By the time Charley David Rose finally made his way into the world, his parents already had four girls and had given up on ever having a boy. Need-less-to-say, he was more than welcome! His father had longed for a son so bad that every time his wife was "carryin" he demanded to be allowed to name the child in advance. Hence, all his daughters had boy's names. They were Jackie, Ronnie, Dana and Billy. Folks, upon hearing his daughter's names, laughed and said that that just showed what a fool he really was. Did he really think that by naming the kid in advance, it might have some effect on its gender?
As the years flew by and Charley grew, he never had a serious thought in his head, ever. Right from birth, he'd sailed through life without a bump or scratch. He'd even missed all the normal childhood diseases, the measles, mumps and chicken pox. He couldn't even recall ever having had a sniffle. He was charmed all right and that was all there was to it. He was a "God-child" and there wasn't anything that he couldn't do or wasn't allowed to do.
Charley was more than spoiled and his parents didn't care who knew it. To their way of thinking, a spoiled child was a happy child and a happy child was a child who was well-loved, if you get my drift. By the time he was ready for school; all the teachers had been given notice that Charley wasn't to be spanked, reprimanded, scolded or anything of that sort. If the teachers had a problem with Charley, then they were to call his parents and his parents would take care of the problem. "And we all know what his parent's will do about it," all the teachers laughed. "Nothin!"
Charley had a lot of "firsts" in his young life. At the age of six, he was the first kid to have his very own snowmobile. He was the very first kid in Aroostook County to have an A.T.V., a hunting rifle with a real scope, and a motorcycle, all before the age of thirteen. He was the first kid to learn to drive with his father's permission before he was of legal age. He was also the youngest kid in the county to smoke, drink and discover girls.
Charley never gave the slightest thought that all these firsts might not be so good for him or even how hard his mother and father had worked to get these things for him. He didn't spend one second of his self-absorbed life worrying about the health or happiness of another human being and least of all his parents and his siblings.
By the time Charley had graduated from high school, with barely passing grades, he had no clue what he really wanted to do with his life. He'd spent all of his formative years being catered to by his adoring family.
His parents were those kind of parents who felt that the good things in life had by-passed them and they spent all their lives trying to make sure that their son got all the fun and goodies that they'd missed out on.
On graduation night, Charlie's father handed him the keys to a brand new bright red, nineteen sixty-three Ford truck and not only had he filled the tank full of gas; he'd also filled a plastic barrel in the back of the truck with every kind of alcoholic drink imaginable. He smiled at his narcissistic, handsome son, gave Charley the "good old boy" pat on the back, slid a handful of condoms into his shirt pocket and said, "Go get em son!"
The next couple of months passed in a blur as Charley wove his way through the liquor, the girls and the county. He could always be found with a new girl-riding shotgun by his side. Charley didn't seem to have too much trouble attracting the girls but he had a real hard time keepin them. When he'd finally come up for air and noticed that the girl who'd last been riding in the seat next to him was now a totally different girl, he never even questioned it. He simply reached up, slicked his Elvis Presley styled red hair back with the palm of his hand, grinned in her general direction and said, "How yah doin hon?" And off he'd go, with a new drink in one hand and a new girl in the other. Life was good to Charley Rose.
Charley lived life to the fullest and he never missed a dance! He came home late and got up late and he was always met with adoring glances. His father was always waitin to hear of his son's latest exploits and newest conquests. When folks, mentioned anything detrimental that they'd heard about Charley, to his parents, they were met with such a wall of denial that they just gave up. You couldn't make someone hear what they didn't want to hear and that was that.
Finally one day, upon hearin the rumor that Charley might have gotten one of the local girls "in the family way," his father was the first one to deny it around town. But once the news of the "coming event," spread throughout the county, Charley soon found himself without the constant flow of female companions that he was so used to. Suddenly, he wasn't so "cute" anymore and he wasn't such a desirable son-in-law to be anymore either.
Once Charley refused to acknowledge the fact that he'd fathered a child and hadn't owned up to it, he was "persona-non-grata" in many of the households in the county. But, that didn't bother Charley too long. He just set his sights for a wider range and took himself over near the Canadian border to the small French villages nestled along the Saint John River Valley. "Alla them little French girls still think I'm pretty cute," he told his father with a shit eatin grin.
