For Love of Money Part 2: The Squeakquel

7 Aug

“They say everything happens for a reason. What if that reason is: God hates me?”

-Chris Mueller

When we last left our hero, he was tied to the train tracks while a locomotive sped towards him, a meteor was on a collision course with earth, gladiators battled with swords, and giant ants were tearing up the town. Wait…sorry, got stuck in a cliché loop. Actually, I got in the car with Kevin the shady salesman. If you need more of an update than that, I recommend you re-read (or more likely, read) part 1. No, go ahead, we’ll wait. While we’re waiting for the others to get caught up, a question: what’s your favorite Wuss Rock artist? There are many to choose from – Ambrosia, Dan Fogelberg, Christopher Cross, Chicago, Bread, and many others that I sadly know all too well – but for my money it’s Air Supply. I love Air Supply – I’m not even saying that ironically; they’re just a sweet band. Just two Australian dudes singing about love and heartbreak while wearing gloriously tight slacks. Plus the higher-voiced guy has a ridiculously phenomenal Aussie-white guy ‘fro. It’s insane this guy’s ‘fro. Ladies, how in the Christ do you resist an Australian crooner with tight slacks and an afro? I mean, that’s got to be like your Kryptonite, right? Anyway, everybody caught up? Good. Oh, and if you’re not down with the Air Supply love, I’m totally kidding. Ha. Kidding… Now, back to my sordid tale…

I sat down in the passenger seat. Kevin hit the button for the power locks and they slammed into place. In the silence, it sounded like a gunshot. I even jumped a little prompting Kevin to laugh his high-pitched, weasely little laugh. It was half Riddler from the ‘60s Batman TV show, half Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. I imagine it was meant to set my mind at ease. Instead, my Sympathetic Nervous System kicked into overdrive. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, and I was in full-on fight or flight mode. As we pulled off the lot, I glimpsed my car in the rearview mirror suddenly sure I’d never see it again. Basically, every instinct gifted to me by evolution was telling me something was wrong…and I ignored them all. Brilliant. Thank God I was born when I was or natural selection would’ve murdered the fuck out of me years ago. Suck on that, Darwin!

We drove in silence for the first several minutes of the trip until the Samurai cruised onto the exit ramp for 695. It occurred to me at that moment that I had no idea where we were going nor had I even bothered to ask. If this was a game of poker, I had just pushed all my chips to the center of the table before the goddamn cards were even dealt. That reality hit me like a ton of bricks and so I sheepishly asked, “Uh, where are we going?” Unfazed, he replied, “I got a few leads on a place. Relax. This is going to be fun.” Fun? I like fun. If this was going to be fun, I was all about it. Still, some doubts lingered. “Are we going far?” I asked. “Nah, just up the road a bit. Hey, you seen that movie The Net?” I imagine this amazing segue had the desired effect as I jumped right on board. “Yeah, pretty scary. Computers, right?” He agreed that, “Yeah, computers,” and suggested I look in the back seat. This seemed like another bizarre non sequitur, but I turned my head. Nothing much to see except for that—HOLY SHITBALLS IS THAT A CELLULAR PHONE?!? This was mind-blowing in the mid-‘90s. It was a Zack Morris special (easily bigger than my entire head), but still – THIS GUY HAS A CELLPHONE! Considering it cost about $400 per minute to use one of those things back then (give or take a dollar – I don’t understand finance), that was impressive. He gloated about it and told me that he owed it all – the phone, the sweet-ass whip in which we currently sat, the girlfriend – to sales. Good for him, but didn’t he understand I was in the management program? I was only learning sales to make me a better manager. Clearly this douche-lord didn’t get it…

We drove. And drove. And then we drove some more. Over an hour went by. We had been talking the whole time until there was literally nothing left to discuss. At one point he even asked me, “Hey, how come just because it has a name like Smucker’s it has to be good?” What a great question. I had no answer than and I have no answer now. This guy busted out non sequiturs at a superhuman pace. I began to suspect his brain was broken. I looked out the window as I pondered his jam-related query. Wait a second: just where in the hell were we? I was completely disoriented. Looking back now, I realize that must have been part of the plan. I turned to ask him where we were, but just then, he took an exit ramp.

