Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Writings #1 - The Magazine Salesman

Welcome to the first of my "Wednesday Writings" posts. To find them all, use the "Wednesday Writing" link at the top of the page or click on the label name at the bottom of this post.  Don't worry, future posts won't include this overview.

I look forward to comments and feedback. I'm sure these won't appeal to everybody and I'm sure there will be some I'd rather delete and not post (I'll try to keep myself honest and post whatever I write for this exercise). In the end though, my hope is that this will help me get into a writing rhythm so I can actually start pumping out some good stuff again.

Thanks for your support.

And now, enjoy. :)

The Magazine Salesman

I sat perched on the edge of the couch, the muscles in my legs tense and ready to jump up at any moment. My fingers alternately twitched nervously and clung tightly to the magazine I held in my lap. I knew the room was warm as I felt small patches of sweat building under my arms and along my spine. And yet, from time to time, I felt a chill and fought the urge to shiver.

The room was silent except for a soft ticking from a full sized grandfather clock that stood next to a tall lamp with a faded yellow shade that diluted the dreary light from the bulb beneath it. The lamp drizzled forth a depressing circle of yellow light that extended a few feet into the room. Through the small diamond shaped window on the door, a shaft of bright-white sunlight shot through the air and pierced the grey-green shag carpet. Brown floor-to-ceiling drapes covered more than half of two walls, the one by the door and the one straight across from me. The walls were painted in a subdued white that was dingy and stained and had the appearance of a fat summer storm cloud.

I let my eyes wander around the room in a matter that seemed aimless but was actually consciously avoiding three particular points in the room.

The first place I tried to avoid looking was towards the closed front door. I let my peripheral vision occasionally look at the sturdy brown wood and gleaming brass doorknob. But I hated to acknowledge the locked dead bolt above the knob and the small chain latched near the top of the door.

The second place I avoided looking was the small glass table sitting to my right at the edge of the couch. I avoided any possible glance to the right for fear of even picking up a sideways glance at the dusty table and the heavy, smooth, cold object ominously awaiting my touch.

The final place I didn't want to look was the hardest to avoid since I knew it was staring back at me. Straight across from me, in a high leather wingback chair sat a withered old man with dull grey hair, a wrinkled and sagging face, sunken cheeks and eyes, and a pair of surprisingly bright and penetrating cool blue eyes.

I kept my eyes focused on the floor or the ceiling, trying to make myself believe that he wasn't there.

That he hadn't invited me into his home when I knocked on his door selling magazine subscriptions to support a children's charity.

That I hadn't accepted the invitation and followed him into his living room and out of the summer heat.

That I hadn't followed his instructions to sit down on his green and black polyester couch while he methodically locked the front door and sat down in the chair across from me.

That I hadn't followed his instructions to remove the black handkerchief laying on the glass table next to the couch.

Most of all, I tried to make myself believe that I hadn't knocked on his door in the first place.

If I hadn't knocked on the door, he couldn't have invited me in. I couldn't have accepted the invitation. I wouldn't be sitting on his couch right now.

"Have you sufficiently prepared yourself?"

His voice instinctively pulled my eyes up to meet his. I reluctantly stared at the old man. His hands rested lightly on the armrests, his fingers rubbing up and down within the light valleys worn into the leather after years of use. He wore a faded black suit that hung loose around his shoulders and legs. A faded red tie hung slightly off center over his time worn off-white shirt.

I opened my mouth to speak. My voice caught in my throat and I coughed slightly then shifted uneasily.

"Come now. Speak up. My ears aren't as helpful as they were in years past."

He tilted his head as he spoke then lifted his hand and gestured to the glass table beside me.

"Truly though, you needn't say a word. Just pick up the gun and use it."

As he mentioned the gun I felt every muscle in my body tense up. I felt my heart began to race and could feel the blood throbbing in my head. I looked to my right and stared at the table. Sitting beside the crumpled black handkerchief was a revolver, dull and grey. I knew nearly nothing about guns, but this one looked old and well used. It didn't look like an "old west" pistol but it certainly didn't match what I'd seen of new guns from modern action movies. The metal was smooth and dull, a deep grey, almost block along the barrel. The handle of the gun had a black patch of leather with some sort of pattern. It looked like generic scrollwork, but in the center there were three letters BTK within what looked like a horse's head.

"Just pick it up. Aim. And pull the trigger."

I kept staring at the gun, trying to convince myself that none of this was real. That I was somehow dreaming this. But my dreams had never been this vivid. I distinctly remembered walking down his street knocking on doors. I could feel the stifling warmth of the room, the sweat dripping down my back. I could smell the dust and stagnant air of the old home. I could hear the ticking of the clock.

But right now, I was focused on the gun. I could see intricate details that I know I wouldn't have noticed in my dreams. I saw where the edges of the leather were torn or fraying. I saw flecks of rust along the edge of the trigger. I noticed gleams of red, green and orange near the end of the barrel.

"Don't think any more. Just listen to my voice."

Somehow, the old man's voice seemed louder and stronger than it had before.

"Pick up the gun."

Without realizing what had happened, I noticed the gun in my hand. It felt heavy. I could feel the warm leather grip panel against my palm. It felt right somehow.

"Pull back the hammer"

I had no idea what he meant, but I watched as my right thumb reached up and pulled down on the hammer.

"Good. Now aim the gun and pull the trigger."

I hesitated a moment, caught up in the realization that I held a gun in my hand.

"Don't think about it. Just point the gun and squeeze the trigger."

I watched my hand turn. I felt the muscles in my fingers twitch and then watched as my finger slowly squeezed down on the trigger until



logankstewart said...

Excellent job. Concise, well-written, and great prose.

I love the duality of the line "...And yet, from time to time, I felt a chill and fought the urge to shiver."

Good job.

Phoenix said...

Oooh, I like this a lot! I want to read more so I hope your Wednesday Writings continues at some point with the rest of the if the Magazine Salesmen shot the old man, himself, or just a hole in the wall!

Great descriptions, particularly of the room and the old man. I felt I was right alongside the salesmen.

Great job!

Okie said...


I actually have a couple of ideas as far as a next direction in this story...I've explored 3 different paths (salesman dies, old man dies, nobody dies) in my mind and will have to try them out in a future exercise.