Just about the time the first hard frost hit the county, Charley had a wake up call that he couldn't ignore. At about two-thirty one afternoon Charley heard the phone ring in the kitchen. He roused himself up out of an alcohol induced sleep long enough to see what time of day it was and then he slid back into his nice warm bed. Suddenly, he heard his mother down in the kitchen, scream and drop the phone and the next thing he heard was the sound of her feet as she came running up the stairs towards his room.
She burst through the door and collapsed on Charlie's bed. "Charley! Get up!" she screamed at him as she clawed past the blankets till she found his shoulder. Charley just lay where he was in his warm little nest. For the first time in her life his mother struck him. She reached over and slapped him real hard on the side of the head with the palm of her hand and this time Charley really paid attention. He rolled into a sitting position and wiped his hand across his face. He turned and was startled to see that his mother was sweating and crying.
She shuddered and wiped her face with the back of her hand and said, "That was the mill who just called. They said that your father had some kind of attack and that they were takin him over to the hospital in Presque Isle. They want us to meet them there right away." Charley looked at her with a blank expression on his face; he didn't have a clue as to what she was saying.
It was then that Mrs. Rose finally saw what a flawed human being her precious son really was. He didn't have enough feeling for another human being to care that his father, who'd done so much for him all of his life, might be dyin. Anger surged through her like a flame and for the first time in her life she yelled at him. "Get your lazy ass out of bed, get dressed and make it snappy! I need you to drive me over to Presque Isle to tha hospital. I'll wait for you downstairs!" With that directive, she flew down the stairs to get ready.
To give credit where credit's due, Charley did feel a little niggle of concern but it didn't last very long. He heaved himself up off the bed and ambled over to the over-flowing closet to pick out something to wear. He finally withdrew a shirt and a pair of designer jeans and put them on as he made his way slowly down the stairs to the kitchen. His mother was all dressed and waitin by the back door for him. "For Gods sake, Charley will you hurry up! Your father might be dead before we get there!" She clawed the kitchen door open and ran across the porch towards his truck.
Charley, finally compelled by the urgency of her last remark, hurried to join her in his truck. He flew down the Presque Isle Road towards the hospital. He skidded to a stop in the parking lot, helped his mother out of his truck and followed behind her into the hospital. After what seemed like hours, a doctor finally made his way towards them as they sat waiting in the Emergency Room.
After much hemming and hawing, the doctor finally admitted that his father was lucky to be alive and if he made it through the next twenty-four hours, there might be a chance for a fairly good recovery. But, he would never be able to work again! His heart had sustained too much damage. Charley couldn't believe it! His father had always worked. Why he'd even worked two jobs most of his life. His father was a workhorse, make no mistake about it. To Charley's way of thinking, his father lived to work!
As his father slowly got better, Charley felt remorse for the first time in his life but it wasn't remorse for his father who had worked so hard all those years mainly to give him all that "stuff." It was remorse that his father wouldn't be able to work any longer and wouldn't be handin out presents to him any longer either. Now he would have to go to work himself. Yes sir! Charley was one flawed human being that's for sure.
The war in Vietnam was escalating and reports of the daily deadly battles were raging across the television screen on a nightly basis. After watching the CBS Evening News one evening and not knowing that Dan Rather had put a "spin" on that particular edition, Charley got to thinkin that he just might take himself down to Houlton to the Army recruiter's office the next day and sign up. The longer he watched the news the more convinced he was that he should join the good ole U.S. of A. Army!
He got up out of his father's old chair, walked into the bathroom, flicked on the light and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He slid his hand over his Elvis haircut and tried to imagine how his red hair would look in an Army butch. "Not too friggin bad!" he grinned at himself in the mirror. "Once I get that nice, green uniform on, I'll have all the chicks eatin outta my hand in no time! Yes sir! The Army needs one good man and that sure as shit's gonna be me!"
