"So you need some extra cash?"
"Well, yeah!" I shouted at my friend. "BYOB parties. Good looking college girls to date! Who doesn't need extra?"
"Willing to put some effort into sales?" He looked at me with a crooked smile.
"What kind of sales?" I asked always wary of that smile.
"I gotta friend..."
"Nuh uh. Nothin' doin'. I'm not getting into Amway."
"Pfft! Amway," he said. "NO this is something that sells itself. Hardly any effort at all." He pulled out a roll of cash. "See this?'
My eyes bugged out.
"Wow! Where'd you get that?"
"Sales. And you can do the same thing with the same results.'
That wad of bills looked four inches thick.
"OK. you got my attention."
"Anyway, I got a friend who can set you up. It's just a small initial cost then you'll be raking in the dough. His method is fool proof."
Still cautious I said, "I'll talk to your friend."
"I'll set it up. You good to go tomorrow?"
"I gotta study for a test but it shouldn't be a problem."
"I'll get back with you then." He got up, gathered his books and set off for class.
I stayed in the booth at the student union. I opened my calculus book and stared at the page without comprehension. My first failure in school was this confounded subject. I never had trouble with math but here was my downfall. Calculus. It made absolutely no sense to me, no matter how much I studied. I cussed and got up to get another cup of coffee.
"Hey Rickey! You better put that beanie back on!" It was an upperclassman who delighted in goading freshmen.
"Aaaah!" I grumbled, slapping the tiny maroon and white cap on. "It messes up my hair."
An hour later my friend came back. Class was over and he had called his friend from the pay phone.
"Tomorrow night at seven. Can you make it?"
"Yeah, should be able too. I don't think I'll pass calculus anyway. It'll be a summer retake I reckon."
"Don't worry. It's crip. You'll pass it."
"Right." Those were the very same words I used to say to my friends in high school about senior math. Only then it was true. This time? Not so much.
Seven came quickly the next day. As predicted I failed the test but didn't care at this point since I was going for a sure fire means of filling my wallet with folding money. I met him at the college and we went to his friend's house in his car.
The neighborhood was one of the older ones down town. It was dark and quiet except for the dog barking across the street. The porch light was on. We took the stairs two at the time. All four of them. He pushed the buzzer.
A fellow in a lime green shirt and orange tie opened the door. At the site of my companion his smile spread across his face and he glanced at me. I'd seen the look before on one of the nature shows on the TV. His smile stretched across those teeth and his hand shot out to take mine.
"So, this is your friend?" My buddy nodded his grin crooking a bit.
"Yes. He's here to learn the trade."
"So you're ready to make some money, eh?" he asked pumping my hand like he was trying to draw water from a dry well. It was hard to believe but his grin grew even larger taking my mind back to the Cheshire cat who was all teeth balanced in air.
"You came to the right place, pal. I have a sure fire method to make money and lots of it."
Drugs weren't a problem in my neck of the woods so it wasn't until this moment, on the porch of a house in a less than rich neighborhood that I thought it might be illegal. I began to look around for a means of escape and I noticed all the windows on all the houses were sporting bars. That dog across the street was a Doberman that hadn't stopped barking since our arrival.
"Uh, maybe I made a mistake. I think I better get back home to study for my test tomorrow." I tried to pull my hand from his suction cup of a mitt.
"No, no. You don't want to do that. This is a real education with a pot o'gold at the end of the..."
"I've never been able to reach the rainbow's end," I said as my hand came from his with a loud "SPOCT!
"Now, now. You've never sold anything have you?"
"Sure. I used to go door to door selling items when I needed some money.'
"Comic books for a nickle apiece. Krispy Kreme donuts for sixty cents a dozen."
"Only sixty cents?" he asked.
"Yeah. That was what we were told."
"I used to do that, too, but would sell for a dollar and keep forty cents. Profitable."
"I couldn't do that."
"Well, no need to worry about that," he said grabbing my hand again, slapping me on the back and drawing me into his house. My friend followed us in.
"Have a seat over there, uh, what was your name again?"
"I never said."
"It's Rickey," said my buddy.
"Rickey, have a seat over there. Let me get some stuff you can sample."
He walked from the room. I looked at my buddy.
"What the hell have you gotten me into?" I was leaning into him.
He backed up.
"Hold on. Let him give you the spiel."
He looked at me like I was spitting marshmallows.
"Drugs? Where did you get an idea like that?"
His friend returned to the room toting a suitcase that looked large enough to harbor a battleship. By the way he was leaning to one side it looked like it weighed as much too.
"Here we are. Mind clearing off that table?"
I shoved a pile of Playboys, Esquires and Stags off the coffee table.
"Thanks," he said as he tossed the suitcase onto the top of that table. It slammed home solidly.
"My gosh!" I said. "What's in that thing."
"Your future!" he responded.
He sat a moment to let that sink in.
"Yeah, there it sits. Something every household cannot do without. Something that will always assure you of a job."
A twinge of disbelief flashed across my mind.
"Uh huh. So you say."
