One shot for new writers

I was secretly checking out the New York Times Style section instead of updating the current interest rates for loans from the various banking institutions in the area. Busy work. It's a Wednesday afternoon and I am at my first job. Please, dear God, don't let this first job be the gateway to my entire career. This is not at all what I had in mind at any point in my educational career. Although Billy's Used Vehicles was not even close to what I was expecting as my first job, I am definitely blooming where I have been planted.

I graduated this spring, with honors no less, with a bachelors degree in fashion design and merchandising. I plan to have my own boutique but that's my future. My original plan was to work for another designer for two to five years and design my own line in my spare time. With this first crucial job I'd make contacts and network with suppliers.

I started my job search at the beginning of my senior year. I contacted international houses of couture in New York. One very obscure line offered me an unpaid internship. I thought about it for a couple hours and had to decline. Financially my family can't help with a cross country move plus the living expenses of New York City. I had family or friends in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas and concentrated on those cities. Nothing from nobody. I lowered my sights and interviewed at department stores to be a buyer. Not a peep from anyone.

So my first job out of college is working at Billy's Used Vehicles outside of Port Angeles, Washington. Besides Billy, who mainly stays in the office and procures used vehicles, there are two more employees. Jacob, Billy's son, is a couple of years younger than I am. He is more or less second in command. He helps his dad find suitable vehicles, fixes them if the repairs aren't too extensive and occasionally sells them, especially if the buyer is a young female. Jacob is very honest, funny as hell and enormously tall. We have fun together needling each other and kidding around.

Mike Newton is the other person in sales. Mike, or Michael as his name tag proclaims, is in the same situation as I am. He graduated this spring in finance and hasn't found a job in his field. Although Mike and I have the same job description. that is about all we share. He is not an effective saleman. He can't remember what we have in inventory. He can't remember standard details like the gas mileage of the vehicle in front of him, and worst of all, he can't remember the customer's name. My friend Rosalie met him last week and her initial impression was he's cocky with an undercurrent of inept. He does have a nice smile. He should; he wore braces for four years. I know both Jacob and Mike since middle school days. We know way too much about each other.

Mike and I both work the weekends and maybe one week day together. He's off today, so while I'm giving my eyes a rest from catching up on what I am missing in New York, I see a man park his very clean silver car in the open spaces in front of our "sales department". The spacious double wide trailer that is the "sales department" is also "headquarters", "financing" and "the restrooms".

I quickly peek at a mirror to make sure my make up is acceptable. I jump out of my chair and smooth down my pleated black skirt. Time to sell a vehicle!

My customer is wearing a lightweight dark gray wool gabardine slacks, an Egyptian cotton white oxford shirt, an Italian silk tie with navy blue and gold stripes and shiny black wingtips. He has won best dressed customer award for my brief career. I am happy already. Even if he doesn't buy anything, his appearance makes my heart sing.

I should mention the reasons I have done so much better than Mike at sales. I am very unimposing since I am all of 4 feet 11 inches. People call me a pixie and sometimes pat me on the head. The pixie part isn't a big deal but the patting of the hair is. My latest hair style is spiky so fewer people are so inclined. I also make small talk rather easily, unlike Mike, who can only talk about sports and maybe the weather. I absorb the details of the cars and can compare two or more effectively. But my secret is I know what people need and sometimes that's not what they really want. I don't truly read their minds. But that's about the best way to describe my innate talent. I also know exactly what they need for personal hygiene, wardrobe enhancement and personal enrichment, but I don't get paid for that nor do complete strangers embrace my suggestions. I don't broadcast that I can get into people's heads.

I stride over to the customer and slow down just a bit when I'm about fifteen feet away. Holy hell! He is gorgeous. He's taller than six feet, appears to be in fine physical condition with a thin wiry build with broad shoulders. His face is exquisite with pale smooth skin, stunning green eyes and messy, tousled, touchable hair that is light brown with all the highlights of blond and red to make it mesmerizing. After my initial evaluation leaving me completely dazzled, I remind myself that I have a perfectly perfect boyfriend and I am not in the market for a trade-in. Back to business!