When the Army recruiter saw Charley walk into his office, he thought he'd died and gone to heaven! This was the best lookin specimen that he'd seen come out of the county in a long time. This boy looked like he'd just stepped out of a military recruitment ad. Red headed, broad shoulders, six feet two inches tall, perfect, white teeth & clear skin. He was an ideal recruit for the Army. The recruiter didn't waste any time either and the deed was done. The old Sergeant waived the normal waiting period and Charley was inducted into the Army before he knew what happened.
Due to the war and the urgency for replacements, Charley was only given a seventy-two hour leave and he spent that in a fall from grace, mowing a drunken, path through Aroostook County. He hadn't had the backbone to tell his parents what he'd done, so he'd stayed as far away from home as he could get.
The morning that he was to leave for basic training, he slid out of bed, ran for the shower and a quick shave. His father, an early riser out of necessity and habit, was shocked to head Charley's feet hit the floor above him at a quarter to five. He felt a slight niggling of apprehension slide through him as he heard Charley come down the stairs. "Maybe he's finally grown up. Maybe he's goin to look for a job!" He thought to himself as Charley came rushing into the kitchen.
Also surprised by Charley's early appearance, his mother came into the living room from the kitchen to see what was goin on. "Mornin son," she said. "I don't think you've ever made it up before the sun since I brought you home from the hospital. Would you like some hot biscuits and scrambled eggs? How about a hot cup of coffee?" She didn't wait for him to answer but hurried off to the kitchen to get his breakfast.
His father looked at his son for the longest moment as his old heart pounded in his chest and then he said in a quiet voice. "Must be a mighty beautiful girl waitin for you, for you to be up so early this mornin." Charley, walked over to the living room window, drew aside the curtain and looked out into the driveway where his dusty Ford F100 pick-up was parked. "Dad, I've got something to tell you and you ain't goin to like it." Charley heard the rattle of his father's breath as he struggled for air. "I've joined the Army and I'm leavin today." Charley heard the sound his father made as he involuntarily expelled the air from his tortured lungs. Finally Charley turned around but he couldn't meet his father's shocked gaze.
"Dad, you know I ain't done nothin but fool around since I graduated over a year ago and now it's time for me to be a man. I've got to do this dad, I just have to!" Charley's father gave a strangled gasp and Charley heard him say something that sounded like, "I knew it all along but I just wouldn't believe it! My son is nothin but a God-damned fool!" With that, his father dropped his head into his hands and began cryin. Hearin the sounds coming from her husband, Charley's mother came running back into the room. And that was how they found out that Charley's lazy ass now belonged to the United States Army.
By eleven-thirty that morning Charley had boarded the Greyhound bus in Presque Isle for the trip to Fort Dix, New Jersey for his basic training. He still didn't have the slightest clue as to what he had gotten himself into. After all, he'd been living in the Kennedy "Camelot" era for a long time and "make love not war" was his motto.
Forever egotistical, he got up a time or two, before the bus left the station, to lean out the window to wave goodbye to his parents and to all the folks that he thought had come to see him off. A slight teariness slid into his eyes as he looked around and saw all the familiar faces looking back at him. "Never thought I'd made such an impression on all these folks," he said to himself as he leaned a little further out the window to wave goodbye once more.
Little did he realize that folks weren't just there to see him off, many were there just to see if the rumor they'd heard about his joinin the Army was true! A couple of old jeezers, who'd seen fightin in World War Two and the Battle of Battan and lived to tell about it, nudged each other as they saw Charley board the bus. "It won't take too long before the Army tears that little bastid a new arsehole!" one old soldier said to another. "Ayah, but I don't know who I feel sorrier for, Charley or the Army!" the other old man replied and they both had a good laugh over that one.
A lot of worried fathers, fearful that small children with red hair and resembling Charlie might begin showing up in the county, heaved a giant sigh of relief that night because they hoped it was going to be a good long time before the county girls again saw the likes of Charley Rose.
When the long, Greyhound bus drew to a stop in front of the military barracks in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Charley waited until he was the last one to get off. When he'd finally ambled to the front of the bus, he bent down and checked out his reflection in the driver's rearview mirror. Then he slicked back his hair with the palm of his hand, grabbed his bag and sauntered slowly down the steps of the open door.
