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The Salesman — Madelyn Kittle
A reimagining of Quiroga’s “Three Letters and a Footnote”

I’m told it’s dangerous to walk around the way I do. But this makes no difference to me. My business is transporting precious cargo intended for life-changing moments. I have a secret that nobody else knows, a delicious secret that fills my body with simultaneous shuddering joy and debilitating dread. A fresh crop of goose pimples prickles above my collar as I think about the treasure that I hold, ignoring the heat of the morning sun leaching through my coat and shirt.

I look to the left and see the magnifying rectangle of the streetcar emerge over the horizon. The persistent rays reflect and bounce off the chrome trim, causing me to squint and raise my hand against my brow as temporary shade. It’s never a good idea to leave one’s hat at home, perched jauntily (but quite uselessly) on the rack.

As the streetcar comes to a screeching halt, I glanced swiftly over the occupants behind the glass, weighing my chances of taking this line to my final destination safely against the likelihood that I’ll be detained at the next stop. There are very few people on board staring back at me, so I decide to take my chances. Must be too early in the morning for the factory workers and shop girls that usually populate this line. The hydraulic doors swing open, and the smell of exhaust perfumes the air.

I board the streetcar, not pausing to stomp the desert off my feet, searching the rows for the least-threatening seatmate. My eyes rest on the face of a young woman. Her large gray eyes peer curiously into mine, and a touch of humor plays on her healthy pink lips. She moves over in the seat towards the window and I accept the invitation.

Making my way down the aisle of the streetcar, I heft the treasures in my pocket discreetly. The goose pimples threaten to make a comeback, but I shake them off and slide into the brown leather bench seat beside her. I adjust myself for a few seconds, trying to get comfortable in what I know will be my only chance for leisure today.

She is refusing to meet my eyes now. Disappointing, but for the best. Perhaps the young lady is offended by my tie , I think, glancing down at the elaborate mauve and chartreuse swirls.

A glint catches my peripheral and I shift my gaze left to rest on a tiny glittering diamond ring nestled in a pile of boot dirt. A temporary paralysis overcomes all but my heart, which pounds in my chest. Adrenaline burns through my thighs and I inhale sharply. Quickly calculating the distance between the pile and my own foot, from which it seemed to have been loosed, I send my eyes to the heavens in silent prayer and begin inching my size eleven boot toward the escapee.

Moving at a snail’s pace, I slide my foot, first the heel, then the toe in the direction of the jewel. So as not to draw attention to the doings of my lower half, I keep my eyes on the roof and my top half in paralysis until I’ve covered the distance.

After what seems like eternity without purchase, I look down and find an empty space. Empty. As in nothing. There is nothing on the floor. The diamond ring is gone. The pile of dirt has been swept away. My heart drops into my stomach as I look up at the woman.

She is gazing out the window, seemingly lost in a world of her own, the same gentle humor returned to her lips. I look down at the floor again, then back at her. Finally she turns to me, her face darkened with warning.

Slowly, I begin to understand.