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The International Writers Magazine: Never Trust a Salesman

Do Cars Have Teeth?
• Kersie Khambatta
The brand new Mitsubishi Lancer GSR was an eye-catching sight in bright purple.

My son and I were admiring it, when the smart young man in a white, starched shirt, creased grey trousers, and a matching tie appeared from nowhere. He wore a wide smile. His teeth were a sparkling white. You couldn’t fail to notice that.

“It has a 2 litre MIVC engine, 6 speed Sport Mode automatic, 16 inch alloys, rear spoiler, 5 star ANCAP rating with front, side and curtain airbags, ABS braking, privacy glass, climate air conditioning, fog lights, Bluetooth, and a reversing camera.” he declared proudly. He seemed to have memorised that, so fast did he spit it out.

We could not understand what that meant, least of all, what Bluetooth was.

“Do cars have teeth?” my son Satish asked innocently. He is 12.

The man’s fair complexion turned a tomato red, but he kept his composure. He hissed a bit like a pressure-cooker when it starts steaming, and a viper closing in on a large, juicy rat.

It was unlike any sound you’ve ever heard.

“Sir, Bluetooth is a device that lets you talk on a mobile phone, hands-free, while driving.”

“Oh, I see. Dad, would you like that?”

“Yes. Yes. But let’s look inside, see what colour the upholstery is.”

It was white. We opened the back door, and sat on the smooth, leather  seats. Quite  comfortable.

“Why don’t you come into the lounge and kitchen?” he invited.

I  hesitated. We went there to buy a car, not for a meal. Anyway, we did follow him.

“Come! Come!” he said to Satish, “The kid’s movie lounge is great fun. You can choose from our large DVD collection.”

Satish waded into the DVDs, while I stood at the door, wondering what to do.

“Please make yourself comfortable, sir. I have something urgent...I’ll be back.”

He was gone.

Satish was delighted. He put a Batman movie, while I wandered aimlessly round the room. I made myself  a cup of hot, black coffee, and took a cheese sandwich from the fridge. I then sat on the sofa, and started watching the movie myself, with nothing else to do.

Batman despatched all the bad characters, and emerged triumphant. Satish then picked up Spiderman, and we watched that too.

I glanced at my watch, and realised, with a start, that we had been there for two hours. I got restless, and peered into the showroom. I could not see the young man. In fact, there was nobody there. It looked like a ghost showroom, full of fine cars. I went around, looking at the Kias, the Fords, Audis, the Jeep, the Dodge, the Cherry and the Great Wall. I thought the Great Wall was in China, but here it was, the V series Ute with a double cab. The price tag said $23913, seemed  a good price for a new Ute.

“Satish,  Satish!” I called, “ come on out. We have to go now”.

“Wait, Dad, please wait, the movie is nearly over.”

I sighed, and went to the toilet.

Then I sat down heavily on the sofa again. The newspaper was on the side-table, and I read it from page to page. This very car dealership had a glossy twenty-one page pull-out in the newspaper, and I studied that. It was a new dealership, promising heavy focus on excellent customer service. I was suitably impressed.

I jumped up in fright, when a woman suddenly said; “You all right, sir? Can I get you something to drink? Tea, coffee?” I looked at her blankly. Where had she come from?

“No thanks, I just had coffee. I am waiting for the man who said he was going to show us the cars. That was two hours ago!”

“Oh,...I’m so sorry, sir. Now who can that be! We have a staff of eleven, so I will have to page, and find out who it is. What car were you looking at?"

“The purple one,” I grunted, definitely annoyed now.

She went out rapidly, and I picked up a car magazine.

I read that too, and yet no sign of anyone. Now I was really getting restless, while Satish was happily seeing another movie. “Dad,” he said, “this is great. There are so many movies here. Its like a video library.”.

“We didn’t come here to see movies!” I snapped. “Come on now. Stop it!”

“All right. Ok. Just five minutes, Dad”.

I paced like a hungry tiger, and even looked like one in the full mirror. I made a snarling face, and the tiger did exactly the same.

Then I saw in the mirror that there was another form behind me, and whirled around in embarrassment.

“Oh hello, sir. May I help you?” He was a tall, broad, bearded man  with  a solemn expression. He shifted jerkily from foot to foot, and wiped his face with a clean, blue handkerchief.

“Yes, about time. Where is the salesman who attended us? He asked us to wait here more than two hours ago. ”

“Oh, so sorry, sir! That’s not good! Did he say his name, sir?”

“No he didn’t. Just find him, will you? Now! Right now!

“Sure, sir, sure. No worries, sir. Can you describe him?”

“Look, I can’t describe him. He looked like a salesman, okay!  For God’s sake, man, get on with it. We can’t sit here all day.”

“Fine, sir, fine. No problem. No problem at all, sir. I’ll find him, sir. Please help yourself to a coffee, sir.”