"Good afternoon sir! I am Alice and thank you for stopping by to check out our vehicles. We are still having our Labor Day sale-a-bration event. Are you just browsing or do you have something in mind?" I offer my hand with a smile, look him up and down, reading his body language and his facial expression. He's not looking for a second car for the wife, he's not looking for something for off roading, he's not old enough to be buying his teenager a car. So what is he looking for? I do not know at all. This complete lack of knowing what he needs is new and completely mysterious. It's exciting but also unsettling.

"Hello, Alice. I'm Edward. I do have something in mind. I'm in the market for a pickup truck. The older the better."

Well. I didn't expect that at all. He doesn't look like a hunter, not even an antique hunter like my Aunt Sue. When I shook his hand it was soft, cool and smooth, giving the impression that he works in an office. Or maybe he's a musician. Not someone who needs to haul some pile of hobby material around or toss a dead carcass into the bed of the pickup.

"Certainly Edward! Follow me over to the left and we have a wide selection of used pick up trucks for you to see. Are you also considering an SUV?"

"Not, I need an old truck. No four wheel drive. No SUV."

Huh. Mr. Shiny Silver Car is messing with my mind a bit. No matter; I lead him to the left to look at the pickups.

He slowly strolls down the line, stops in front of several, tilts his head, wrinkles his brows then shakes his head and moves to the next. When he stops in front of the two red pick ups we have, he runs his right hand through his hair, tousling the already messy sexy hair into "mad scientist" category. Love watching him concentrate on shopping and love the physical outcome of his hair. I've never been so fascinated by a customer' s reaction to our inventory.

We get to the end of the pickup row. There's a slight frown on his face.

"Alice, are these all your pickups? I've been looking for a while at other dealers and I am just not finding I have in mind."

"Do you have a specific year and model in mind? How long have you been looking?" He looks like he has already done some homework and I would be surprised if he doesn't know exactly what he's looking for.

"Well, I'm looking for a pickup made in the late 1950's, possibly early 1960's. I've been looking for a couple months now. I've checked internet sites, I've looked all over Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. I thought this wouldn't be so difficult, but I should have started earlier I guess." He looks at me with big puppy eyes full of helpless "I need your amazing Alice skills so very badly". As I am a kind soul, I want to make him happy and get him what he has been searching for.

Yet I confused. He does not have the vibe of a collector. Why else would someone be combing the eastern portion of Washington for an ancient pick up? But I have an idea. I stride over to the open garage, with Edward following me silently.

Jacob is in the garage. We walk in just as he's slamming the hood of a Cadillac.

"Say Jacob! I'd like you to meet Edward. He's looking for an old pickup, preferably red. What's out on the lot isn't what he had in mind. Are you and Billy looking at anything right now that might be what he needs?"

Jacob gives Edward a very slow once over and shoots a "I'm superior in all things automotive" look to both of us. I'm used to his outward show of pride. Edward shakes his head and grimaces very slightly, then gives Jake a cold, hard stare. They have a 21st version of the beginnings of a gun fight at the OK corral, only without six shooters, chaps and cowboy hats. Edward has to look up slightly to look at Jake in the eye. Jacob has the supercilious look that cocky experts have before they school their dim and unenlightened pupils.

Jacob smirks then says, "We do have some prospects. Give me a sec." Jacob opens a drawer, roots around the detritus and finds a thumb drive. He inserts it into the computer on his desk, clicks a couple icons and gives us a slide show.

"These are some special vehicles that we know about but for whatever reason, the owner doesn't want to have the vehicle shown on the lot. They are all for sale, but we have to notify the owner to schedule a visit to see them." We are all watching the parade of vehicles on the computer screen. Some are true collector's dreams, like a couple of old Porsches and a Jaguar. Some are just strange, like a rusty 1970's Nova and a very decrepit 1990's Ford Explorer. I have to give Billy and Jacob some credit. They are dealing with the public and allowing people some dignity in selling their vehicle. I am learning some lessons from this job. I just wish those lessons had something to do with fashion.

About twenty slides into the stream of misfit vehicles, Edward lights up. "That one! That's what I need!"

Huh? He is pointing to the oldest pick up truck on the face of this planet. I see a home for rodents, but obviously he sees something completely past my level of understanding. I think it's red, but maybe it's just rust. Jacob and I exchange glances and he gives me a very slight shrug while I give him a small eyebrow raise. We both have the same opinion regarding customers: They are always right even when they don't make a bit of sense and you help them get to their goal.

