Featured Story

Sales Man

By Zary Fekete

The sun is baking the top of my head as I turn toward the last house in the cul-de-sac. I feel the wheels of the pull-cart thunk into my Achilles tendon for what feels like the hundredth time. I wince every time it happens. A thin stripe of sweat slides down my back leg, underneath the black polyester pants that the company gives us to wear. Mr. Bishop even discouraged us from hiking up the material to air out our skin in between sales attempts. “It looks unprofessional,” he said. “You can be young, but you must be professional.”

As I walk toward this last house I repeat the phrase in my head that I’ve been reciting throughout the morning, I will sell these Bibles today. Mr. Bishop encouraged us to repeat . . . something. I can’t quite remember which verse he suggested. Something about “meek,” but I can’t remember. So instead I have my own little phrase I recite: I will sell these.

Gingerly I lift the pushcart over the small lip of the driveway that leads up to the house; as I said, the last one on this street. This driveway feels a little longer than the other ones. Probably because the yard is bigger, I think. I walk up the smooth concrete surface and look for a doorbell. There isn’t one.

I give a light knock on the wooden door. I wait. I will sell . . .

I hear the sound of a faucet or something turning off inside the house. Then there’s a couple of footsteps approaching. The door opens.

It’s a lady. She’s oldish. Maybe 70s. She is wearing a heavy, green, knit sweater in spite of the hot day. Her hair is in a tight bun, brown with a mix of gray and white. Her eyes are very green.

“Yes?” she smiles.

I take a breath and start, “Good mo . . . I mean, good afternoon, ma’am. Sorry to bother you, but could I ask you a question?”

Her eyes flick up and down as she sizes me up. I prepare myself for the standard answer . . . but she surprises me. 

For a moment, I don’t move. I have never gotten this far before. I remember Mr. Bishop’s words: “If they invite you in, they have already told you that they want to buy one.”  I carefully lift the pushcart over the threshold. “Thank you, ma’am.”

She has already turned away from the door and is walking down the short hallway toward the kitchen. I take one Bible out of the pushcart and follow her. My palm is so wet with sweat I can feel the brown faux-leather of the book grow slippery.

Without asking me whether I want one, she places a glass of tap water on the table. “Sit. Hot out there.”

“Yes, I little,” I say. I sit and take a long drink as I glance around the room. It is very clean. I can smell dish soap and coffee.

She sits down opposite me. “Now, then. You had a question for me?”

I blink a couple of times. Something about this feels weird. “Uh. Yes, well . . . ” For a moment my words trail off, but then I imagine Mr. Bishop’s firm glance, and I clear my throat. “Yes, ma’am. What if I told you that I had something that could change your life?”

She is looking at me very intently. After a small pause she says, “Well, that certainly sounds like something, right?”

I swallow, marveling at my good luck, and continue, “Yes, that’s right, ma’am. And I’m not here to waste anyone’s time. Let me ask you, do you know what is the best-selling book in the world?”

She continues her steady gaze. She hasn’t blinked once yet. She says, “I’ve got a guess, but you’d better tell me.”

I give a practiced smile and hold up the Bible with a little flourish. “Here she is. Now I know you hear all sorts of talk these days about–”

She holds up her finger, stopping me mid-sentence.

“Sir,” she says, and then she pauses. She looks up at the ceiling for a moment and then straightens herself in the chair. When she continues, her voice is even and steady . . . almost salesman-like.

I wait, uncertain whether I should answer her.

My mouth closes and opens silently. I manage to say, “Well, I have just started yesterday, but things will—”

She interrupts me again. “That’s all right, then. And no shame to it. Each one of us starts with what we have and every day is a long river. So, it comes back to the first point I made. I can tell that you want to sell me this book. But I’m not sure whether you are convinced that you must sell it to me. Do you see that?”

No one has ever said this much to me before. Mr. Bishop had nothing for this. I am uncertain what to think. I say, “Well, now that’s not how I see it. I am just here offering you a–”

She stands abruptly and walks to a nearby counter. My words trail off. She finds something in the drawer and, when she turns around, I can see that she is holding a carving knife. She comes back to the table, places the knife in front of me, and sits again.

For a long moment she looks at me, her fingers drumming silently on the table. Then she says, “Sir. Would you let me cut you?”

I blink. “What?”

She says again, “Cut you. If I promise to buy a Bible from you today . . . would you let me cut your arm deep enough to bleed?”

My mind begins to whirl. I blink several more times. She never stops looking at me. I quickly stand and start toward the hallway.

Suddenly she is up and between me and the door. I did not see her move, but she’s there. She is holding the knife. Her eyes are soft but unblinking.

I slowly raise my hands. For a long moment we just stand there. Then she steps to the side. For a moment I don’t dare move. And then I quickly take two steps, open the door, and I’m out. I quickly begin to walk down the driveway.

“Sir.” Her voice from behind me is quiet, yet firm enough to make me stop. I slowly turn. She is holding the handle of the pushcart. I quickly walk back up, grab the handle, and back away again.

“Thank you, ma’am,” I say.

She smiles and turns to go back inside. But then she stops and says, “When you’re ready . . . knock again.”


Zary Fekete’s Top Ten Favortie Podcast as of Summer 2022 (in no particular order of preference):

–Filmspotting: Weekly movie reviews with additional fun info about films.

–#AmWriting: Bi-weekly podcasts featuring three authors who discuss all things writing.

–Between the Covers: Another writing podcast from Tin House featuring author interviews.

–Hit Parade: Music podcast featuring music history and chart information.

–Start the Week: Monday of every week; a podcast about culture and world events.

–The KingCast: A podcast which features a weekly guest discussing a chosen Stephen King work.

–The Place We Find Ourselves: Self-analysis from terrific therapists and counselors.

–What Next: A daily news podcast.

–Axe of the Blood God: A weekly RPG videogame podcast.

–Lexicon Valley: Infor about the development of words through time.


Zary Fekete

Zary Fekete has worked as a teacher in Moldova, Romania, China, and Cambodia. They currently live and work as a writer in Minnesota. They have previously been published in Goats Milk Mag, Shady Grove Literary, Journal of Expressive Writing, Ginosko Literary Journal, SIC Journal, Warp10Fiction, Reflex Fiction, and Rabid Oak. They enjoy reading, podcasts, and long jogs in the countryside.

3 Comments

  1. Loved reading your creation. So glad to have come across you and your craft.

  2. Your descriptions make me want to visit Nevada! We loved Joshua Tree on our February trip to California!

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