Perceiving British Culture Through the Might of Words
Not available in Bookstores
Published June 2007 with funding from the British Embassy, Moldova for the Balti State University 'Alecu Russo'. The book is used for the English Comprehension Reading classes.
One of my short stories The Golden Shot is in the collection.
The Golden Shot
Appeared as a four part serial in Deafview magazine from 2008-2009.
THE GOLDEN SHOT
by Mark Radford
I always get away with it. Lesser mortals no match for my cunning plans, swept away into oblivion, suspicion never to cast its eye on my crafted integrity. I am the Number One salesman and within my grasp, to be the first to achieve sales of 100,000 and scoop up the cash reward of £250,000 for it.
Nobody can stop me now and a quick glance at the sales chart merely confirms this. I gave myself a wry smile. I’m sitting at my desk right now in the centre of the sales office, alongside the wanabees who dream and live in hope of reaching the magic target. No humble office for any individuals here, we’re officially a team but I work to my own methods. The appointment diary for tomorrow that I’m working on will throw rich pickings my way because I have devised a system by hacking into the unscheduled appointments on the computer, select the best offerings for myself and leave the ‘duffs’ to the others. I have to use caution wisely and avoid being watched, especially by Jason, the ‘golden boy’ in the eyes of management. He’s young, go getting and a fast riser on the sales chart. Not closer enough to me yet to give serious competition. Anyway, enough of him, I’m ready for tomorrow, my day of probable glory.
A swagger up the garden path, my arms strengthen over the years to lugging around the large weighty cases on me, my suit looks impeccable, gives a wide degree of respectability. On the doorstep, the doorbell chimes out a little waltz when I pushed it. I wait for life to stir and then I heard footsteps drawing towards the door. It’s Showtime.
The door opens. ‘Good morning madam, Hugo Harpon of Blodgit,’ my killer smile flashed before her, my company’s identity card held out. ‘We have an appointment to demonstrate the Power Sweep.’ The first part of a well rehearsed strategy underway.
‘Oh yes, do please come in,’ the young woman stepped aside. My eyes scour the surroundings, seeking ammunition I can use to secure a deal as I followed the woman into her well designed lounge.
‘Lovely home you have Mrs Peyton,’ my compliment tack.
‘Thank you,’ she glowed proudly. ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’
‘Yes please, that would be delightful.’ The first notch gained on the hard sell. As she left the room to get the coffee, I start to unlock the cases in preparation for the demonstration and observe the room. Bingo, my ammunition is found.
As Mrs Peyton returns with the drinks, I used it. ‘Are these your children?’ I ask with my head turned towards the photos on the mantelpiece.
‘They are.’ She replied, a smile broadens and I knew instantly, I had another sucker as she began to talk of them with pride. I curb her keenness quickly as time is precious to me.
‘Before I start, Mrs Peyton, do you have a driving licence or similar to clarify your residence here? By law, we have to ask this because of the increase in identity fraud.’ I gave a warm smile to her with the statement.
‘Certainly, I’ll be just a moment.’ She places the coffees down onto the coffee table and leaves the room. My master plan was ready to be put into action. Mrs Peyton returned and gave me her driving licence, my favourite form of identification. I scrutinize it quickly.
‘All seems to be in order,’ I respond to her and lean forward to hand it back. I faked a small stumble, knock the cups over; coffee sent sprawling across the table and it starts to drip onto the carpet. ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’
‘That’s okay, I’ll just get a cloth,’ Mrs Peyton quickly assured me and rose from her chair. Once she left the room, I swiftly drew out my notepad, pen in hand. I followed the shape and curve of Mrs Peyton’s signature from her driving licence with great skill and precision, learnt over the years in the job. It was a doodle. A quick flick and the notepad rested once again in the case. Mrs Peyton returned to the room with a cloth.
‘I’m sorry about that. To be honest with you, I don’t feel too well today so can we reschedule for another day.’ I feigned a look of ill ease and started to lock away the equipment case.
