The Pitch by Patrick Winters

David hadn’t been feeling up to doing a whole lot of anything as of late, so when his doorbell rang, he decided to just stay in bed. Whoever it was would go away after another try or two, and he could go right back to just staring at the wall in so-called peace. But after another dozen or so rings, it was obvious that whoever had come by his apartment wasn’t going to give it up.

Hauling himself up, David ambled out the bedroom and down the hall. He left the lights off, using the glow of the mid-day dimness to make his way through his unkempt, none-too-fresh apartment. As another ring died down, he opened the front door, leaning against it and heaving a sigh. A man stood out in the hall, a big smile on his taut, pale face and a dark herringbone suit and tie adorning his thin frame. He held a rather large, vintage leather suitcase before him, both of his slender hands clasping its handle.

“Good morning, sir! And how are you today?”

David gave a hesitant shrug and spoke in a hush. “Okay, I suppose.”

The man gave an odd little tilt of his head and laughed through his hooked nose. “Now, we both know that isn’t true, Mr. Thompson. That’s why I’m here, after all.”

David gave another shrug and shook his head in confusion, wondering exactly how it was that the man knew his name. “Uhm . . . I’m sorry?”

“I’m a salesman, sir, and the best salesman should know what a potential customer wants before they even come walking through the door—or me to your door, as the matter is today.” The man’s dark eyes lit up as he continued with the pitch, all of that passion in the middle of his sunken sockets creating a rather hypnotic effect. “You need a keen sense for another’s desires. I have that sense with you, sir, and I dare to say that I can offer you exactly what you want. Exactly what you need.”

In spite of his lethargy, David’s curiosity had been peaked. The Salesman had a way of speaking that grabbed the ear, a tone which snatched and caressed the attention. And those eyes . . .

“And what is it that you think I want?” David indulged the man to continue.

The Salesman blinked and held his chin out with an air of confident knowledge. He answered in that persistently pleasant way.

“You want to die, sir.”

For a long moment, David said nothing. He simply stood there, thinking and observing the Salesman. Eventually, he stepped back and opened the door a little further.

“Come on in.”

The Salesman sauntered along beside David as they moved into the living room. David trudged to the window, ignoring the light switch entirely. He slid the curtains open a ways, keeping the room just dark enough for his tastes while letting in some light for formality’s sake. The dust in the air floated languidly about, much like David did as he crept back around the room.

He sat down in his old recliner. He motioned for the Salesman to join him on the catty-corner couch; the man shook his head and remained standing across from David, setting his suitcase on the table between them. He stood there a moment, his pale face framed within the black screen of the TV on the wall at his back. Its sheen complimented that peculiar luster of his deeply-set eyes.

He stood there for a moment with his fingers laced before him, apparently waiting for David to settle in and speak first.

“So, what exactly is this . . . all about?” David asked the man in a mumble.

“You, sir,” the Salesman said, acting surprised at the question. “This is all about you, and the malaise you’ve found yourself in as of late. How do I know of this troubled state, you may ask? Well, it’s just my business to know. And my business is dealing in demise. There are dozens, hundreds, dare I say even thousands of people like you around, Mr. Thompson. People who are stuck between life and a hard place, thinking their lonesome and apocalyptic thoughts, feeling as though all the world has fallen out from under them as those thoughts carry them off further and further into a dark place—and yet, all the while, they’re staying right. Where. They are. Unmoving in motion, in thought, and in emotion. As I said, Mr. Thompson, they’re stuck. You are stuck. I and my services—the wares I sell—can unstick you. I am offering you a simple—and, admit it—desired death.”

The Salesman paused, letting that all sink in. After a moment, he offered a chance for his customer to speak. David, not feeling much like talking, waved him to go on. The Salesman obliged, presenting his suitcase.

“Now, what I have with me in this case are rather simple things. A salesman should always be honest about his items, after all. Indeed, most can be found just about anywhere. But I am selling you more than these items—should you be interested, of course. I am selling you an opportunity along with them. Those sad and solitary people I detailed? They may see these items often enough, but they do not see the proper opportunity to . . . use them.”

The Salesman went quiet again, wringing his hands and looking at David—gauging him, measuring him up. Judging by the smile on his face, he liked what he saw, what effect his pitch was having.

David ground his teeth and swallowed through the dryness in his mouth, his chest bobbing shallowly. He blinked. He clasped and unclasped his hands.

“What would this cost me?”

