Thursday, 27 September 2018

Hard Sell: From the archives

Here's a story from the archives. It was written around the end of the 90s (I originally wrote it in Comic sans!!!) so some of you may find the cultural references go over your head. If they don't, you are in good company. It followed a period when a colleague had systematically pitched me to join AMWAY, for those of you in the prior category, it is/was much like HERBAL LIFE, A pyramid selling system that monetizes your friends. I'm sure they have another way of putting it but many of you will have had some experience with their like. Enjoy...



Twitshot


I couldn’t say it had been an eventful first week at Intasat communications but I had managed to make a lunch-mate. Paul was a likeable bloke, a little pre-occupied with the X-files but on the whole easy to get along with. He sat at the desk opposite me and did, well I’m not entirely sure exactly what he did but he apologised a lot on the phone and came up with conspiracy theories. It was one lunchtime while sitting outside on the grassy verge of the Intasat car park listening to Paul’s theory about nano-tracking devices being introduced into food so we can all be traced at any time, that I first saw her. She breezed past us and her perfume infected my very being, it wasn’t love at first sight or anything I just had to get close to her. She, of course, didn’t notice us at all. She wafted past in a way that said that distances between deeds were a terrible inconvenience and god help anyone who inadvertently prolonged transfer.
“Paul, look” I nudged him purposely, my elbow interrupting something about sugar-puffs. “Who the fuck is that?”
“Who the fuck is who?”
“White blouse, brown hair, arse!”
“Looks like Scully” Paul replied in a way that dispelled my notion that he had been chemically castrated. “That’s Kim from retentions, she stops unsatisfied customers disconnecting, very good she is too!”
“Mmm, yeah but any boyfriend, married? What’s the score”
“So the rumours go there’s no significant other but she’s only friendly when she wants something”
“Christ on a bike! She only needs to ask.”
I didn’t see her again for two days. I can’t say that she monopolised my thoughts but I had tried on several occasions to find an excuse to pass retentions.
It was one evening as I was leaving work that I actually made contact with Kim. I was heading for the door with my jacket slung over my shoulder she was overtaking me while putting on her sunglasses, my elbow struck her in the left breast sliding under the shoulder-strap of her bag sending it to the floor with a rattle and clump.
“Oh you tw…” she cursed as she crouched for the bag. Then as I fumbled an apology she looked up at me and smiled. “You’re new aren’t you.”
“Well a week or t…” but before I had a chance to take the bull by the horns she was gone, like a vampire in mist mode slipping through a keyhole. I followed her out the door with no real hope of catching her. I did manage to see her getting into her car, a little red hatchback, sporty and quite new. No sooner had the door closed than she was speeding off.
“Put ya tongue away Mike” I turned to the owner of the deep, overloud voice, as he was readying to pour his equally oversized body into a Nissan Micra. His name was Bob or Bill or something, I saw him from time to time at the coffee machine
“While the good lord blesses us with gifts like that, my friend, I’ll do more than smell the roses”
“You couldn’t afford it Mike, trust me” he smiled a chubby smile and put himself deftly into the car.
Friday came around with no definite sightings. She either shot out on the dot of five or worked late enough for me to feel sufficiently foolish pretending not to be waiting for her in the car park. I tried, but even after a dry spell of biblical proportion I still had some shame.
I tried to rally a ground force to lunch at the pub, just a short walk from the office, but it was mid-month and beer money was thin on the ground. Paul had gone to a Star-Trek convention in Birmingham, so all alone, I decided to go to the pub, sit in the garden and sup a well-earned Guinness. It was a warm July afternoon so I stopped at my car to fetch my sunglasses. As I was locking the car door, farcically considering that my cars main security feature was the fact that few people would be seen in it let alone commit a crime for the honour, I felt a voice, yes it was almost subliminal.
“Don’t tell me, BMW’s in the shop” I looked up to see her, and she was moving slower than I had seen before.
“No,” I gulped “I just haven’t got one” I put on the glasses and went to lean on the roof of the car instantly realising the folly of this, physical contact with the outside of my car could be fatal, I jerked back upright.
“One day, I’m sure” her hair caught the sun in an ‘is she or isn’t she’ way “I can see it in your eyes, hunger” I knew the hunger she could see and it had nothing to do with BMWs.
“Yeah, one day”
“Kim” she thrust a finely sculptured hand at me with all the fluidity of a martial artist.