‘Yes please do. Are you okay for driving? She asked, seeing my car keys in one of my hands, her concern over my well being as she wiped up the spilt coffee. I thanked her for her understanding and told her that I’d be in touch soon.
Once I got the car out of sight from the abrupt appointment, I pulled it over and gave myself a chuckle at saving valuable time in getting sales marked up. I opened up my administration case and pulled out the contract paperwork for Mrs Peyton, along with the notepad. I applied the forged signature to the contract, just like many others before her, I’ve duped in my personal quest to win the grandest prize of all. It’ll stay in my case with other contracts for two weeks, along with franked envelopes for the day of my visits, to allow the ‘cooling off’ period to pass and prevent orders from being cancelled. I certainly feel like the cat that whipped up all the cream from the milk first. Now for my next appointment, hopefully another poor sap, ripe for my wilful ways.
It’s the last appointment of the day for me. I’m psyched up mentally as this is the big one. No sooner did I ring the doorbell; the door flew open almost immediately.
‘What the hell you want?’ a grouchy old man snapping his words at me, not happy at having his peace interrupted.
‘We have an appointment sir, the Power Sweep,’ I gently cajole him, the company identity card held out for his inspection. I didn’t want to push his mood further with the usual sales patter. Too much was at stake here.
‘Do we?’ he enquired, closely checking out the credentials. ‘Well in that case, you had better come in.’ I carried out my usual ritual of surveying for possible ammunition like photos as I entered the house.
‘You have a nice home Mr Marchment.’ I enthused, the compliment card given to sweeten him up.
‘Don’t try to patronize me son. It’s sir to you, where’s your manners.’ He certainly is laying down the ground rules. I’ll have to watch my step. He showed me to the drawing room.
‘I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to sound patronizing,’ I said making amends for my gaffe. This tough old cookie was giving me a severe challenge to overcome. Thankfully, he accepted my apology. He pointed out an armchair for me, I sat down with the old man opposite me.
‘Before we start,’ I said, ‘do you have a driving licence or similar to clarify your residence here? By law, we have to ask this because of the increase in identity fraud.’ It was straight down to business once again.
‘How dare you come here and ask me for proof you cheeky rascal.’ He was angry. ‘Do you want to sell this product to me or not?’ A stark ultimatum faced me.
‘I take back what I just said and get straight down to the demonstration sir.’ I’m going to concede defeat in my attempt to dupe Mr Marchment. For once, I have to work damn hard for an honest sale. After the demonstration of the Power Sweep, I looked to the old man for his comments; sweat drenching my brow.
‘I’ll take one.’ He said the very words to be music to my ears. I’m having visions in my mind of popping champagne corks; the 100,000 sales target now about to be secured. I pulled out the paperwork, started to fill in the details, my shaking hand to guide the pen. I kept my composure in check until the deal was signed and delivered. I completed the relevant sections and I pass the paperwork over to Mr Marchment for his signature. He shocked me when he tore the document into shreds.
‘You are a fraud Mr Harpon, because I did not request your presence here and will not do business with you.’ His finger jabbed at me; his words struck me with venom.
I retaliated. ‘You stupid man,’ I said annoyed that the deal had soured at such a crucial moment in time. ‘You’ll pay for that.’ I rose from the chair.
‘Not as stupid as you Hugo.’ A voice took me by surprise. It stopped me in my tracks. I turned to the doorway, to see the company’s Managing Director and Jason standing before me. ‘My father-in-law requested to me that he wanted Jason for the appointment. I was ready to allocate the booking to him it and strangely enough, it had already been scheduled to you before it had even been posted on the system. It led me to look into your dealings and with the help of Jason; we’d discovered the extent of fraud you had committed. The police have been notified.’ My well-oiled network of deceits and cover-ups crumbled under the words of the company’s MD. Golden boy Jason just smiled at me, my comeuppance to be sweet, leaving him a clear run at the big prize. All my dreams in tatters, I became a drowning man. I can’t be saved.