"So Edward, let me call the owner. You have time to wait a bit? Alice can bring you into the sales department and you can rest a bit." Jacob punches the numbers of the owner's contact phone into his cell phone, while looking expectantly at me, then Edward, then the multipurpose building with our "sales department".

Edward appears not to have comprehended the subtle hint from Jacob that he'd like to talk to the owner in private. Edward is rooted into the ground with a misty look on his face, staring into nowhere. That right hand of his is messing his hair without cease. Edward's conscious being has left the building, this used vehicle lot and possibly the state of Washington, leaving his body behind. Although that body is very fine, I believe it's pretty worthless without the conscious.

I grab his left elbow and tug it a bit. "Say Edward, let's get to the sales department and have a bottle of water or a can of soda or something. It might be a while before Jacob can get a hold of the owner." Edward re-enters the earth's atmosphere to land back on our used vehicle lot. He gives his head a quick shake. "Of course. I'm just so happy I've found what I've been looking for. "

We slowly walk to the building. Actually, I walk and Edward glides/floats. He is really thrilled about this find. It's kind of cute. Gorgeous well dressed male with shiny expensive car is all gaga over a heap. It should be a movie. Or at least a half hour TV program.

"I didn't expect for you to want that pick up for a vehicle. Most Volvo owners are looking for used Volvos or maybe a 4 by 4 if they enjoy outdoor actiivities." I look expectantly at Edward. I do need to know why that totally undesirable vehicle is making him deliriously happy. I am totally mystified on what he sees in it. It's not safety, not looks, not cheap reliable transportation.

"I am going to give it to my fiancee for her birthday on the 13th." Oh dear Lord in the Sky. He must be completely immune to deBeers commercials, Tiffany print advertisements and any sort of advertising or marketing. Poor fiancee. She has a lifetime of bad gifts ahead of her.

Jacob walks over to us. "Alice, here's the contact information and directions to the owner's house. He's a ways away but he'd like it if you two can stop by tonight." Jacob again gives me a head shake and a shoulder shrug.

"I certainly will be most happy to meet the owner and check out the pick up. Let me call my fiancee to tell her I'm coming back late." Edward pecks out some numbers on his cell phone, murmurs a bit then flips the cell shut. "Let's go!"

"I'll drive us in my car, if that's okay, Edward? I know the area pretty well." I also want to make sure that he has a back up plan in case the pick up is a complete flop as a birthday gift. Why? I don't know. I just feel a little sympathy for the mystery birthday celebrant. She has good taste in men; I'd expect her to have good taste in other areas. This pick up is so undesirable. It's not like an ugly kitten or puppy that might have adorable quirks. The quirks this extremely ugly pick up might have include leaving the driver stranded, and then broke to get the heap fixed. Maybe I'll try to get Edward to consider adopting a stray animal for his fiancee. That can't be as bad as this gift.

We climb into my ancient but well-maintained yellow Porsche and head out of town. "Edward, not everyone buys their fiancee a used pick up for a birthday present. You must be very positive she wants this kind of a present?" Edward, please admit that you are a clueless but gorgeous male and we can turn around and shop in Port Angeles and find some nice jewelry, some clothes, shoes, anything besides this hideous vehicle.

"It's sort of a surprise. My fiancee, Bella, had a truck just like this in high school. She talks in her sleep and she's been missing it. We had some...nice...memories of the truck even though it was so old." Edward has a far away look again, and also has pink cheeks. Those memories must be at least R rated.

I am satisfied that just possibly this clunker is the perfect gift for Bella The Fiancee of Edward the Inspired. I completely understand sentimental gifts. They mean the most, even if they cost very little.

I smile and nod at Edward. "Say, Edward, that is very thoughtful. I have no doubt that Bella will be thrilled with her...gift. Can you help me out? Could you glance at the directions and let me know the next turn?"

"Ah, you are on 101? You just take 101 to a house north of Forks. Huh, that's funny. Bella is from Forks."

That's all I needed, a subtle sign. This is definitely the perfect gift for Bella The Fiancee. I smile at Edward and he grins back.