am?
There was a ringing in my left ear and as I glanced toward the mirror on the other side of the room, I could see that my right eye was mostly just red. Another burst blood vessel. I wonder how that happened? On the other side of the room, the dog barked, hammering an ice pick into the center of my skull. It barked again, so I threw the first thing I could find at it. A tea kettle. It missed by a mile, shattering against the boxy glass and plastic of the cathode ray television and showering the dog with a rain of light brown tannic acids. Frightened, it dealt me one more quick auditory stab to the brain stem, before trotting out of the room, a dopey smile plastered across its mangey face.
“I have to lay off the scotch,” I muttered to myself, a personal vow that I had made many times before and would likely make many times in the future. Then I rolled leftward, a titanic groan of effort in my throat before I fell and slammed into the carpet. A dull aching in my left hip acted as my body’s only complaint. I had pulled the old “roll to the bathroom” maneuver so many times that I was virtually a pro at this point.
My eyes still thin slits, I began to army-crawl my way toward the porcelain and tile of my clinical-white salvation. I was halted in my progress, though by a sudden discovery. Mostly by smell, I recognized a single piece of pepperoni pizza, three inches in front of my nose. Greedily,
I snatched up the slice, practically swallowing it whole before continuing my crawl to the bathroom.
Breakfast at 11:00. Today would be a good day.
By 3:00, I was out of the bathroom, having deposited a considerable amount of vomit and withdrawn a considerable amount of aspirin. Dressed in a semi-new suit, I was ready for another day of sales. Another day of walking from door to door, pitching with the utmost enthusiasm “The Club: Available at Better Stores Everywhere.” Yeah, guess who poured way too much money into a fad product as soon as he saw the ads?
Although I was technically a salesman, I passed most of my time as a paint surveyor. After all, I saw enough of it. Every house, a new sheen of paint to examine on the door, fresh or old, pristine or peeling, and I generally got a good look at it as well. As soon as customers saw my wares, they tended to either slam the door shut—occasionally doing considerable damage to the end of my nose, not to mention my self-esteem in the process—or not even open it at all.
But who knew? Maybe today would be the day. Maybe today would be the day that I made my first big sale. Not some half-hearted con job against some old woman who hadn’t yet realized that you could beat The Club, greatest miracle of our time, with a hacksaw and some patience, but a full on, multi-unit buyout.
I could almost see it now. A wealthy young photographer, one of those modern hippie types with the weird facial hair and the knitted hats, who was just charmed by the so-called security devices that I had been carrying around like an infernal ball and chain for the past twenty years. He would buy them ironically! Yeah, that was it. He would find them funny, and he would buy them all off of me as a joke! And I would be rich beyond the dreams of fucking avarice, and I would be able to move into a three story house in the hills, and I would be able to do something with my money other than pay the rent and trash my liver on a nightly basis.
And here it was now. The next house. Maybe this would be the one. Maybe this one would make me a fortune. As I pushed aside the wrought iron gate that lay between me and a fortune, I barely noted the sign. “Beware Dog,’ it proclaimed in a loud, less than articulate font that just screamed, “I want my chihuahua to feel good about himself.”
Taking a moment to adjust my tie, I sidled up to the doorway, extending one hand to gently press the doorbell as, in my other hand, I spun my prototype Club round and round, smudging its pristine surface with fingerprints of nervous sweat. Even after twenty years it never got any easier.
A minute passed. They weren’t coming to the door. Why weren’t they coming to the door? Didn’t they know that they were my million-dollar customer, my ticket to freedom? Irritably, I pushed down on the doorbell again, really leaning into it this time, giving them something to think about. I shuffled my shoes against the cement of the doorstep. The soles were thinning. I would need a new pair soon. Another thing to add to the list.
Suddenly, a low-pitched growl met my ears. What the hell could that be? Probably nothing. Probably just a motorcycle on the street over. I pressed the doorbell again. The growling grew louder, almost a low roar. It was right behind me now. Curious, I turned to see the dog that I had been warned of when I first stepped up to my millionaire client’s door. It wasn’t a chihuahua.
As I looked the towering animal in the eye, I knew that it would kill me. It would jump me and tear out my throat and leave me bleeding on the lawn, and the client probably wouldn’t even come outside until it was over. They’d probably congratulate the dog too. Piece of shit. No one was going to congratulate their dog over killing me on a suburban porch. Not if I, in my giddy stupor somewhere between high and hungover, had anything to say about it.
As the dog jumped, I lifted The Club, dealing the animal a blow to the skull as it chomped down on my shoulder, sending a geyser of blood across both of our faces. It yelped but
didn’t let go. I hit it again. Then again. And again. And again. When I finally stopped, I was covered in blood, head to toe. Its and mine. The dog was dead. Definitely. I was soaked, but I was alive.
Behind me, the client finally came out of the house. An old man dressed in a faded blue bathrobe and socks and sandals. My millionaire customer. He sure as hell wasn’t going to buy The Club now.
“Here,” I said as I threw him my prototype. It clattered to the ground beside his feet. He stood there speechless. We looked at each other for a moment longer, then I wiped my hands on my shirt and walked back into the street. Time to find a bar. It looked like another night of liver damage and headaches for me.
Shame, I had liked this suit. I would have to start wearing the plaid one now.