Offcourse Literary Journal

Three Short Stories by Diane Payne. (Page 2)

The Salesman.


I see the salesman approach the front door, then back away, yelling, "Hello, hello!" Barricading the dogs inside the house, I ease the door open, and the man inches forward, ever so relieved.

"There's so many dogs in this neighborhood. They scare me," he explains.
I step outside and close the door so he can relax. The dogs press their faces against the window, wishing they were part of the action.

The salesman hauls out a plastic spray bottle and points to the moss growing on the side of our house. "Come here," he says. He sprays it and it disappears. "See why you need this spray?"

"That's potent stuff," I agree. He tells me about his three kids and how he's a single parent and how he's selling the spray to raise money to finish his Oral Roberts seminary training.

When I don't run into the house to find money, he leads me to an oil stain in the driveway. "See how it cleanses? Nothing else can do this. Nothing. It's a miracle spray."

His religious training fuels his sales pitch. I'm relieved he's only selling the miracle of this cleansing spray. He's that effective. That spirited. I could budge, but I remain cautious like the dogs instead.

He points to the house down the street and shows me his order sheet, assuring me that he went inside the neighbor's house and sprayed their carpet stains, and they purchased a bottle, truly amazed with the cleansing powers.

One part of me wants to open my door and let him show me the powers of his spray by cleansing the house of all its filth and blemishes.

He shakes his head and claims I'm a difficult customer. "It's organics. Look," he says, spraying it into his mouth. He prepares to swallow more and I assure him it looks environmentally sound, worrying about his three kids, just in case.

I back up a few steps unsure if he'll spray me so I can experience the powers by being personally cleansed, transformed like the driveway and side of the house. He removes the lid and dips his finger in, offering me a taste.

His animation delights me. He's a natural evangelist. It makes me angry that he has to go door-to-door to pay his tuition. Can't they see what they've got in this student? Can't I see what they've got in this spray?

Disappointed that I don't take a sip and pull out thirty dollars to buy the bottle, he packs up his suitcase and goes to the next house. Soon as he leaves, a cat knocks over a wet plant, a dog races inside covered with mud, my daughter spills spaghetti sauce, and I see how my cheapness has let me astray and all the dirty ways that I will pay.


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