“Yes, Mike” I intercepted her strike catching her cool porcelain hand. While I shook her hand I tried to look her in the eyes, I failed! Her white open necked blouse made a feeble attempt to contain her mutinous breasts. Her taut tanned skin clearly visible through the thin fabric of her bra. I’m sure, in retrospect, that these observations are greatly exaggerated but I believe that every boy has x-ray vision, he just has to look hard enough. I must have got away with the gawp because when I looked up she smiled at me.
“I’m going to the pub” I ventured.
“Oh good, have one for me” then, I was so fixated on her undulating arse I failed to notice that she was walking away. “Something long and cool!” she tossed at me over her shoulder then slipped into the red Golf.
That lunch time I spent in a daze, “could I really have a chance?” I asked myself, “Why not” was the only answer I could handle.
That weekend I thought of treating myself to a new suit, but a quick look at my balance on the cash machine steered me toward a new shirt and tie instead.
On Monday I had to endure Paul’s endless Trek quotes and promises to show me the video of him being beamed-up from a paper-mache planet to a cardboard spaceship. It was while walking to the sandwich bar, getting ever closer to the point where I would tell Paul to “fucking Trek off!” that she appeared again. She came up behind me, I smelt her first, visual contact merely verifying her presence.
“Hi, Mike. New tie?” she took the tie and turned it label up at the same time giving my chest a glancing touch.
“Mmm, nice.”
“Where are you off to?” I asked nonchalantly, feeling confident
“Me, oh, I’m just going to get a quick sandwich then back to the office”
“Well” I began bravely “you might as well come with us”
“OK, why not”
I could not believe how easy that was. We were all walking together and although our slow strolling pace seemed to cause her difficulties I hadn’t said anything too stupid and even Paul had shut up. We exchanged small talk and even a little innuendo; things were indeed going well.
As we entered the sandwich bar the proprietor’s face lit up.
“Kim” he sang, her face reciprocated smiling radiantly.
“Franco, how are you?” she sang back.
“I am very well. And so are you I can see.” Why is it that no matter how badly Italians speak English they always know the right things to say. “ You will have the usual, Kim?” He instantly produced a white paper bag and passed it to Kim over the large display counter, she responded by opening her handbag.
“No, no, Kim” he gestured by touching his lips with one stubby finger and pointing it at her “We speak later, huh?”
“Later Franco, ciao!”
Then once again like an extra on the set I was watching her backside, leaving. I made a move for the door and stepped out with her, “Now or never” I goaded myself.
“What time you finishing tonight?” I spurted out before my yellow belly could swallow the words.
“Not tonight Mike” my heart sank, “Thursday, maybe” then flew again. I was still left with the feeling that she was fitting me in for a dental appointment.
“Drink?”
“Great!” she smiled obviously eager to depart.
“Dinner”, whoa there cheque book!
“Maybe”
“Great!”
“Bye” then I watched her swiftly wiggle away.
I walked back into the sandwich bar; Paul was having a huge roll constructed. When Franco had finished he turned to me, I looked through the glass at the cooked meats and various mayonnaise-based fillings, my hunger no longer panged. I ordered a Coke and Franco looked at me with knowing eyes.
On the way home I saw a sign at a petrol station CAR WASH SPECIAL-£2.50 FULL SHAMPOO I pulled in and purchased a token. The windows wound and the aerial down I inserted my car, then through the remaining open window the token in the slot. I quickly closed the window; the machine whirred into life. As the rotating brushes hit the bodywork I flinched with every creak and clatter, soap started to infiltrate the sunroof but for the most part the experience was quite painless. I parked the car on the other side to take a look, I then remembered what a nice blue she really was and promised myself I would do this more often.
Thursday came, I had cleaned and ironed a tie but it just wouldn’t look new so I put on a lesser-worn one instead. I kept a little bag for just such occasions with a sample tube of toothpaste, a folding toothbrush, and a sample spray of Calvin Klein that had come with a magazine, I brushed the dust off and took it to work.
I sneaked out of the office a little before five to perform my ablutions, showed my face back in the office to casually bid my good byes. I looked at Paul and winked.
“The truth is down there!” he paraphrased predictably, then smirked at his own wit.
“Make it so number one” I replied. Ok so there’s a little anorak in all of us!
I made my way slowly down to the lobby running over and over my opening line; she wasn’t there. Then I smelt her, she came up behind me and touch me on the shoulder.
“Hi!” she said through a smile slipping her sunglasses on.
“Hello, I thought you might have…”
“Forgotten? No how could I?” 
We decided to go to the pub near the office but Kim insisted on driving. Her Golf GTI was only a year or so old with a personal plate A11 MYN, it had a mild smell of coconuts inside. I noticed her watching me from the corner of her eye for some sign of approval.