Just as he was about to step off the bus, a Sergeant came up to the door and seeing Charley standing on the last step, he stopped. "Well, well, well, what do we have here? A good ole boy from the county? Well, sister let me make your acquaintance. I'm Drill Sergeant Michaud and I've been waitin for you all my life! Did you have a nice trip down from potato country? Were you well taken care of?" the Sergeant asked solicitously. Charley, used to being catered to at home, smiled and started to answer when the Sergeant's friendly demeanor suddenly changed.
The seasoned military man walked up to where Charley was standin and he got closer until his nose was just brushin Charleys. "I don't care if you were tied by your testicles to the bumper of this bus and they drug you all the way here, you little asshole! I don't like prima donnas and I don't like the expression on your smarmy, stoopid face! Now get your ass off this bus and get in line with the rest of em!" And he jerked his head in the direction of the other men waitin outside. His fetid breath smothered Charley for a couple of seconds and it was all he could do to breathe.
Charlie's head swirled with the insults and outrage and he stumbled as he made his way off the last step of the bus. The Sergeant, noticing the stumble, screamed at him again, "What's tha matter farmer? Still think you're dancin across a potato field? Get your sorry ass in the back of the line over there!" Humiliated, Charley finally found the end of the line and slunk in.
By the end of the first week, the Army knew just what they'd bargained for and he wasn't the bargain they'd first thought. No matter what they'd thrown at him, Charley wasn't able to do it. He couldn't shoot, he couldn't run, he couldn't climb, he couldn't swim and he couldn't think. They gave him test after test and he failed them all.
Worried, the Drill Sergeant placed a call to the Houlton recruiter to double check on Charley. "Are you absolutely certain that this old boy wasn't drafted? Are you positive that he actually volunteered?" he asked.
Thinking that Charley was using reverse psychology and deliberately trying to outsmart them by failing every test, they turned him over to the shrinks. After a battery of questions and tests, the shrinks came up with the final diagnosis. Charley was suffering from a syndrome called "Narcissistic Personality Disorder."
The shrink called Charley's unit and the Sergeant waited with baited breath to hear what was wrong with Charley. When the doctor had finished his technical spiel, the Sergeant asked. "What tha hell does all that mean? Put it to me in everyday language, doc!" "Well." The shrink replied. "To put it plain and simple, he's been pampered and spoiled all his life and he's never had to do anything he didn't want to do. Now, we, the Army are making demands on him that he can't meet and he isn't faking. He really can't do what it is that we want him to do. You'll never make a soldier out of him. You might just as well just cut your losses! Do the Army a huge favor and send his ass home!"
It didn't take the Army too long before they realized that Charley was like a rotten apple. All beautiful and shiny on the outside but rotten to the core on the inside. And that was that. Charlie's Army career lasted exactly fourteen days, six hours and thirteen minutes and it wasn't too long before Charley was on the same Greyhound headed north with a manila envelope stuffed in his pocket. Inside the envelope was a paper and written on it was the notation, "Unsuitable for Military Duty - 4-F."
Charley's arrival home was exactly the opposite of his leaving. When the bus pulled into the depot in Presque Isle, the only person at the station was an old wino who was looking for a free ride on to Madawaska. Charley, used to having a vehicle at his disposal, couldn't think what to do next. Finally, he wandered over to the station window and asked to use the phone.
His mother, surprised at hearin his voice on the other end of the line, called his father to the phone. "How's the weather down there in New Jersey?" his father asked. "Don't know dad," Charley answered. "What do you mean you don't know? Are you too busy learnin to be a soldier to look outside and see?" "No dad, I can see alright and all I can see is an empty parkin lot." His father felt like he was havin a conversation with two different people. "You mean they don't have a lot of trucks and tanks and planes all over the place?" his father asked. "Dad, the only thing that I can see is the back ass of a big old greyhound and that's about it!" Charley replied. His father was perplexed. "Why son, what tha hell is the Army doin with a dog? I thought you was trainin to be a paratrooper?" "Naw dad, that's the Air Force. Jesus Dad, could you just come and git me?" Hearin this, his father couldn't think for a moment. "Come and git you? Jesus son, I ain't never been further than Bangor in my whole life and I don't have the slightest idea how to git to New Jersey and besides, why would you want me to come and git you? Don't you still have another five weeks of basic?" "Dad, listen to me for once will yah. I'm over to the bus station in Presque Isle. Could you jist come and git me?" With that admission, Charley's voiced faded away.
