07 April 2011

From the Land of Sky Blue Waters

Merv Duckwiler, that old door-to-door vacuum-tube salesman, sat down at the bar just after he shook the dust of a hot Kansas afternoon off his sandals.  In his case those sandals were a pair of brown, scotch-grained bluchered wingtips with a double sole.  "Damn fine shoe," he thought to himself when he bought them.  "That's a damned fine shoe," the shoe salesman said to him, confirming Merv's thoughts.

"Gimme a bourbon on the rocks - a double," Merv called out to Donny the bartender.  Good old Donny.  Donny always set you up right.  Donny always poured just one more for you when you needed it.  Donny always listened.  Donny never judged you, like some people.

"Hot one out there, Merv. How's sales today?"  asked Donny as he obliged with the double bourbon on the rocks.

"It's rough," confessed Merv, "with that new radio store over in Wichita, people just take a drive.  Buy some corn, buy their milk and booze and they buy a radio tube.  Japanese crap."

"Take your medicine, chief," suggested Donny.

"Yeah.  Japanese crap."  Merv slowly sipped at his bourbon and felt the tension kind of slip away.  He stared at the electric picture over the bar.  The little lighted sign revolved or something, somehow, and a placid, tranquil scene of a northwoods lake with a canoe on its shore advertised some beer named 'Hamm's'.  The picture revolved internally and you would see the shoreline of the lake pass by every minute or so.  Merv voiced his approval to Donny.  "You got this 'Hamm's' beer here?"

"No, sorry - ain't that something else?  My brother Steve in Minnesota sent that to me just last week."

"Nice," replied Merv, and accepted a refill on his double bourbon.

The afternoon was just as hot, he realized, no matter how much bourbon was coursing through your veins.  After a second and a third and then a fourth double, Merv settled up, tipped his hat to Donny and headed out into the late, late afternoon sun of Augusta, Kansas.  In a few hours that sun would be going down and framing Wichita off to the west in a golden glow, and there would be some ass of a pimply-faced kid in a radio hut or a radio shack or a radio house or some damned thing selling a vacuum tube to his customer.  Merv Duckwiler's customer.  Merv Duckwiler's hard-won, fought-for, pandered-to customer who meant the ever-loving difference between a full belly and an aching, aching hollow when those Japanese for-crap tubes start selling off the ever-loving shelves in that radio hut or that radio shack or that radio house or some damned thing.  Wichita.  "You could just go shove that whole filthy city where the sun don't ever want to shine no more," a reeling, staggering vaccuum tube salesman shouted at the hot, deserted Augusta downtown.

Merv Duckwiler started feeling something welling up in his gut, and he knew those four double bourbons would see the light of day one more time.  Don't scuff those wingtips, Merv, as you kneel down in the alley behind Donny's Place, kneeling and praying and vomiting and wishing you were paddling a little fiberglass canoe on the placid, tranquil lake in northern Minnesota.

Customers hate scuffed shoes on a salesman, you know.

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