HOW NOT TO HAGGLE

by Michael Wayne

“Hello, sexy!” he yelled at the girls as they passed. He had to yell so as to bridge the wide berth they’d given him. “I’d fuck her,” he muttered to no one in particular, leering after them a moment more before turning his attention back to me. Perhaps feeling he’d been too subtle, he raised his eyebrows at me as he squinted in the afternoon sun. “You can have it for ten bucks if you fuck her.” A hollow laugh escaped me, but he wasn’t smiling. “Final offer.”

“It’s worth thirty as is,” he declared. It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “Look at it,” I said. “How am I supposed to plug it in without the cord?” He looked hurt. “My friend…” he sighed, “Fucking women took it. It’s in here somewhere, leave your money and I’ll find it for you.” He picked up a tangled mess of cords, and then suddenly hurled it to the ground in anger. “Never fuck a woman! It will be a lay-by for you.” I laughed off the suggestion that my money would be safe with him, especially since he’d already told me what he planned to buy with it. I was far more interested in these women that had allegedly absconded with his goods – as if a woman had ever entered his shop. “What women?” I enquired from behind a mask of innocence. It was his turn to laugh.

When he spoke, his voice was full of enough bitterness and regret to fill his shop five times over. “My friend, when you fuck a woman,” he started, emphasising his point by crossing his arms over his pelvis, “won’t be long before she fucks you. I was worth a million dollars,” he said, as he stared wistfully off into the distance between us. “But then…she cleaned me out. She sucked my dick. Took the four kids.” He must have noticed me straining to hold back a smirk…he must have. But if he did, he didn’t give any indication. Instead, he blurted out a proposal that must have been on what was left of his mind a good while: “Do you want to live here?

“When she left and sucked me, she took my four kids,” he explained. He was still canny enough to realise that what he’d said needed context. “I used to be worth millions, and now I am alone. Four bedrooms upstairs empty.” Before I could respond, he added “You know something, my friend? I used to gamble fifty thousand a night. I once gambled fifty thousand in one night.” I shook my head. “Did you lose it all?” He nodded gravely but with a hint of pride as he proved his mangled point to me. I looked around, making a show of taking in the dank surroundings he now called home. I made sure my gaze came to linger on the item I wanted. “Then you should take ten bucks for that.”

He tapped his dirty fingers on the table. “My friend, there’s something you’re not understanding. This is brand new item.” I held back an urge to inform him that it had been released over ten years ago. “Easily worth two hundred. If you’re not careful, a desperado will show up here today and pay me two hundred for it.” I looked up and down the empty street. “Then I hope for your sake he’s on his way,” I told him. I pulled out the ten dollar note to show him I meant business. “Mate,” he said, closing his eyes. “I can’t buy a packet of cigarettes for that. I can’t eat pussy for that.”

HUUAAJJOOAARRRR!” His sudden explosion of gibberish caught me off guard, and he smirked as I jumped – a sign of weakness that had compromised my position in our mind game. I turned around to see what he’d yelled at; a hotted-up shitbox of a car sped off up the street. “Who was that?” I asked in a desperate attempt to take the heat off my tell. “I don’t know,” he said, his gaze still fixated on where the car had been. His left eye had a scratch on the eyelid. I wondered how you’d get a scratch like that.

He turned back to me with a look of finality; clearly we were entering end game. “My friend,” he began. “How did you get here?” I felt fear wash over me. As it so often does, my mind started to race through the possibilities, the implications. What did he mean? What was he planning? Oh, Christ…had that yell been a signal…to the guy in that car? Was I going to be followed, and ambushed for the $10 he knew I had? Was he that determined? In a heartbeat I mentally evaluated our entire relationship, scanning it for clues, signs, any hint that he might not be the friendly, stubborn sex-pest I’d come to know.

I needed to buy some time. “Why do you wanna know?” Weak, yes, but he wasn’t worth extra effort. “Well, did you catch the bus, did you walk, what?” I still couldn’t figure where he was going with this. “I drove,” I started, suddenly inspired. “In fact, I can’t wait to put that machine in the back of my car if you’ll just take the ten-” My attempt to steer proceedings back to the matter at hand was dismissed by a wave of his hand. “Which car is yours?” Gulp. I’d been right, this was part of some shakedown. I’d been played, and I’d lost hard. Time to kiss my tenner goodbye, not to mention my car and anything inside it. It suddenly occurred to me exactly how he’d scored all the junk in his shop. They weren’t inventory…they were trophies.

I waved my arm toward the nearby carpark, where I had in fact parked. A quick glimpse of the scene brought comfort: my car was obscured by a truck. Phew. But I was still backed into a corner. There was only one trick I had available to me. “That ute there,” I replied, hoping I hadn’t taken too long in doing so. I turned my wave into a gesture toward the beat-up ute, which was the vehicle closest to his shop. “Oh,” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief – my trick had worked. Maybe now I could get this deal done and get out of here. But he wasn’t finished. “That’s my ute.”

Check mate.

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