His father couldn't believe his ears! Had his precious son failed his physical? Was there something wrong with him? Question after question slid through his tired old mind. "Sure, you betcha son, I'll be there in a jiffy," and he hung up.
Charley glanced at his watch. Seven twenty-five. "The old man won't be here till about eight thirty by the way he drives," Charley thought to himself as he headed to the Westmorland Hotel Coffee Shop that was located on the next block.
After Charley was home a couple of days and the excitement of his return had faded somewhat, there was much discussion amongst the family about what to tell the neighbors about his sudden return. It was decided that they'd just say that Charley had a "symptom" and that he'd received a Medical Discharge. Talk and speculation, by the townspeople about Charlie's illness and sudden discharge, slid around town like grease in a fryin pan and folks never tired of discussing Charlie's problem.
"Did you say that the Rose kid had a bad heart?" One asked another. "No! No! All I heard was that he had ah "syncope" or "symphony" or somethin. He had to take a medical discharge. The Army didn't want him what with a "bad ticker" and all." The story was told and retold so many times that it became so jumbled up, that folks couldn't make heads nor tales of it. In the end, nobody including Charley, knew exactly what was wrong with him and why he'd really received a Medical Discharge.
Charley, still enamored with the idea of being a soldier, took to wearin his uniform all over the county, until one of the old Army retirees, who had fought in both the Second World War and the Korean War, stopped him on the street in Madawaska and told him that if he didn't stop wearin that friggin uniform, he was going to pound the piss outta him. After that, Charley still wore his army pants or shirt, but never at the same time.
Things settled back into the routine that Charley had had before he'd gone off to join the Army and it wasn't too long before the shit hit the fan. Charley hadn't even been away long enough to say that the kid wasn't his and her father was soon walkin behind him down the isle. As the minister said the hurried vows, Charley's mind slid away to the battlefields of Vietnam. Folks said that he said his "I Do's" but Charley never remembered sayin them.
Charley and his new wife promptly moved in with his parents and he quickly took up where he'd left off. Once again, Charley was the little, spoiled pampered kid that he'd always been. The only difference was, now he wasn't little and he certainly wasn't a kid. He was married and waitin for a kid of his own to arrive.
Being newly married didn't make too much difference to Charley. As the days slid by, one into another, he picked up right where he'd left off, runnin all over to Christ and gone, lookin for what, he didn't know. His young wife, annoyed at being left alone all the time with his old, adoring parents and knowin that he'd been spendin his time with other wimmin, packed herself up and went home to her parents. It didn't take too long before Charley was served with a "Notice of Support" order.
One night in early November, when the roads were greasy with new-fallen snow, Charley finally came face to face with reality. He'd been partyin over to Fredericton, New Brunswick and had decided to make the long drive home even though he was already "three sheets to the wind." He made it all the way home okay but he forgot to slow down as he turned into the driveway. When he'd finally applied the brakes, it was too late and his truck slid right into the front porch bustin it to hell and gone!
His father, hearin and feelin the terrific impact and terrified by the sound of breaking wood, came stumbling out of his bed to see what had happened. All he saw was Charley in the driver's seat and his truck imbedded in the porch up to the front door sill. When Charley's alcohol addled brain settled down, he looked up and saw his father's shocked face staring back at him thru the front door window. "Jesus Dad." Charley joked, "My brakes musta locked and I slid right into the porch." His father pulled some of the debris away and drug Charley from the truck. He helped him into the house and pointed him in the direction of the stairs. "Charley, you go and have a good nights sleep and we'll have us a talk in the mornin." Charley gave his father his two fingered Army salute and stumbled up the stairs towards bed.