"I do say. It's a guarantee of income. I've never had a problem putting food on the table with this." He smiled. My buddy smiled too.
"So what is it?"
He pulled the handle to him and took the two latches in hand. Looking at me he snapped the latches and slowly began to open the lid laying it across the length of the coffee table. A flap on either side hid the contents.
"Are you ready to see your future?" His eyes opened wide. His grin stretched to his sideburns.
I started to say no and bolt for the door. His hand clapped onto my shoulder holding me in my seat.
"OK. OK. Let's see this miracle product."
Slowly he lifted the covering from the lid. beneath the covering lay pots and pans. He lifted the other covering to reveal the lids to those pots and pans. Assorted utensils sat in molded slots around them.
"What do you think?" He asked with high enthusiasm.
"I think I've made a mistake. I can't sell pots and pans door to door." I was rising to head out. Once more his hand clapped onto my shoulder forcing me back into my seat.
"Ah, but you are wrong, Rickey. This is the easiest thing in the world to sell. When I show you how, it will sell itself."
I looked at him. A guy in a lime green shirt, orange tie and plaid pants is going to give me the secret of salesmanship. I felt like one of the utensils in their specifically molded slots, wedged it to stay.
"Let him tell you Rickey." My friend's enthusiasm was matching the Salesman's.
"We're here. Let's hear it." I figured we'd listen and I'd be free to go.
He pulled a cake mix out of the suitcase along with a can of pineapple slices. I looked hard but could not see where they had been.
"Here is the secret to selling cooking utensils. You cook for your customer."
"I don't think anyone is going to let me in the door to bake a cake. Can I go now?"
"You're wrong. They will beg you to do it."
"Yes and here's how." He whipped out the Sunday newspaper from a drawer of an end table.
"Right there. An untapped market." He was pointing at the pictures of young brides to be.
"I don't understand."
"It's a smorgasbord of customers. Bright eyed wives to be. Young impressionable women who want nothing more than to please their husbands to be."
I just looked at him in disbelief.
"You take down the names and find them in the phone book. Then you call to make an appointment to show them your wares. You tell them that you would like to bake them a cake in their own home to show your product's uses. Everybody loves cake without the fuss of making it themselves. Eight out of ten times the prospective client will say yes. and, voila, you have made a sale because nine out of those ten will purchase this set of kitchenware.'
"Is that ethical? Calling up prospective brides?"
"Ethical, shmethical. It's a customer base untouched til now."
"Mmm, I don't know."
"Wait. Don't say no without letting me demonstrate."
"You mean go with you to someone's house?'
"That's the idea. I can go through the entire sales pitch with a family. You can come along as my apprentice."
"My friend spoke up, "What do you have to lose?"
"Well, OK, maybe."
"Good. See this pretty lady here?" He pointed at a girl sitting beside a guy under the title ENGAGED. "I have an appointment to meet with her and her mother tomorrow evening about six. Can you make that?" I was kind of trapped, since my buddy drove. I agreed.
The next day I met this hawker of pots and pans at the address he gave me. He handed me the suit case. I reached, gripped and lost it with a loud slam against the sidewalk.
"Whoa! You didn't tell me it was that heavy."
"Pots. Pans. Metal. What were you expecting, Bucko?" He gave me that look again. I braced myself and heaved it up. I staggered to the front door with the suitcase bouncing along the pavement with each step.
"Hey, careful with that. That's my livelihood there."
We reached the front door. I dropped the case with a thud. He looked at me with daggers then turned to the bell beside the door.
After a few minutes the curtain was tentatively drawn back. The face gave a smile and the door opened.
"Hello," said the salesman who gave his name and mine, "I called about a demonstration of a fine product needed in every household."
"Oh, yes. We've been expecting you," said the pretty young blonde. Her mother stood behind her and waved us in.
I hefted the case and dragged it across the threshold. The scrape brought a harsh look from the mother. The young girl was all smiles and giggling as she lead the salesman in.
"Sorry," I said. "I'm new at this."
Her face hardly softened. I did my best to haul the case onto the rug in the front room. WOMP! I set it down. The mother cringed.
He started his spiel looking directly into the wide innocent eyes of the bride to be. He looked occasionally at the mother who kept a close eye on me the entire time. His piece de resistance was the cake .
"Before I begin I must ask for your permission to use the kitchen to let you experience my wares in the proper environment.'
Both ladies nodded their approval.
He whipped out the cake mix and can of pineapple. An added touch was a bottle of maraschino cherries.
In the kitchen he washed the pots then prepared the cake batter. At the bottom of one of his pans he placed the slices of pineapple and in each center placed a cherry. The batter he poured over the fruit, then, he dropped the cover on the pan and placed it on the burner. About 30 minutes later as he was winding up his talk the aroma of cake filled the air. He stood.
"Isn't that a lovely aroma coming from your kitchen? This is only one use for that versatile pan. Let's go take a look at our cake. It's so easy to make, don't you agree."
We all filed into the kitchen where he turned off the burner and removed the lid. Up came the full fragrance of that cake. It made our mouths water. The mother pulled a plate from the cupboard and placed it in front of the salesman.