The Salesman held out his hands, palms up in honest offering. “Each item has the exact same price. If you should purchase one, the payment is your pain. The release of your discomfort and your distress is all the remuneration I ask in my business.”

Another stretch of silence followed as David considered this. Finally, he asked: “Can I see them?”

The Salesman positively beamed. “Of course, sir!”

He leaned over and set to unlatching the case. He opened it with gradual reverence, the lid positioned to where David couldn’t see its contents. The Salesman looked over his items with serious consideration and then dipped his hand inside.

“How about these beauties?” the Salesman asked. He pulled out and presented a plastic bag of about a dozen or so razor blades, their edges glinting in the sunlight with a lethal loveliness. They gave little clinks as he gave the bag a showman’s shake. “You can’t go wrong with a classic! A strong hand and a quick swish, and all of your problems are solved.”

David shook his head at this. He lifted his left arm from the couch, his hand trembling ever so slightly. He was showing off his wrist and the faint line of a scar that stretched across it. After the Salesman had a good, solemn look at it, David relaxed his arm again.

“I tried that about a year ago,” he said with a flutter. “Hurt like hell, and I didn’t quiet care for it.”

“Of course,” the Salesman said, appearing abashed at his opening presentation. “It is a bit of a nasty deed, I suppose. But don’t you worry—I have a selection for you, after all.”

The Salesman set the bag back in the case and flicked his fingers busily, contemplating what he had to offer. He gave an excited little sigh as he found his next push.

His lithe hands reached into the case and pulled out a long, snaking length of white rope, its end tied up in a noose.

“This one’s another old-faithful,” the Salesman said. He held the noose up before his face and looked at David through the loop. He let it swing to and fro in an ominous fashion. “Though I wouldn’t recommend it for those afraid of heights.” He gave a quick chuckle at his little attempt of a joke, but David didn’t acknowledge any humor in it.

“I, uh . . . I’ve heard those can take a while to . . . get it done,” he spoke up. “If you don’t fall just right. I’m not sure I could take that, if it didn’t . . .”

The Salesman’s smile fell, but only for a second. He nodded and wrapped the rope back up. “You want something a little less painful, am I right? Most do. And something quick. I suppose you wouldn’t want the vial of rat poison I offer, either. Most people put it in their food or drinks and let it take effect slowly. Some even say it makes their meals taste better!”

Again, the Salesman’s sense of humor didn’t hit home; David just stared at him, sinking further into his chair.

The Salesman went right along talking, trying to shame the silence as he put the rope away. “But, like I said, that takes a while, and it can get rather messy and unpleasant. Now, if you want to shuffle off this mortal coil with ease, perhaps you’d like a handful or more of these?”

He straightened himself and held out two bottles of pills. One was stubby and white, the other a translucent yellow and quite large. David couldn’t tell exactly what brand of medications they were from where he sat.

“These are perhaps my most popular selling items, and I’m proud to say that I have quite the array of colors, combinations, and quantities when it comes to these little tablets of tranquility. One whole bottle is advised for your particular usage, though more would almost certainly assure a desired end. Just take them before bed, slip into unconsciousness, and then –”

“I don’t . . .” David began to cut in, but his words failed him and he trailed off. The Salesman fell silent, looking at him with well-masked irritation, waiting for him to finish.

David composed himself and continued. “I’ve heard that those aren’t always a guarantee. You can take a whole bunch and . . . still wake up.”

The Salesman gave a little shrug. “Well, as I said, I have many types to choose from, and you can have all you want . . .”

“I just don’t think those are for me,” David said bluntly.

The Salesman’s face crumbled, a sad smile being all that remained of his previous enthusiasm. He returned the bottles to the case, saying: “I’m afraid I have only one other item left to show you, Mr. Thompson. I tend to save it for last when dealing with customers, as it tends to make them uncomfortable to see it. But, I can promise you, it is by and large the most efficient of these products.”

The Salesman pulled out a Ruger GP100 revolver. He held it out gingerly, keeping its 4.20 inch barrel downwards. Its straight-black finish and grip stood stark against his pallid skin, making it look perfectly deadly. There was power in that appearance, alone. A promise of finality. David stared at the gun fixedly while the Salesman detailed it, listening to that promise that was now whispering in his head.

