Bowties Gone Glam
John spent his career as a tie salesman. He walked from door to door in the busy town of New York, trying to sell his ties and bowties. John was relatively unsuccessful. This wasn’t surprising, John’s ties were cheap silk that came in horrible colors and patterns.
John loved his job, or tried to anyway. He only sold a couple ties a day, so in order to afford the cost of living; John sold his ties for outrageous prices. After he did that, the number of ties sold decreased even further.
On one rainy afternoon, John trudged up a narrow fleet of stairs in a rundown apartment building.He got off, and walked down a hallway at random. He picked a door without thinking. He pounded on the door. He heard movement inside, the T.V. turned off, then a balding middle aged man came to the door in a gray, stained bathrobe, and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes. My name is John, and I am wondering if I can interest you in buying a tie,” John said smoothly.
“Whatcha got?” asked the man.
John pulled out his briefcase and opened it.
“Ooh! Those are nice!” the man exclaimed as his eyes lit up.
The man beckoned John inside his small, dark, cluttered apartment. The man sat down at the table and John chose the seat across from him. John carefully laid out all twelve tie patterns. The man watched with interest.
When John had finished, the man pointed to a particularly hideous looking tie. “I want that one,” he said.
John looked at his choice of tie, then said, “Excellent choice sir.” John knew his ties were relatively unattractive, but it’s what was supplied to him by his boss.
“It’s professor actually,” said the man suddenly.
John snapped his head upward, slightly confused. “Oh?” he said trying to figure out what he had said before he started daydreaming about his ties.
“You called me sir. I prefer to be called Professor. Professor Harker,” he said puffing out his chest like a man with great authority as well as dignity.
“Sorry…Professor,” John had to force the correct title. It was so ridiculous, John wasn’t his student, so why should he show this nut job respect, but he was prepared to buy one of those ties, so John didn’t make a big deal of it.
“That’s all right,” said the professor with an insanely huge grin.
“Now, how much are dem der ties?” he said, pulling a Minnesotan accent.
“Um…thirty bucks each,” John answered.
“Great! I’ll take five,” the professor said unabashed by the price.
“Really?!” asked John in shock.
“Of course. These are gorgeous ties. I love them. I can’t wait to show the kids.” He said referring to his students.
John couldn’t believe it. He had never sold so many ties in one day before, and what was more, the professor was completely serious about buying them, in fact he seemed almost ecstatic.
“So how much do I owe you?” asked the professor.
“Well, they’re thirty dollars each…and you want how many?...Five?....so that would be…” John struggled with the mental math.
“One hundred and fifty,” said Professor Harker, pulling out his check book.
“Right,” John said slightly embarrassed.
The professor wrote a check, and selected the four other ties. John left the apartment with a feeling of accomplishment. He walked down the street to a nearby café, and ordered a coffee, three doughnuts, a blueberry muffin, and a slice of coffee cake. John was starving and he needed some calories to keep his blood sugar up.
John sat at his table for a while after he finished eating. He stared out the window, at the people passing by. So many people were wearing ties. Then it hit him. He didn’t want to just sell ties, he wanted to design them, maybe start his own shop. John made a mental note to arrange a meeting with his boss, Fisk Larson, the next morning.
John woke up early the next morning. He scarfed down two pop tarts and gulped a steaming cup of coffee. He then got into his car and sped towards Fisk’s office.
Fisk was an ancient guy, close to seventy, with wispy white hair, and a bald spot in the center of his head. He had huge, silver bushy eyebrows and his eyes were electric blue. They seemed to see your very thoughts. This always made John feel uneasy.
“What can I do for you?” Fisk asked John in a business like tone.
“Well, yesterday, I had a great idea. I decided that I want to start a line of tie designs, and maybe other articles of clothing as well,” John explained.
Fisk stared at John for a long time, then said, “Alright…what do you need me to do?”
John thought for a while, “Well, um…I need some funding and materials, so I need pretty much everything,” John said awkwardly.
“You’re asking an awful lot, John,” said Fisk from behind his bushy eyebrows.
This was not the answer John was hoping for, but he kept his face void of emotion. “I know,” he said bluntly.
“I don’t think I can help you, John,” Fisk said casually.
“Why is that?” asked John preparing himself for whatever answer Fisk was about to give.