“Nice car” I felt this was the correct comment.
“Sure,” she tapped the dashboard “don’t get these on Intasat money”
But surly she had, I thought. I was starting to feel out of my depth but Kim put me at ease by saying that she thought it wouldn’t be long before I started to have some of the things I desired. I felt definite stirrings from my trouser regions, looked out at the scenery to focus my thoughts away from exactly what I desired. We arrived at the pub and I alighted the car carefully. When we entered the pub I made straight for the bar, ordered myself a Guinness and a white wine spritzer for Kim. I steered us to a quiet corner. We began by talking about work then feeling a little more comfortable I pushed on to something closer to my motives.
“You must get asked out at work all the time” my heart paused for a reply.
“No!” she laughed out loud “Not many men at work have the balls, you’ve got that” I was suddenly glad I was sitting behind a table.
“You’re teasing now, I’ve seen the way men look at you” I tried to play coy.
“No, I’m serious. You asked me, most men are mice”. The light in the pub was dim but I could see now her eyes were green, an emerald green.
“So what makes me so unmouse-like” blatant fishing but it was the best I could do.
“Hunger!” I began to squirm again “Tell me Mike. What do you want, what you really want?” I want to take you to…I thought.
“Well, I, want lots of stuff”
“Nice car, big house, swimming pool” she offered “beautiful girlfriend”.
Rap it up I’ll take it home thanks shopkeeper, I thought. “Well, who doesn’t?”
“Yes but how many actually go for it Mike” Yes I thought, I’m here and they ain’t.
She proceeded to tell me about what had paid for her car and that she planned to give up Intasat in less than two years.
“Network marketing Mike, it’s the way forward,” she told me how by cutting out the fat-cat middle men there was enough profit for everyone, she told me of how the guy who had introduced her had a six-figure income and so could I with the right motivation.
“Mike you got to see the way this guy lives, gold, cars, house in Florida” her eyes were wide and glazed,” I’m gonna do what ever it takes to get there”
She could have been telling me about freelance dung-clearance and I would have listened, but even so it did make a hell of a lot of sense.
When we left the pub it was still light, I wasn’t quite sure where we were going but it was soon clear that she was taking me back to my car. We stopped in the car park in an empty space next to my car. She leaned over, I pursed my lips ready, she dug in the pocket behind my seat and produced a blue box.
“There’s some tapes and a book in there” then from her handbag “here’s my number” she handed me a card, which read KIM STEVENS-SILVER DISTRIBUTOR then under a telephone number and mobile number. I said I would call her and didn’t try to kiss her.
As I opened my car door her window powered down.
“This time next year a BMW, eh Mike?” She quipped.
“Yeah, sure thing”, if the celibacy don’t kill me first, I thought.
The next day at work I didn’t see Kim and I was glad for it I needed to reassess the situation if indeed there was a situation. Did I have a chance with her or was I some sort of business proposition. Was she playing hard to get or was the playing getting hard. I couldn’t believe that all was lost, after all she hadn’t told me I repulsed her, I simply hadn’t closed the evening with a snog.
On Sunday with little else to do I took out the tapes and book that Kim had given me. In the book it explained with diagrams and cartoons how the huge supermarket chains had emasculated our manufacturing industries and by cutting them out of the equation there would be rewards for all. It was so vehement in its reasoning that, it said, network marketing, as it called its methods, was the only logical way forward. I was impressed, if I recruited a few people to sell the products and they in turn recruited others I could be home and dry in a few years. I picked up the phone and dialled Kim’s number an automated voice answered, I hate speaking to machines, “Kim its Mike I read the book, gimme more” then I left my number and hung up. I looked at the mobile number but decided that if I spoke to her and then she found the message it may sound a bit too eager, plus I was a little worried I might catch her with a boyfriend or something.
Later that night she called, I was a little embarrassed that she had found me so easily. I asked her how she was and she responded with a comment about the book. I told her that I was impressed, which I was, then she asked me how much I wanted to be rich.  I told her I was hungry, she said hunger was what I needed to get on. She told me that Americo had changed her life, as it would mine. There was a meeting at a hotel nearby on Tuesday for new members and did I want to come, of course I did, we arranged that I would drive to her house and we would go in her car. She urged me not to talk about this at work just yet as private life should remain private.
I didn’t see her at all on Monday but on Tuesday we had lunch together. It was a short lunch as she had to get back to the office but it gave us time to talk in private about the meeting that night.
“Mike,” she looked at her watch “ I really have to go” she got up from the park bench where I was still sitting and gently took my tie “ you look wonderful, remember shirt and tie tonight, very formal these people” then she was gone.
