The man walked along the dusty sidewalk in the heat of the afternoon. A dry day, the sun was glaring intemperately at the ground and slowly baking everything it touched. He wore a black suit, an act of masochism given a day without relent and it caused him to sweat beneath his clothing until he was damp all over. This made it all somehow worse, not unlike the heavy satchel he carried by its worn grip. Inside the satchel were the parts of a vacuum cleaner, set in an attractive display he hoped would tempt the ladies of the house he would demonstrate to.
It had been a long time since his last sale, and in spite of the difficulty in finding people to work the company sales routes he felt his job was in jeopardy. For a few months now he’d been living on the tiny base stipend he was paid; no sales equals no commission, and left him with hardly enough to live on. The street upon which he walked was new to him though. Just two weeks ago he was on the block just to the north of where he now strode. Many knocks on many doors had merited annoyed dismissals and not a one had invited him for a simple glass of water. Today, he would almost pay for the privilege of sipping from an outdoor faucet. The sun was so hot. So very hot.
Or was it two weeks ago? Yesterday? He began to consider his route. Where had he been so far? He knew, having just thought of it, about the next block over. But as he walked, he realized he couldn’t recall waking up or traveling to the town. The more he thought about it, the more he couldn’t seem to recall much about anything. Certainly he had recollections of his youth, memories of family moments, going to school and playing with friends, but now that he thought of it, his actions of late were all tremendously vague. It was as if his days began as his feet stepped one after the other on his sales route and then ended as the sun would exhaust itself from its hard work and sink below the horizon.
His steps would occasionally echo off of the prim houses set to each side of the street. Not the best of neighborhoods and certainly not the worst. It was an average mid-west neighborhood, not attaining the status of middle class. No, something less than that, but at a level where the residents still cared for their little yards; tiny patches of beige grass, dry as tinder. So dry that should he step on a lawn, it would make a quiet crunch underfoot. Lord, it was hot.
He wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his suit coat, leaving a wet spot which when dry would leave a white salt residue. He brushed the thought away, better to wipe than endure the burning of the eyes as his perspiration would run down into them. So terribly hot. His mind thumbed through memory pages and he thought back to his one sale. How long ago was it? Weeks, he supposed. And then the woman had changed her mind and demanded her money back even before he’d left the house. He’d refused, of course, telling her that she would have to take up a return with the head office. In reply she’d cursed him and told him to go to hell. He’d laughed at that remark. As if he wasn’t already in a kind of hell as it was. No money, no prospects –save for the job. Her complaints meant little to him. Let her complain. He’d managed his commission and that was all there was to that. Besides, she was an ugly old crone. Like he was, she’d been dressed in all black, frizzy hair that looked like it was trying to escape he ugly face. And she was ugly, right down to a huge mole on the side of her nose from which a thick single hair reached out, tendril like. No, he felt no threat for his job, not from her. Not like it was much of a job. Good Lord, it was hot outside.
“Go to hell, she says” he said to no one. “Hell. That would be an upgrade.”
But man, it sure was hot.