I seriously felt like throwing the coffee jug at him, but he had disappeared. Now, I needed something to cool me down, so I opened the fridge again, and helped myself to a really cold coca-cola. I kept looking at my watch every five minutes. I checked the time in my mobile phone. My watch was right.

Now I felt irritated at the sight of my little son smugly curled up on the sofa, watching one movie after another, not bothered about anything else. I felt like catching hold of his arm and dragging him out of there. But then I couldn’t do that, because someone might just accuse me of child abuse.

After some time, I lost it, and stormed out of the room,....... and collided with the same young man who had seen us when we came there. The impact threw me back on the sofa, and he to the wall.

He threw his right hand to the back of his head, and groaned loudly, as if in severe pain. That scared me, and I rushed to him, offering to help. “Are you hurt? Are you bleeding? Shall I get some ice? I’m really sorry......sorry.....” I said. 

He didn’t say anything. Just moaned and groaned. I guided him gently to the nearest sofa, and gently made him sit down. He lowered his head into his hands, and sighed deeply. But he didn’t say a word. I was getting really worried. “Shall I call for an ambulance? Are you seriously hurt? Talk  to me. Say something.”

He kept his eyes down, fixed to the floor. I got more worried. I rushed out for help, and dashed madly round and round the cars, trying to find someone, calling out for help all the time. No one answered; I saw no one. Just row on row of silent cars. I felt desperate. I rushed back to the room, and braked heavily. The sofa was empty. He was gone. Had this all been a nightmare? I heard voices, but was not sure whether they were real, or I was imagining things. I didn’t know what to do. My heart was beating madly. My chest was heaving. I felt like I was having a heart attack.

Satish just sat there placidly in front of the screed, completely engrossed in his movie.

“Satish.  Satish. What shall I do? I banged someone. He may be badly hurt”.

“Eh? What? What are you talking about, Dad? There’s no one here.”

“He was here, I swear. But....but....he’s gone now. He might need medical help”.

“Dad, if he needs help, why didn’t he say so? You're imagining things. Now, please let me see my movie. It’s really exciting”.

The fire alarm erupted suddenly.

“Satish, come fast. Come.....Come. The building’s on fire!” I yelled.

“Oh  Dad! There’s no fire. That was in the movie” he replied calmly.

I felt deflated. Like a gas balloon with a tear in the middle. I collapsed onto the couch, eyes closed, nerves a wreck. My hands were trembling. Like a leaf in the wind. “Oh God” I muttered, “this is too much.”

Ten minutes later, in walked the young salesman who I had banged into the wall.

“You ok? No damage? No injury?” I asked frantically.

“I’m fine, sir.  Why do you ask?' He flashed his brilliant white teeth at me, as if nothing had happened at all. "Anyway, we are ready now. Please follow me.”

Satish was about to feed yet another DVD into the machine, when he caught my eye, and put it back. He came after me meekly now.

We went into a large, well-decorated room with ‘Manager’ on the outside wall.

The Manager was an impressive woman, immaculately dressed, with a commanding, yet pleasant, voice. She invited us to sit opposite her, and a plate of French fries and a coca-cola landed in front of  each of us. “Please help yourself” she said softly, “My name is Doris, and I am the manager.” Satish shoved the fries into his mouth, as if he had not eaten for two days. She smiled indulgently.

Then she placed some printed papers gently in front of me, and gave me a gold-coloured pen which looked very expensive.

“Please sign here,” she said with a bright smile. My hands were still shaking a bit. My nerves were still unsteady. My mind was in a whirl.

“What is this?” I blurted.

“Oh just the usual.” she replied. “Just the usual formality to help you. You won’t have to worry for the next thirty-six months”.

She took a photo-copy of my driving licence, and returned it with a polite “Thank you very much indeed”.

She pushed the plate and the drink more towards me, making me feel confident and trusting. I signed where she pointed, and she leaned back in her swivel chair, and smiled more. I picked up some fries, and ate them. Satish had already finished, and was leaning towards me , to pick some more from my plate. He has a gorilla’s appetite.

She got up, and I was fascinated. She picked up a set of keys and some documents, and invited us with a slight bow and a hand gesture to follow her.

She walked leisurely through the shining cars in the showroom, and Satish was over the moon, stopping every now and then to admire the cars.

Then there stood the purple Mitsubishi at the front entrance. Satish jumped with joy. “Dad, Dad, it is beautiful. Mum will love it.”

“It’s been insured, serviced and registered.” she said gently, “The next three services, and a year’s road assistance are free. You will find that it is a very reliable car”.

“But....but......” was all I could manage to blurt out.

She held the keys out in her bangled hand, and Satish grabbed them and climbed into the front passenger seat, saying “Come on Dad. Come on.  Let’s go home. Take Mum for a drive.”

She had the fixed smile on her face, as we drove off. I thought I saw her wink slyly sideways to the young salesman.

But maybe I was mistaken.

© Kersie Khambatta December 2013

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