Off the beltway now, we were on a main drag littered with businesses. Our meeting place was no doubt close. We pulled into a gas station. Well, we’d been driving a long time; stopping for gas made sense. He bypassed the pumps and instead pulled into a parking space. Now I was really confused. He turned the car off and turned in his seat to face me. Just what in the hell was going on here? Confused doesn’t even begin to cover it anymore. I was trying to find my happy place when Morgan Freeman began narrating from inside my brain:

“I wish I could tell you that Michael fought the good fight, and Kevin let him be. I wish I could tell you that – but gas stations in the middle of nowhere are no fairytale world.”

“We’re here!” Kevin’s cheery voice and idiot grin shocked me out of my Shawshank rape-terror fantasy. I shot him a puzzled look, but he was already getting out of the car. I followed.

I walked to the back of the car where he was standing with the hatch open. “Are you ready for this?” he asked with the giddy anticipation of a man who’s just set up the punch-line to the world’s greatest joke. I looked in the back – a blanket covered something lumpy and shapeless. ‘I bet that’s his girlfriend’s corpse,’ I morosely thought. He pulled back the blanket to reveal dozens of boxes of…well, I didn’t really know. After a moment or two, my brain determined them to be obviously shitty quality socket sets with some even poorer quality polyester garment bags thrown in for why-the-fuck-not. Speechless, I just gaped at him. “This is what we’re selling today!” My mind flashed back to the warehouse. It all made sense now – the small pallets of nondescript boxes, the tiny forklift – Sal was Keyser Soze! Wait, that’s not right. Well, whatever; he played my ass like a pair of bongo drums. And yet, I still clung to denial as if it were a lone branch extended over an abyss. I still believed scheduled meetings were about to take place. Who was I to judge a company purchasing shitty socket sets with “Made in Corea” proudly emblazoned on the box? [You may have realized (like I did) that “Corea” is not a country. Hell, even “Korea” hasn’t been a country since it split into North and South in 1945. So either these socket sets were produced during the WWII era by Koreans unfamiliar with the English spelling of their own country, or they were made in the new country formed after the future war between China and Korea and shipped through time back to the past. I like to think it’s the latter and that some sort of Asian John Connor sent them so we could dismantle the machines. I’m probably not right about that.]

Kevin handed me about six garment bags, filled up a low quality valise (sealed with Velcro) with socket sets, and closed the hatch. “Follow me,” he said as he walked confidently towards the service station. God help me, I followed.

We went around back where some mechanics were staring at a car on a lift. “Watch and learn,” Kevin implored me as he strolled over to the grease monkeys. “Hey there fellas!” The mechanics regarded him with contempt. “Thought you gents would like to see something today.” With a flourish, he tore open the Velcro case and presented his wares. The mechanics were intrigued and approached, but quickly turned away, laughing hysterically once they saw what was inside. Only one guy still seemed interested. “How much?” the mechanic asked. His friends immediately began to bust his balls unmercifully. Kevin smiled, “For you, my good man, $6.00.” He countered with an offer of $5.00 and walked away with a shitty socket set. His friends laughed and mocked him before one of them noticed me. “Hey, what’s that guy got?” Kevin, to me: “Hold them up, guy.” I obliged and the mechanics laughed harder. My humiliation was complete (for the moment, anyway). The guy who bought the socket set inquired as to the price of the garment bags. Kevin quoted him the ridiculous price of $30. He again offered $5.00. He did not also walk away with a shitty garment bag. With that, Kevin bid them good day and we walked away as they continued to howl laughter.

We walked back around to the front of the station, but not to the car. Kevin turned out of the gas station and walked down the street. “Come on, guy, this stuff ain’t gonna sell itself.” Truer words had never been spoken. I had no idea what was going on. It quickly became clear as I watched him approach and try to sell our garbage to various people unfortunate enough to cross his path: people at the bus stop, teenagers, joggers, dog walkers – he even approached cars stopped at red lights. A few people bought socket sets; no one bought garment bags; most either laughed or openly threatened us with a well-deserved ass-beating. None of this fazed Kevin in the slightest. Me? I was in shock, but no longer in denial: this was the job. And just like that, my dreams of managing a wee warehouse and raking in $10 an hour vanished like so many pairs of panties at an Air Supply concert. Fuck. How in the hell could this be the job?

A better question: how in the hell could I have written so much and STILL not be done with the story? Part 3, “The Merciful Conclusion,” coming next week. Seriously.

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One Response to “For Love of Money Part 2: The Squeakquel”

  1. Michael Brennan October 18, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    Done! This story already made it’s way into what Chris calls, "my Apatow script." I guess what I’m saying is, there’s a chance.

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