The Salesman

John Stretter awoke early on Saturday morning to the sound of his ringing telephone. He rolled over in his bed and looked at his clock. It read 5:04 A.M. "What kind of a jerk would call me?" he thought groggily. He decided to let his answering machine get it. Shortly after making this decision, he remembered to his great regret that he didn't own an answering machine and never had owned one at any point in his life He pondered this great lack in his life with an all-consuming melancholy. The reason for this deficiency was that he believed there were little demons inside that repeated word for word what the messages were, and, being a god-fearing man, he had therefore shunned all answering machines. Come to think of it, he didn't even remember ever purchasing a telephone. It must be those demons again — they haunted him everywhere he went.

He rose woozily from his bed and began to walk groggily in the general direction of his stairway. Unfortunately, he trod upon the sharp angle of a small, plastic object in the middle of the floor. He turned on the hallway light so that he could see what he had stepped on. It was an answering machine. He let forth a high-pitched shriek of anger and fear, and hacked at the evil, satanic instrument of destruction with a black machete that he had hanging on his wall. Though the machete was quite sharp, since John wasn't the most muscled of men, it did little damage. (Parenthetically, this machete had belonged to his great–uncle who had hunted big game in Africa. He had purchased it in an obscure Kenyan town, and brought it back to the United States after a lion chewed up his leg before the other members of his party could dispatch it, thus ending his hunting career. He had died twenty-five years previously, and had left everything he owned to John, his only surviving relative) After regaining his composure and cautiously picking up the answering machine, he continued on his steady plod toward the stairs. He stopped on his way and tossed the answering machine in his exterior waste disposal unit (Trash can). He was halfway through shuffling down the stairs when he tripped again and fell rather startled down the stairs. He tripped and fell because had misplaced his glasses, and since he didn't have his glasses on, couldn't find his cane. As luck would have it, he tripped over his missing cane (he had been slightly inebriated the night before) and landed on his glasses at the bottom of the stairs. His rather heavy landing smashed his glasses into small pieces, getting a good many shards buried deeply into various parts of his great–uncle's rhinoceros hide bathrobe. He lay in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs where he slept peacefully, albeit uncomfortably, until 9:27 A.M. at which point he proceeded, rather unsuspectingly, to die of semi-natural causes related to his smoking, drinking, and illegal intake of narcotics.

This fact did not at first seem to make a difference to the person who was trying to call John Stretter. This person was merely a very persistent salesperson trying to sell used shoelaces. The salesperson continued to press "redial" over and over again until 8:43 when he quite suddenly realized the utter futility of his pathetic job and indeed, his pathetic life. He gathered his binders on how to make a sales pitch, how to keep the customer on the line, and how to dial a phone number (all in Spanish), his stapler, his answering machine and telephone, and his pencils together, put them in the trash can, and burned them with his cigarette lighter. He then made a noose for himself out of an emergency fire hose and ended his life. (let this be a lesson to all other salespeople!) This had been a bad day for the salespeople, and in the cubicle to the left another salesman had kicked the bucket by more gruesome means involving a live garter snake, a ruler, and some tissue paper.

The next day, the front page of every newspaper had headlines such as "Salesperson found dead in cubicle " "Fire Breaks out in building and 56 casualties; 'Fire hose already in Use,' Witness Says" "World Rid of Another Salesman," and "Doctors Say Arsonist Commits Suicide" Then the article went on to tell about the great sacrifice made by the brave hero, John Stretter in ridding the world of such a blight. There was a minor note saying that another suicide was noted in the adjoining partition, but the FBI refused to disclose any details.