That night I left work full of fervour for the evening ahead. I got home and showered, I was going to shave but I had shaved that morning and five o’clock shadow doesn’t really mean the same day. I mixed the blue jacket from my suit with a pair beige chinos to look like blazer and slacks; everyone loves a sailor.
Looking good and feeling lucky I set off. Kim lived in a street of Georgian terraces most of which had been converted into flats. No sooner had I arrived and parked behind her red golf than she was scurrying down the garden path towards her car. She was wearing a taupe suit with a very short skirt the shape tailored to please the eye, high-heels and glasses. Her hair was tied up and her officiousness excited me more than ever. I got out of the car and buttoned my jacket as I greeted her close up I sensed a trepidation that had not been evident before. I suddenly felt empowered by her anxiety, leant towards her and kissed her cheek low near the neck.
“You look gorgeous, and smell better” I certainly was feeling brave.
“Oh, thanks, you look pretty good yourself” she replied. There was definitely a quiver in her voice.
We got into the car and drove purposefully to the hotel, Kim spoke very little and when she did it was about how wonderful the people at the Americo were.
“Everybody helps each other, we even applaud each others success!”
“What, sort of stand up and clap and cheer?”
“Yes, Mike you wouldn’t believe how good it makes you feel. The English are so reserved and negative”
“So, what if you do really badly do they all get up and boo and jeer you?” I laughed.
“Only if you really deserve it!” she returned dryly serious.
Something in this last comment made me uncomfortable. I looked down at her legs, her skirt had ridden up and her panties were just visible; all was well in the world.
We parked in the hotel car park and got out the car. Kim adjusted her skirt seemingly oblivious to the fact that I had for the last third of the journey been looking at that which had preoccupied my thoughts, these last weeks. When she was happy she turned her attention to me, straightening my tie, which I had successfully ironed the night before. She stood back and looked at me.
“You look quite handsome,” she said almost surprised.
 “And you look barely preferable to a camel’s arse too” I tested the bed with humour.
“If you’re not going to take this seriously Mike, we can go home now!” my god what a threat.
We went through the main doors, passed the bar, which I made mental note of, and on toward the function hall. We reached an area at the hall’s entrance where two well-dressed women sat at a desk furnished with a big book like a ledger and a cash-tin. My eye was caught by a table full of cups and saucers at the end a white-board on an easel with a simple message TEA AND COFFEE £1.50. I turned to see Kim with her purse open.
“Two? That’s £6.00, please” one of the well-dressed women was saying up to Kim.
“Kim, I didn’t realise” I dug in my pocket.
“I got it Mike,” she said firmly without turning.
The moment we entered the double doors I felt like I had entered an Osmonds reunion, there was more enamel on display than at the Electricity board shop. A tall black guy, wearing a huge grin, thrust a firm hand in my direction; I grabbed it and wrung it in the sentiment that it had been offered.

“Hi, nice to see you!”
“Good evening to you too,” I replied. Then from nowhere another, I readied my grip.
“Hi, nice to see you tonight”
“Nice to be here” I retorted with irony; no reaction.
One after the other I shook hands attached to grey suits with grins. I got the feeling I was in a sequel to the “Stepford wives”. At last Kim was there by my side, she was close enough for me to need to button my jacket.
She turned to me and whispered close to my face, “They’re great aren’t they,” her breath was sweet and her lips momentarily so close my English reserve waned.
We took our seats forth row back and off to the left of the speaker. I looked around and quickly calculated a rough total of over three hundred and fifty. There was a hush and up stepped a stocky man in his late thirties, Kim wriggled and grabbed my knee.
“Oh great, he’s my favourite”
Some people around us had big open notebooks others had Dictaphones. The man introduced himself and asked who among us would like to be our own boss, to have our own business, almost all raised their hands. He then asked who among us had our own businesses, were their own bosses, just over a hundred hands went up, most being the Osmond’s henchmen among us, one being Kim. The speaker told us how six years ago he was a builder who was experiencing a lean period during the recession then he discovered Americo. He now had a big country house in Suffolk and he hadn’t touched a brick in over three years. He explained how we could all start to climb the income ladder by simply paying an £85 subscription to be able to buy Americo products and convincing our friends and neighbours to do the same; easy! He did stress that this was not pyramid, but net-work marketing. At one point the speaker’s wife stood up, she wore a gaudy turquoise suit and had obviously had something done to her hair recently. She seemed to speak mostly about what she had and how good life was when you are rich. The man stood again and proceeded to pull numbers out of nowhere, put them together in dubious calculations and marvel us with the results. Kim watched transfixed. I did pick out at one point something about reaching targets to earn your bonuses but my mind began to drift toward Kim’s thighs.