"In the mornin," turned out to be four thirty in the afternoon before Charley finally made his way down the stairs. His father, seein that Charley was all set to head for the door, called him into the kitchen. He pulled a chair out and motioned for Charley to sit. "Charley, you know that I've always done my best for you, don't you?" Charley looked at his father and was surprised to see how old, gray and tired he looked. "Yes dad, I know all that you've done for me." "Well son, you know that I never minded, not one little bit but now the doc says that I ain't got too much time left and I'd like to know that when I leave this Christly place, that you have a nice future all lined up for you and yours." His father stopped for a moment to catch his breath and let his little talk sink in. "So, I've cashed in a bond that I took out when you were born and it's all yours. I hope that you'll use it wisely to help you prepare for your future." His father handed him a check and Charley had to wait until the tears in his eyes went away before he could read the amount written there. "Pay to the Order of Charlie David Rose the sum of Five Thousand Dollars." Charlie tried to thank his father but his father just waved him away. "Son, take this check with my blessin, to my way of thinkin, you don't owe me a damn thing." He reached out and grabbed Charley's shoulder, gave it a good squeeze and then he shuffled off across the kitchen floor and out the door. Still clutchin the cashier's check in his fist, Charley sat in the chair and thought about what he was going to do with the cash.
His father hoped that Charley would take the money and go to school and get some trainin and he was happy when he learned that Charley had taken himself off to the North East Tractor Trailer School in Boston to learn to be a truck driver. But Charley soon found that driving an eighteen wheeler was a lot more complicated than it seemed and Charley was soon back in the county with no truck driver's license and half of the money gone. Then, he tried growin potatoes on a small patch of land his uncle owned on the Garfield Road but the hoein, the cultivatin and the sprayin soon put the run to Charlie. Next came guidin for sports in the Maine woods but after having to be rescued by the warden's service several times, the wardens finally told him that if they had to come and rescue him one more time, well you get the picture.
Then a job at Pinkham's Lumber lasted about three months. Next, he tried to convince the school board that he'd make a good bus driver but after they'd checked his drivin record, they wouldn't have him either. He took a job on the night shift at the plywood factory over to Presque Isle but pullin all those splinters out of his fingers was pure hell! The next job was at McCain's potato chip plant in Easton but smellin all that grease eight hours every night clogged up all his sinuses. There was a short stint as a cab driver but he lost that job when he forgot that he was a driver and not part of the party goers. Charley just couldn't find a niche, no matter what he tried. He was expert of all and master of none.
Charley floated around the county like a dandelion seed in the wind. His good looks and great smile often got him a foot in the door but it wasn't too long before he was standin on the other side of the door. "A complete waste of good skin" was the general consensus of the hard workin folks in the county.
The winter of sixty-seven was a hellacious one. Folks were droppin like flies from one kind of flu or another. Mr. Rose was the first one to go and heartbroken and lost, Mrs. Rose soon followed. Charley, in a state of shock, soon found himself at the lawyer's office for the final readin of the will. Mr. Stevens had been his parent's lawyer all their lives and after glancing at a list of documents on his desk, he looked sorrowfully at Charley. "Son, I want to tell you that I'm awfully sorry"... Charley looked up at him and waited. "I'm awfully sorry, but I've carefully reviewed your parent's estate and after the sale of the old house, there will be just enough money left to pay off the rest of their debts." Charley stared at the old lawyer in disbelief. "But that can't be!" He exclaimed. "My dad and mother worked hard all of their lives and they made good money! Why, most of the time Dad even worked two jobs!" Mr. Stevens nodded his head. "That's true Charley but you realize that during all that time he wasn't able to save a penny no matter how hard he worked." Mr. Stevens looked meaningfully across his desk at Charley. But Charley still didn't get it. The old lawyer finally shook his head and said, "Charley, let it go, there isn't anything left, at all." And then he said the hardest part, "My advice to you and you ain't goin to like it, is to go out and find yourself a job. Any kind of job and the sooner the better!"
