Here’s the third installment of my short story Test Drive. Hope you enjoy it.
******** TEST DRIVE ********
Margo stood and ran her hands down the thighs of her wool pants. She readjusted the collar of her cashmere sweater, trying not to bring Rob’s attention back to her chest. Pulling the leather jacket off its hook, she morphed her features into her salesperson mask, shrugged her arms into the coat sleeves, and headed into the chilled sunlight.
“Good morning, my name’s Margo McCaffrey,” she said as she extended her hand to the potential client.
“Good morning lass. John. John Anderson.” The old man averted his eyes as he spoke. The hand that caught hers was firm and calloused, incongruous to the white hair sticking out at odd angles from under the tweed fedora. His hunched back didn’t appear crooked with age, but arched at a graceful angle. The cane he held in his left hand wasn’t supporting any of his substantial weight.
“I’d like to take something out for a test drive,” he said, craning his neck to inspect the inventory. “It’s a surprise for the missus. Our fortieth anniversary. I want something sporty, not an old fuddy car.” His voice was strong, like his hands.
Margo laughed. “A two seater?” she asked in jest. But when John’s head shot up, the intensity of his gaze caught her by surprise.
“No, two seats won’t be enough.” He toyed with his graying goatee, pulling at his bottom lip and distorting the words.
“Excuse me Mr. Anderson? I didn’t hear you.” Margo shifted her weight between her feet. The nervous tick of his jaw and the constant motion of his hands put her on edge.
“That blue one, that’s good.” John pointed with his cane, then used it to limp over to a midnight blue, four door Sebring with a spoiler. “This is the one.”
“That’s a stick shift, are you sure you wouldn’t want an automatic?” Margo hated to make assumptions about his disability, but he did appear to use the cane when he walked.
“Drove a stick all my life, no sense changing now.” He checked his watch. “Color’s perfect, can I try it out?”
“Sure, let me get the keys and the plate, and we’ll go.”
“Could I just drive it over to the house and pick up the missus?” The edge in his voice brought her up short.
“Ahh, it would be just sort of more romantic,” he said almost apologetically. John’s cowboy boot scuffed the tar as he smiled hopefully.
“Mr. Anderson, it’s fine if we pick up your wife, but it’s County Mall Motors’ policy to have a salesperson with you on the test drive.” Margo lied. They lived in a small town. She rarely went on test drives with potential buyers. “Let me just get the keys and some plates.”
As she ran inside to collect the necessary items, Margo wondered why she’d said it. It wasn’t policy. It wasn’t even their normal procedure. They often let people take cars out–sometimes overnight. What was it about this guy?
“Rob, back in a few, I’m taking the old guy out in the Sebring. He won’t buy, but it’ll give him a thrill.” She spoke to him before she realized he was on the phone. Margo pulled the keys off the rack on the wall in the manager’s office. As she reached for the magnetic “dealer” plate, she caught sight of John out the side window. He was facing the Sebring, talking animatedly on a cellphone. Kneading a knot out of his low back, he arched his spine, the useless cane hanging from the crook of his elbow. His lips moved rapidly as he spit words into the phone. Checking his watch, he yelled and slammed his fist on the car roof before snapping the phone shut and shoving it back into the pocket of his baggy suit jacket and resuming the arched stance.
Every instinct screamed at her not to be alone with this guy. Margo shot a look at Rob who was laughing with the person on the phone. On the other hand, she really didn’t want to put up with any crap from him if she turned this customer away. Not much of a choice.
Swallowing her discomfort, Margo forced her mouth into a plastic smile and headed out for a test drive.
Copyright Kara Dunn 2008