"And watch how easy it slips into that plate. "
He placed the plate over the pan and flipped it. Out came a beautiful warm cake. The mother reached for dessert plates and her daughter fetched silverware.
We sat eating cake and answering questions. After we had spent about ninety minutes total the bride-to-be signed on the dotted line a smile on her face. We packed up our wares and bid our client goodbye. She shook our hands and thanked us profusely. We left the aroma of warm cake behind when she closed the door behind us. I lugged the case to the car.
"Tomorrow good for you?"
"I was going to let you give a presentation."
"I don't know..."
"What's to know? You put the cake on and you talk about the pots. The cake sells the product. You just gotta get their permission to make that cake."
"OK," I mumbled.
The next night we met at another girl's house. We were greeted with a smile and welcomed in. I still lugged the case in. I still got a look from the mother as I scratched the oak floor. I sat and started my speech. After about ten minutes the salesman broke in.
"Would you ladies like to see a demonstration of the versatility of these pots?" He looked at me like I'd spit on the floor. "My colleague is new at this and we usually offer to make a cake in our wares."
"OH yeah," I said. "I meant to ask you if I could..."
"If it is alright, ladies, please lead the way to the kitchen."
We got up and walked into the kitchen. He looked at me. I looked at him saying, what?, with my hands.
"I think you forgot the cake mix," exasperation in his tone.
"Woops. Heh, heh. My mistake. 'Scuse me." I ran into the room and grabbed the mix along with the can of fruit and cherries."
I ran back into the kitchen tripping over the rug. The box, can and jar flew from my hands scattering along the floor.
"SORRY!" I yelled. Luckily nothing broke.
I washed the pot and lid. I mixed the cake batter. I placed the fruit in the bottom and poured the batter over them. I put the lid back on top.
"Now if you will follow me, ladies."
"Uh, Rickey," he said.
"Haven't you forgotten something?"
Quickly I thought, pineapple, cherries, batter... I washed the pot. I placed the top on the pot.
"Oh, yeah. Let me wash that bowl up quickly. Then we can go back into the living room..."
"No, not that."
"Uh... No I don't think there's anything."
Frustrated he said, "You can't bake a cake without heat."
"Yeah, everyone knows that," I blurted out. Duh, I thought.
"Did you turn on the burner?"
"Of course.... Uh.... Oh yeah," I said walking back to the stove. "Then you flip the switch to... Uh, what do I flip the switch to?"
"Right there." Click, click.
"There. Minor set back," I said making a glorious save, I thought. "Now back to the living room, please."
I sat showing the pots and telling their virtues as the house filled with the aroma of cake coming into existence.
I finished up my talk in about ten minutes. It was about twenty more minutes needed for the cake to finish. I sat staring at the young girl. She stared at me and blinked several times. I turned to the salesman who broke the silence by bringing up another fine feature of the pots before us. I sat back and let him talk.
When the cake was done he led us all into the kitchen for a slice. As usual the cake turned out fine and we sat talking while munching on warm cake. He turned to me and motioned to the paperwork.
I pulled out the papers and asked for name and address.
"I don't think I want to buy them."
I was struck dumb once again. The salesman took up the papers and quick as lightning had them in the palm of his hand once more. The girl signed.
"Thank you, ladies," he said as I packed up the gear. "You will be receiving your purchase in the mail in about six weeks. It has been a pleasure breaking bread, um, cake with you this fine evening. I am certain you will be thanking me, um, us, as you are using this fine product. Thank you again and have a good evening."
He wrapped up his talk as I lifted, slid, lifted, slid the case across the floor. I got the stink eye from the mother one more time as I cracked the threshold while lugging it over. At the car I put the bag in the back and climbed into the front with him.
"Well, Rickey. You did a fine job in there. I can see you selling this product at every door you knock on."
"OH come on. I stank in there. You saved my bacon."
"Well, it just takes practice. When do you want to start out on your own?"
"Yeah. you're ready Bucko."
"Mmm, I don't think so."
"Of course you are. I can have your sample bag ready for you this weekend."
'My own bag with pots and pans?"
"Yup. Just have the three-hundred dollars for me and you can be on your way to a fist full of dollars."
Ok. I guess I could... Wait a minute."
"Three hundred dollars?"
"Yeah. You have to buy your show ware."
"But? Isn't it samples to demonstrate?"
"What do you mean buy?"
"Yeah, you don't think the company gives this away do you?"
"Of course I did, to someone trying to sell it."
"Any way, just get the three hundred and I'll hand over your suitcase full of opportunity."
"Naah. I don't think so."
'What? You're a natural, Rickey. You'll have those young ladies eating out of your hand. A young college student working your way through school. Yes sir, you'll be rolling in dough."
"What's the matter? Don't have three hundred dollars. Not to worry. You can pay it off on time with your earnings."
"Nope. I'm getting off this merry-go-round. This ain't for me."
"Nope. No buts. I'm hittin' the street, Bucko, ne'er to look back."
"You're making a mistake!"
I didn't think so then, I don't think so now.