Charley went whinin to his sisters and one after the other turned him down. They really didn't have any sympathy for him. He had always been the golden boy while they had always had to work for what they wanted. Their answer was always the same. "No!" He couldn't move in with them. "No!" He couldn't borrow any money. "No!" They weren't going to cosign a loan for him. He'd always had more than they'd had. That was their final answer. The worm had turned; Charley was finally on his own.
Charley, a parasite from birth, soon found wimmin, a lot older and a lot more time worn, with a little money put aside, who were willin to have a young, good lookin man in their bed for a while. But Charley, incapable of a real feelin towards anyone other than himself, wasn't a kept man for too long. He had so many addresses in such a short span of time that the post office just stamped his junk mail and bills "General Delivery" and threw it in an old box on the floor in a corner of the Ashland Post Office.
The years passed and Charley found that he was mortal after all. His red hair receded across the top of his head until he couldn't even see it any more unless he turned around and his belly grew until his feet disappeared entirely from view too. He was no longer the mean, lean, lovin machine. Those days were gone for good. Charley was middle aged and loosin ground fast!
Charley took to hangin out at the bar at the Westmorland and as the old hotel grew seedier and seedier, so did Charley. Then one day one of his older lovers made him an offer that he couldn't refuse. She'd pay for him to go to the Morrison Sales Institute in Boston, if he'd agree to move in with her. Charley didn't hesitate for a minute. He knew how to be a hired lover and he knew a golden offer when he saw it. Less than a week later, for the second time in his life, he was on a Greyhound bus headin south.
Charley took to sales like a kid to puppies. He was in his element! He flew through the six-week course and soaked up the sales techniques like a sponge. Armed with several freshly signed "diplomas" he headed north with a new confidence and zest for life. He was going to sell and he was going to become the "super salesman" of "the county." As soon as he got back to Presque Isle, he grabbed his belongings and ditched the old bag. He was finally on his way!
Dressed in the old bags dead husband's suit and armed with business cards and a briefcase, Charley quickly landed a job at the "Maine Mobile Home Center" just outside of Presque Isle on the outskirts of the Caribou Road. The owner was a blousy, bleached blonde several years his senior and a widow to boot. Charley could see the writin on the wall! The Gods were kind! He moved into an office that was only slightly shabbier than the trailers that he'd be sellin. Life was good! For the first time in his life, Charley felt that he had a callin. He had the Morrison sales technique down pat. He could talk a potato farmer into buyin his very own potatoes. Yessir! He was that good!
The first thing Charley did after sweepin and cleanin up his office was to pound nails into the sheetrock and hang all his sales diplomas on the walls. Then he went over to Woolworths and bought himself a huge picture of a deer standing in a field. He hung it on a long wall across from where he sat and then he set about rearrangin his desk and sales area.
He drug a small table into his office and placed it along the wall that had a small closet right next to it. He had everything situated so that, when seated, everyone in his office could see the picture of the deer and all his diplomas too. And he could easily reach over and open the closet door anytime he wanted to. Now he was ready.
Givin praise where praise is due, Charley was good! He was very good at makin sales. It wasn't too long before folks were buyin trailers they didn't want and partin with all their hard earned potato pickin money in a hurry. Charley was on a roll. But the roll didn't last too long. All those things he'd learned down in Boston soon fell by the wayside and the sales ceased.
Charley was arrogant, that's the word, arrogant. And folks in the county can't stand an arrogant man. A liar, a snake, a cheat, a thief or a cad, folks might tolerate them but arrogance, no! Charley couldn't understand what was wrong. "I know how to sell," he thought to himself. "I have all them diplomas don't I. These folks are jist friggin fools, that's all." And he really believed it. He didn't believe that he could really be the problem.
Folks would drive slowly onto the run-down sales lot and Charley would amble over to the door, coffee cup in hand. He'd lean against the open door way with a shitty little grin on his lips and slowly sip his coffee. When folks hesitantly headed for the front steps, he'd step out onto the porch and shout, "Welcome folks, Welcome! Come on in!" He'd step back and with a grand sweep of his hand, as thought he owned the whole friggin joint, he'd move them into his office and into a chair. Then he'd amble over to a dirty window and gaze out into the sales lot for a couple of minutes, leaving the prospective buyers just sitting there, staring at his back, perplexed. Finally, he'd turn around, set his coffee cup on his desk and slide into his chair. He'd run his hand over his bald scalp a couple of times all the while giving the folks the once over. And then he'd begin his sales pitch.