“If you want quick, painless, and guaranteed all in one, this is what you need, sir.” The Salesman’s smile returned in full as he noticed the intent gaze on David’s face; his friendly, open tone picked up, in kind. “Now, when most people envision using this, they get the idea that it would be agonizing. Well, I swear to you, that is simply not true! It carries with it a connotation that is grossly unwarranted. I, personally, blame television—and all the violence shown on it—for this misconception. Indeed, this item can bring an end so instant that you do not—I repeat, do not—feel a thing. And as I mentioned, no item is more efficient and guaranteed in its use than this bit of steel. It comes with a single bullet, already in the chamber, as that is all you will need. Just insert the barrel into the mouth and set it directly under the roof for optimal application. Cock it, pull the trigger, and . . . that’s all she wrote, as they say.”

The Salesman paused, waiting for David to object again or pose a question. He did neither, his mind working matters out silently as he kept his unblinking eyes on the gun.

The Salesman inched around the table and towards David, switching his hold on the weapon and extending the grip out before him. “Would you care to hold it, Mr. Thompson? Perhaps get a feel for it?”

David looked up to him, then back to the gun. After a hesitant moment, he reached a terribly steady hand up, setting it to the grip. The Salesman let go of the gun as David pulled it close to his chest, cradling it, his eyes now staring into blank space.

The Salesman took a step back, anticipating that this deal was about to be closed to both parties’ satisfaction.

David breathed in. Out. In.

His eyes were wet and wide and his nose gave the occasional little twitch. Ever so slowly, he flicked the safety off, opened his mouth, and brought the gun up to his face. The ice-cold tip of the barrel slipped past his lips, stopping as it met his palate.

David breathed in. Out. In again.

He set his thumb to the hammer and brought it down. The barrel spun under his jaw, clicking the loaded chamber into place. His grip on the gun tightened. He pressed the barrel tighter against his mouth and set his finger to the trigger. It started to squeeze down oh so slightly.

David breathed in. Out. In . . .

He let his breath out in a choked-up rush as he pulled the gun away. He swallowed down hard and flicked the safety back on.

He looked away from the Salesman as he held the gun back out to him.

“I can’t . . .” he whispered softly.

The Salesman did not immediately take it back. He gazed down at David with a disappointed look, biting his lower lip glumly. He eventually sighed and grabbed the gun, setting the hammer back down and turning away.

“Well, as I cannot do it for you, and as you aren’t interested in any of the other items I have, I’m afraid that’s the extent of our business today, Mr. Thompson.” The Salesman set the gun back in the case, closing and latching it up once more. He rose again, lugging the case up and off the table.

David finally managed to look at him, but remained in his chair. He was breathing calmly again and gave his eyes a brisk rub. When it was obvious that he wasn’t going to rise, the Salesman stepped back over to him. Reaching into the pocket inside his jacket, he produced a thin business card that was just barely whiter than his hand. He held it out to David, who timidly accepted it.

Looking it over, David noticed that it was utterly blank on both sides. He looked to the Salesman, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“In case you change your mind. I’m only ever a call away, for those who want to do business.” He grinned and nodded, his professionalism back in swing. “I’ll show myself out, now.”

The Salesman turned and strode off. David watched his lanky black back as he went along, head held high and case swinging. He disappeared around the corner, his casual steps echoing across the floorboards and down the hall. As the front door opened, the Salesman called back in a cheery voice:

“And have a nice day!”

The door shut a second later, and the apartment was quiet again.

David sat there for a good while, mulling things over and over in his head. He could still feel the sensation of the gun’s grip in his hand—a slight burning against the palm. He didn’t stand up until it faded away, minutes later. He glanced about for a moment without really seeing much of anything.

Then he turned around and went back to his bedroom. He kept the shades open, deciding to let the light in.

He set the Salesman’s card on the edge of his dresser, where it could always be in sight. He lay back down in bed, propping his head on his pillow and staring towards the dresser.

Eventually, he rolled over and managed to fall asleep.

 

Patrick Winters

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

3 thoughts on “The Pitch by Patrick Winters

  1. I’ve met and sometimes still see this salesman. The description of David’s disconnect and the parasitic drain of something trying to make a score off you while there is still a you is pitch perfect. It never matters if the seller is only in your head. He’s as real as he needs to be.

    Like

  2. Hi Patrick,

    I really did enjoy this. There was so much for you to get your head around and consider. The choices he was given emphasised the ultimate choice.
    Was the card from devil, angel or fate? No matter as along as he had a free will and was left with a better understanding.
    A very enjoyable and cryptic story!
    Hugh

    Like

  3. Patrick, you certainly brought to life your characters in this intriguing story. I think it would also make an excellent short play. No actor would turn down those two provocative roles! Best wishes, June

    Like

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