The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
The salesman noticed him immediately as he walked into the glass-walled air-conditioned showroom. He pulled his attention away from his daydreams, and surreptitiously watched the customer, who was tall, with handsome regular features and clear brown eyes. A shock of black hair hung over his forehead. He wore a russet suit over a black T-shirt, and finely-crafted brown leather shoes.
The salesman allowed the customer to browse through the showroom, watching as he looked at the sedans and coupes. He couldn’t help smiling when he noticed that the customer settled down to stare at the rakish lines of the two-door sports car in the far corner. It was time, the salesman thought, to make his move.
The customer’s admiration of the sleek silver and black shape in front of him was interrupted by a voice at his side.
“She’s beautiful to look at, isn’t she?” The salesman asked the rhetorical questions, smiling genially at the customer.
Turning, the taller, younger man surveyed the salesman. “Yes, she is.” He agreed anyways, equally pleasantly.
The salesman couldn’t help himself. He launched into his spiel. “The Mitsubishi HS. The world’s fastest production-model hydrogen-fuelled sports car. It can go zero to sixty in four point six seconds.”
The customer had turned back to stare at the car. “I know.” He responded quietly. He walked around it, then opened the driver’s side door and got in.
The car was so low that the salesman had to squat on his haunches next to the open door to talk to the customer. “It’s got back-lit racing-style gauges, unique for a hydrogen fuel car. Air conditioning, power everything, GPS navigation, and four airbags are all standard equipment,” he pointed out.
The customer nodded, caressing the steering wheel. His eyes had glazed over slightly, and he was momentarily very far away.
A moment later, he came back. “Do you have any in stock?” he asked.
“Of course.” the salesman replied smoothly, “We are the only dealer in the city to have them.”
The customer was younger and lankier than the salesman, but even he had to prop himself up with his hands to get out of the low, reclined driver’s seat.
“Here.” The salesman offered him a hand up. “It’s pretty low.”
Pulling each other to their feet, they both laughed.
“It’s a pain to get out of, but it’s worth it.”
Just then, the moment of male bonding was interrupted by the beat of a synthesized dance tune.
“Please excuse me a moment.” The customer retreated a few steps, fishing out the musically-inclined cell phone. He flipped it open, cutting the ring tone. “Hello.”
“Ravi,” the voice on the other end intoned.
“What’s up?” Ravi asked.
“We just got the latest batch in, and it looks good.”
“Good, good.” Ravi stopped for a moment, then continued, “Wire the money to my account.”
“Sure thing. Guess what else?” Jim’s voice was excited.
Ravi kept his voice low and under control. “What?”
“We’re starting to get returns from level six.”
“Yeah. Level six!”
“Hmmm. Things are beginning to happen pretty fast.”
“Yeah. Another few weeks, and we can wrap it up.”
“Maybe. Just wire me the money, okay?”
“All right. Talk to you later.”
Ravi slowly closed the phone, staring out the floor-to-ceiling glass windows at the sprawling, dusty, steamy city. After a few moments, he realized that the salesman was still unobtrusively standing by the little hydrogen speedster, watching and waiting.
Turning and slipping his phone back into his pocket, he put his best thousand-watt smile on his face. He quickly strode back to the car.
“So,” Ravi announced confidently, “assuming I would like to buy an HS, what would it run me?”
The salesman started to mentally calculate his commission. Out loud, he replied, “The list price is nine hundred and twenty-five thousand.”
“That better be in new rupees.”
“Of course. One eighty-five thousand euros.”
“That’s a little more than I wanted to spend,” Ravi objected automatically.
“Well, for such a good customer as yourself, we may be able to go as low as one seventy-five. Euros, of course.”
Ravi’s smile got even brighter, if such was possible. “Do you take cheques?” he asked.
“It would have to be certified.”
“Then, yes, we do.” The salesman nodded enthusiastically.
“Great, I’ll take it.”
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman