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The Salesman by Christopher Butt

Reilly’s Peak, Ontario, 1955.

The man stood on the corner of Main and Cabot surveying his area. He was six feet tall, thin and wearing a black three-piece suit with matching fedora. In his right hand was a black briefcase which carried his mission. It was nine o’clock in the morning and the sun made his eyes squint.

The journey to this small town was simple enough as was the briefing. He was fully aware of his job and eager to please the higher-ups. Glancing over his territory, the man systematically tracked his path and decided that the yellow house just off the corner of Main St. would be an excellent place to start.

The man had been watching the neighbourhood for a couple of hours already and had noticed that the men had all left for work at eight-thirty. The boss had said that was a good time since the women of the households would just be getting to their domestic chores. He was also told to avoid houses with strollers or toys as those children wouldn’t be in school.

After checking his watch, the man decided that it was time to get working. Holding his head high, he walked across the street, opened the gate to the white picket fence and walked up to the concrete path to the house. At the door, he gave a strong but not aggressive knock.

After a moment, the door opened, and a lovely young woman stood in front of him. She was just shy of his height with blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore a pink dress with white pearls around her neck. Her blue eyes dazzled as she spoke.

“Why, good morning, sir. What can I do for you?”

“Good day Ma’am,” he stammered, then remembered his lines from the briefing. “I am from the Centauri Time Piece Company. Makers of fine pocket watches since the 18th Century. I have a large selection to show you.” He held up the briefcase. “May I come in?”

She stared him for a moment, smiled and stepped back. “This way, please. Would you like some tea?”

He walked into the house and nodded. As she shut the door and headed to the kitchen, he surveyed the room. The green leather couch sported a plastic sheen while the coffee table shone and, like the floor, smelled of lemon. The twenty-seven-inch television in the corner reflected the room. It was all too clean he thought.

“Just a couple of minutes on the tea. Please have a seat.”

He sat down on the Barcalounger. Big band music was coming from the radio in the kitchen. He noticed a picture on the wall of the woman and another man.

“Is that your husband in the picture on the wall?”

“Yes, that was taken on our trip to Toronto a couple of years ago. Great trip.”

Stay calm and polite. The words from the briefing came to him and he straightened up. “Nice. He must be a good man to take you places.”

“Yes, he is so good to me, and I try so hard to be the perfect wife to him.”

Yes, maybe a little too perfect, he thought.

A couple of minutes later she appeared with two cups and a teapot on a tray and placed it on the coffee table.

“One or two lumps of sugar in your tea?”

He licked his lips at the question and started to sweat slightly.

“Three, please,” he answered.

The young woman smiled and poured the tea in a flower-covered cup. She placed three pieces of sugar in the cup with silver tongs which the hot tea dissolved instantly. Handing the tea to him she said, “By the way, my name is Mrs. Colleen Kelly.” As she poured her cup, she continued, “Mr. Kelly is a foreman down at the petroleum plant.”

He nodded and nearly blurted out that he had seen Colleen’s husband leave earlier.

“Sorry, it must still be very early in the morning. I should’ve have asked your name right away,” he said, even though he knew all sorts of information about Colleen and her neighbours. “My name is Mr. Framandi.”

“What a strange-sounding name,” Colleen said.

“My parents were from Iceland. They came over after the first world war,” Framandi said, reciting the text from the briefing perfectly.

“I’ve never met anyone from Iceland before. What’s it like?”

“Well, I’ve never been there,” Framandi answered, which technically was true. “My parents say it’s beautiful.”

“Wow, a very exotic salesman in my house. What will Mr. Kelly think when the neighbours tell him? He will probably think I’m fooling around on him,” she laughed.

Framandi laughed with Colleen as he sipped his tea, the sugar awakening his appetite. He gave her a wicked smile and put the cup down. He reached for his briefcase and opened it on his lap. He turned the case toward Colleen, opened it and started his pitch.

Remember, the pitch must be perfect. Just tease the customer with the product and don’t be aggressive, Framandi’s supervisor had told him.

The case contained a collection of men’s pocket watches. Different sizes and colours ranging from gold and silver to green and brass. They were held in place by chains and clinked together as the briefcase moved.

“These are all reasonably priced and as the company’s slogan states, ‘Every good man deserves a good watch.’”

“Is that a humming I hear?” Colleen asked. “It almost seems like they’re singing to me.”

“It must be your imagination, Mrs. Kelly,” Framandi said, looking a little too nervous.

Colleen reached out and touched a gold watch hanging in the middle of the case. Framandi unhooked the chain, and she took it in her hand.

“That is an exquisite choice and one of our most popular brands. Gold with jewel timings and a place for an engraving,” Franmandi said, now on the edge of his seat. “Go ahead, open it.”

As Mrs. Kelly unhooked the hasp, the phone rang, startling both of them.

“Oh, please excuse me a moment. I forgot my mother was going to call.”

“Oh yes, by all means,” Framandi said, hiding his frustration.

“Please help yourself to more tea,” Colleen said.

As she went to answer the phone, Framandi cursed himself. Looking around he found the cause of his excitement. Sugar in the tea. He shouldn’t have taken any but that would have been impolite. Slowly he took a deep breath and calmed himself.

Colleen continued to talk on the phone. Framandi couldn’t quite hear what she was saying but it sounded like “Don’t worry” and “It’s going to be alright”. Framandi thought there must be something wrong with her mother. He chuckled to himself that soon things would be alright.

Suddenly the sound of the phone being put down could be heard and Framandi composed himself. Colleen came back into the room, sat down and picked up the gold watch she had been admiring. As she was about to open it again, she asked, “How much is this worth?”

“One hundred dollars.”

Colleen looked puzzled and spoke. “Really, that’s not so bad. A bit of a bargain.”

Framandi was on edge as Mrs. Kelly released the latch. As soon as it was opened, a brown-coloured creature erupted from the watch and grabbed Colleen around the face, its tentacles reaching around her head and forcing their way into her mouth.

She stood up, knocking over her chair and staggered towards the back wall. Framandi calmly stood, closed the briefcase and placed it on his chair. As Colleen fought to keep the creature from entering her throat, Framandi followed her.

Colleen’s eyes were wide with fear as she clawed at the creature, its greasy skin making it hard to grasp. A moment later the creature was in her throat. Colleen backed into the wall, knocking down the Toronto picture.

“Don’t fight it, Mrs. Kelly. Soon it will take control and you will join us in the Centauri Collective.”

Colleen struggled with her fingers down her throat. She knocked the plants off the television before falling to the floor. Framandi was ecstatic. His first attempt was a success. He allowed himself to transform. His head and body elongated, and his eyes became slits. His hands became insect-like, and he clicked before speaking.

“Any moment now, Mrs. Kelly and you will be welcomed into the new age for this planet.”

Colleen grunted and a frown crossed her face. Her skin changed from white to red and her body expanded into a muscular frame, ripping her dress. Framandi took a step back in shock as Colleen stood up, walked over to the coffee table, and grabbed sugar tongs. Sticking the tongs in her mouth, she pulled the creature halfway out of her mouth and bit it in half. It tasted of sugar. Dropping the tongs, she spat the small creature onto the floor, dead. Its blood covered her face and dress.

Before Framandi could react, Colleen grabbed him by the chest and yanked him towards her.

“Arrogant fool,” she whispered. “Do you think that you’re the first race to invade this planet?”

Framandi stared at Colleen in horror. The watches in the briefcase were screaming. He tried to pull away, but Colleen grabbed his throat with her other hand.

“Nice try, insect! But thank you for showing us your plan.”

Framandi gasped as Colleen ripped his head off, spraying black blood all over the floor, and dropped it. Still alive, Framandi clicked in shock while his body flailed in Colleen’s hands, oozing grey fluid. Smiling, Colleen walked over and squished his head with her foot, his brains painting a macabre picture on the wall. She threw the body on the floor where it stopped flailing and walked over to the chair.

Colleen stared at the dead alien for a minute before assuming her previous form. Blood and strange smelling fluid covered her. She picked up the briefcase and headed to the phone. Putting the receiver to her ear, Colleen dialed the number. A voice answered after one ring.

“Hello, Mother. You were right. They were going to invade instead of making contact. The briefcase? Oh yes, it contains their complete strategy. Oh, I’m fine, thank you, just a ripped dress and some furniture that can be replaced. Yes, better send the black car and a clean-up crew. Our boys at the Warehouse are going to be very interested in this. Oh, don’t worry about my husband, I’ll make sure he doesn’t notice anything but just to be sure, better alert the rest of the ladies on the block.”

Replacing the receiver, Colleen set the briefcase down on the kitchen counter and opened the fridge. She looked lovingly at the roast she had been defrosting and thought of her husband. Everything would be set right before he got home from work.

“Yes, he won’t notice a thing. Not with his favourite meal for supper and some special attention. After all, he doesn’t know how lucky he is to have a perfect wife.”

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