“Well, for one, I gambled away all of our money, so I can’t fund you, ad secondly, no one wants to buy your ties. Your sales counts are horrible,” he explained.
“You gambled away all the money?” said John in shock.
“That’s not the point,” said Fisk defensively.
“John had to persuade Fisk soon, or he might lose his job entirely. “Yesterday I sold five ties to this old college professor,” he said conversationally.
“That’s not enough John. Supply and demand need to be balanced, but it’s not. The supply is too high, and the demand is almost non-existent,” Fisk said stubbornly.
John left Fisk’s office twenty minutes later with slumped shoulders. That night, John though of a way to get his tie business. He looked through the want ads and found a designer industry who was hiring.
The next afternoon, he drove down there. He waited in a line of mostly young women in flowery sundresses. When it was his turn, he walked into a circular room with polished wooden floors and came across a long table of people.
“Hello, my name is John, and I would like to start my own line of ties,” John said nervously.
The professional business man in the center of the table said, “Well, I think you misunderstand. This is a modeling agency.”
John was confused for a few seconds, then started to turn and leave when a woman in a black dress said, “Wait, you have just the look we need for our product.”
John stopped, and probably looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “Pardon?” he asked.
“Are you interested in modeling per chance?” the woman asked with a professional sweetness.
“I’ve never thought about it actually,” confessed John.
“Come to a photo shoot tomorrow. We can make you very rich, and successful,” she promised.
John couldn’t resist, so the next morning he found himself standing on a set that resembled the beach, in swimming trunks, with a tan blond woman standing beside him in a hot pink bikini. John had never modeled before. He didn’t know what to do, so he just stood there while the cameras were being set up.
The professional woman who he had met yesterday walked towards him. “Now John, I just want you to relax and look natural,” she said.
John nodded and the cameras fixed on the beach scene. The girl in the bikini started posing in the sand, she threw a volleyball elegantly into the air then caught it. John stood there and smiled, then he sat in the sand next to the girl and thy pretended to be a happy couple spending their afternoon in the sand.
It took three days for the photos to be developed and sent to the agency. John waited with boiling excitement and nervousness for them to arrive. When the did, John was in shock.
“These pictures are horrible!” shrieked the professional woman. She was wearing a black dress similar to the one she had worn the first day John had met her.
John’s stomach lurched. “Really?” he said.
“John, I’m sorry, but you just aren’t modeling material. I was wrong. We have to let you go,” said the woman.
John left the modeling industry with slumped shoulders. He had loved the rush he got when he was in front of the camera. The woman was right, the pictures were horrible. The girl in the pink bikini looked gorgeous, but John looked awkward.
John went back home to his apartment and thought about his career. He wanted to design ties, but he didn’t know where to start. Modeling would have promised him a good career and lots of money, but that wasn’t an option anymore.
He looked through the want ads again the next morning. John applied at a local pet store the next day. He was hired instantly. He needed the money so he could start his own tie shop.
He spent five days a week wandering around the pet store in his spiffy blue smock, asking customers if they needed assistance. One day John spotted a big guy wearing mostly leather and chains waiting by the fish tanks with his arms crossed, exposing sleeves of tattoos. His right foot was gently tapping against the floor.
“Can I help you?” asked John with forced politeness. It was towards the end of the day and John was still slightly irritated by his last customer; an old lady with fly away hair, wearing a pink shawl over what looked like pajamas. She was comparing brands of cat food for half an hour. She wouldn’t stop asking John pointless questions. Then there was the guy who opened a can of wet dog food and started eating it in the store.
“Yes, I need six dozen crickets,” said the man gruffly, pulling John out of his reminiscence.
“Large or small?” asked John.
“Large,” stated the man.
“I’ll have them ready for you in a minute.” John walked into the cricket closet and opened the huge tub of crickets. The familiarly grotesque smell of crickets filled his nostrils. He learned not the breath when performing this operation. He picked up the plastic scooper and plunged it into the mass of crickets. He sprinkled them into a plastic bag.
“Now how much did he want?” John asked himself. “Was it five or six dozen? I think six…Oh great! Now I lost count!” John let out a particularly emphasized roar of frustration.
He held the bag of squirming crickets up to the dim fluorescent light bulb and estimated the amount. “Let’s say that it’s about three dozen,” John said.