When the speaking finished we were invited to go and have a good cup of coffee. Everyone began to mill about shaking each other’s hands and smiling, I took Kim’s hand.
“Do you fancy a drink?” I made it clear that I did.
“Yeah, ok Mike” she looked a little shocked that I should want to leave.
We went to the hotel bar and I ordered a Guinness for me, and a white-wine spritzer for Kim.
“So, what did you think? Blown away huh. I was a little taken aback first time but now I just can’t wait for the next meeting.” Kim was now back to her old self but some of the enigma had gone. I quite enjoyed her being a little more open; a kind of regression seemed to have taken place. I asked her if she was hungry, when she said she was I suggested a nice Indian restaurant close-by. We finished our drinks and went out in to the clement night air. At the entrance were the speaker, his wife and other assorted grinners. The tackily attired wife was climbing into the passenger seat of a huge dark green Mercedes, the speaker preparing to take the driver’s seat. With my arm around Kim’s waist I clearly felt her flinch as we passed them.
The mood progressed better than I could have hoped at the restaurant. Kim asked me if I intended to subscribe to which I replied without hesitation that I would. At the end of the meal the bill came which I duly paid by cheque and dug for sufficient coinage to cover a respectable tip. I then felt Kim’s hand grab my thigh very nearly reading my thoughts.
“ Hey businessman, you wanna come back to my place for some business.”
“Erm, yeah corse” Kim’s approach took me unaware but more than willing.
We arrived outside her flat and half of me expected her to laugh shouting “gotcha, you little twat!” but she didn’t, instead she lead me into the door and up the staircase to her door and in. Boxes bordered the passageway but the light was too dim and my vision too tunnelled to notice any details. The bedroom smelled undoubtedly of Kim, I was nearly wetting myself with anticipation. All I could have wished for was accelerating into my face like a babe laden BMW, I was in danger of being run over and I didn’t give a flying scrote. She led me into the bedroom threw me on the bed then fell on me her clothes flying off into the ether. I could feel her swollen breasts against my now bare chest her nipples like pebbles indenting my skin. We thrashed around and at one point I found myself on top, my excitement in danger of running prematurely away with me. I closed my eyes trying to think of something that would retard my ardour, Maggie Thatcher, no, Dame Edna Everage, no! Suddenly I had it, Mimi Mapandreou! I had waited so long for this I couldn’t let myself flash in the pan. After the ear piercing climax we laid still, entwined and winded. Then I gave in to the all-enveloping lethargy.
The sun began to flood through the curtains, I looked over at the clock by the bedside 6.17 it pronounced. Kim was still in my arms, I pulled her close and she began to stir and so did my loins. 6.30 the alarm squawked, Kim leapt from the bed naked and glorious in the sunlight.
She walked toward the door, ”I’m going to take a shower,” she said sleepily.
I looked around the room, there were boxes all around marked AMERICO MARKETING. I got up to find the kitchen; I found it at the end of the narrow passageway also littered with Americo boxes.
“Coffee?” I shouted in the general direction of running water.
“Yes please” came the muffled reply.
A sudden image of her lathered-up in the shower came to me; I resisted the urge to join her. In the kitchen I filled the kettle boldly labelled AMERICO ELECTRICS, in the cupboard I found the AMERICO CHOICE BLEND all the containers had a similar motif. When I took the steaming cups into the bedroom Kim was in her underwear, she smelt fresh and I wanted her again. I put the cups down and approached her from behind and kissed her neck.
“Not now Mike, we gotta go to work,” she said abruptly.
“I’ll take a shower then”
“There’s a guest towel in the bathroom” she motioned to the direction I had heard the running water come from.
In the bathroom I saw more Americo labels, in fact I saw little else. I emerged from the bathroom refreshed, Kim was now fully dressed. I dressed hurriedly and joined Kim in the lounge. She was standing in front of a picture frame mirror adjusting her make-up. Across the top of the mirror were the words LOOK-NOBODY LOVES A LOSER then the Americo logo. I put my arms around her waist and gave her a squeeze; she looked up at me with knowing eyes.
“We’ll meet up after work and go through the paper work to get you signed up “
“Ok, we’ll meet after work” I smiled smugly and sat down to finish getting ready.
 She smiled at me as I put my shoes on.
“Have you got sixty quid, Mike?”
I paused a little confused “but I thought the subscription was eighty-five”
“Not the subscription, silly,” her smile fell momentarily. “You did enjoy me didn’t you?” 

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