Most folks, thinkin Charley was a real good guy, warmed up to him right away. And Charley, having trained all his life, to separate folks from their money, did the Morrison Sales Institute proud. He could make a sale rather easily but he never did learn how to close.
Charley's sales plan was rather simple. He first made the potential buyers his "best" friends. Then he walked them around the sales lot until they found a trailer they liked. Next, he'd hustle them back into his office where he'd make them a fresh, hot cup of coffee and write up a preliminary sales contract. Then he'd always make an appointment for six o'clock the next evening. Charley knew that a man, who'd worked hard all day, was tired, dirty and hungry. He'd sign anything in order to get home, have a wash, a good stiff drink and fill his empty belly.
The next evening, Charley would have the customer's sales file all set up nice and neat on his desk. He'd have two pens on the other side of the table so that each buyer had their own for signin the final sales contract. Once the eager buyers came in, after shakin hands all around, Charley would begin applyin pressure. The sad thing was, most of the time, Charley had the sale already made but he just couldn't see it. Something happened to him at every closin and it would all turn bad.
Captivated by the sound of his own voice, he'd drone on and on about all the sales he'd made and how great he was, until folks would be sittin in their chairs in a daze. Not hearing a response from them, he'd stop and look at them real close. And then things would fly all to hell. Seeing their glazed over eyes and thinking that they were going to back out of the sale, he'd slam his fist on the desk so hard that the buyers jumped as much as their coffee cups.
"Thanks a lot for wastin my friggin time!" he'd shout. The buyers, bewildered by this verbal attack, would look at each other and wonder what tha the hell was goin on. Charley would lean in real close to them and say; "You don't work for nothing, do you?" Startled, the customers would shake their heads no. Charley would look at them again and shout, "Well neither do I!" And he'd bang his fist on the desk again causin the customer's folder to jump across the desk in front of them.
If the customer reached into his pocket for the down payment money, Charley would glance at it with scorn and refuse to take it! If the customer asked in a hesitant voice when they were goin to get their home, Charley would glare at them and say in a haughty voice, "The answer is in the question!" Folks didn't understand what that meant either. They'd look at each other wildly and slide their chairs a little further away from the desk towards the door.
Seeing this backward movement, Charley would suddenly point at the large picture of the deer that was hanging on the office wall and yell, "See that deer!" and the buyers would turn and stare at the picture for a couple of seconds and then back at Charley. But he never finished the statement. He'd glare at the would-be buyers for a couple of long seconds and then he'd reach over and wrenched open the closet door. In the middle of the closet floor was a tall pile of manila folders.
Charley would hold the closet door open so that folks could see the folders stacked there and then he'd point to the pile of sales files sitting in the middle of the closet floor and say in a deadly quiet voice. "Do you see that pile of folders? Well that's folks just like you who didn't want to give me my money! Folks just like you, who will never have a friggin home!"
He'd stare meaningfully at the prospective clients for a moment or two and then he'd sweep their sales folder off the top of his desk and onto the top of the pile stacked on the closet floor. He'd then slam the closet door shut so hard that the thin walls of the mobile home office would bend. It wasn't too long after that that the potential buyers would find their feet headin for the door and they'd be gone. Gravel would fly and they'd be tearin up the Caribou Road towards home as fast as they could go.
Nonplussed, Charley would go into the back room, dump out the remainder of his cold cup of coffee, brew himself a new one and head for the front door. He'd lean nonchalantly against the door jam until another unsuspecting customer drove onto the lot and it would begin all over again.
So, if you are ever visitin in the county and you find yourself drivin past the Maine Mobile Home Center on the Caribou Road and you happen to see old Charley lounging in the door way drinkin his coffee. Don't stop, just slow down a dite, give old Charley a good old wave and keep on drivin.
Autobiography of a Simple Soul
Memories, Another Place - Another Time
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