He scooped up more crickets and poured them in as slowly as he could and tried to count the crickets as they would free fall into the bag below. One cricket escaped its fate and tumbled onto the floor. It crawled into a crack in the floor and was never seen again. John paid no attention to this however. He put a rubber band on the bag of crickets to close it, making sure that the bag was puffed up with air. Then he wrote a scribbled “72 large”on the bag, indicating the number and size of the crickets inside for the cashier.
“Here you go,” he said as he handed the bag to the guy in leather. “Can I get anything else for you?” asked John.
“No, that’s all,” said the guy in leather.
It took John six months of diligent saving to have enough money to start his own business. He rented a small shop downtown and went to work on designing ties. All his designs turned out well, but it was the sewing that was the problem for John. The sewing machines didn’t want to cooperate. He decided to take sewing lessons and joined old ladies in their quilting classes every Tuesday. He got kicked out after two weeks for jamming every sewing machine he used. John wasn’t into the sewing part.
“I thought this was what I wanted,” John told Fisk the next day.
“Well, maybe you could hire someone to make the ties for you, and you can just design the colors, patterns, and materials you want used,” Fisk offered.
“That’s not a bad idea,” said John as his eyes lit up.
“Yeah, and I can be your financial adviser,” said Fisk hopefully.
“Will you gamble all the money away again?” asked John skeptically.
“Probably…but that’s not the point,” said Fisk defensively.
“Fisk, that’s exactly the poin,” John stated.
“Fine, but can I still be your manager?” he asked unsure.
“Hmm…let me think about it,” said John, stroking the stubble on his chin.
“Please!”said Fisk, his fingers interlocked in a begging manner.
“Oh alright,” he gave in. “But you’re not allowed to gamble with it, and I mean it,” warned John.
Fisk pondered that though for a moment with his electric blue eyes out of focus, then he looked back at John. John waited for the old man to reply, but none came.
John hired three young women to sew his tie designs. John walked around his small store and checked the progress. After two weeks, John got bored of aimless wanderings. He discovered that his passion was in selling ties, not watching them being made.
The next morning, John got up early, drove down to his store, and picked out five brightly colored ties. He trudged up a narrow fleet of stairs of a rundown apartment building, he got off the stairs, and walked down a hallway, but not at random this time, and stopped outside of a door in the building. He knocked, heard movement inside, the T.V. turned off, then a familiar face came to the door, a balding middle aged man wearing a stained gray bathrobe and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.
The professor and John shared a smile, and the professor gestured for John to come into his small, dark, and clustered apartment. John took a seat at the table and the professor sat across from him.
“Professor, can I interest you in some ties?’ asked John with a smile.
The professor returned his smile and looked at the five ties John had selected. “I’ll take them all,” he said.
“Really?” asked John.
“Of course,” said the professor almost reenacting the conversation they had had months ago.
“I can’t wait to show the kids,” said the professor, referring to his college students.
John was surprised that the professor wanted to buy five more ties. The professor seemed just as excited as he was on their first meeting, all those months ago.
“How much are they? Same as last time? One hundred and fifty?” asked the professor pulling out his tattered checkbook.
“No,” said John. “For you, It’ll only be forty,” he said generously.
“Really? For nice ties like that?” said the professor with his mouth agape.
“Yeah. Business is going good, I’m shipping ties out to major stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and K-Mart, so the cost has gone down quite a bit,” explained John.
“Tell you what, I’ll throw in an extra ten bucks for the delivery service,” said the professor flailing his checkbook in front of him.
“No, it’s fine, delivery is free,” said John.
“I insist,” said the professor stubbornly.
“Okay,” said John giving in.
“That’s my boy,” smiled the professor. He pulled out a polka dot pen and wrote a check for fifty dollars.
John walked out of the apartment building with high spirits and a huge smile on his face. He decided to pay a visit to the café down the street. The same one he had went to after his first visit with the professor.
Once a month, John picked out five tie designs and drove across town, climbed the narrow stairway in a rundown apartment building, then got off to walk down the hallway, and knock on the door and watch as the professor’s fuzzy pink bunny slippers slowly turned dull and grey, until they fell apart all together.
© Copyright 2016 cierapaige. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Flash Fiction
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