Richie Mullins was full of shit. Everyone knew it, but no one more than Lars, and no one in quite the same way as Lars. After all, he had been following Richie Mullins for weeks, tracking his movements, his patterns, his leads. Lars had even lost potential clients because of his investigating. It didn’t matter, though. With so much at stake, it was justifiable. The truth had to be known, and Lars would be the one to reveal it for all to see. Richie Mullins- in  front of the executives of the company, the district and regional management, the headquarters administration, in front of everyone- would be exposed and humiliated, and with any luck, fired. That company-wide number one sales award would be Lars’ once again. Lars smiled as he sipped his champagne, pleased with himself.

It wasn’t that Lars was interested in being number one, it’s just that he wasn’t interested in being anything other than number one. To be cheated out of it, however, that was a different situation altogether. He’d established that personal precedent long ago and could not allow it to be broken. If he were to allow Richie Mullins to cheat him out of being the best, then what about the next Joe Blow that came along? Pretty soon, the whole world would be walking all over him starting with everyone in that dining hall, and the name Lars Jefferson would forever be synonymous with ‘schmuck’. Was he to sit idly by and let this happen? No, because Lars Jefferson was a salesman.

Even then while he’d been watching Richie Mullins from his rental car- which he’d obtained for the purpose of remaining clandestine- Lars had considered that perhaps everyone might think he had gone off the deep end.  Of course, this was ridiculous, and he’d laughed out loud. Once the evidence was laid bare, Lars knew they’d realize that he was steadfastly committed to the company, and, therefore, deserving of a raise and promotion at the very least.

   Lars had prepared his presentation meticulously, dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’. His arsenal of evidence included two graphs, an interactive outline, photocopies of official documents signed and dated, and even high definition images taken by the eyewitness himself. It was all there. Sure, they’d think he’s crazy at first, but once he got started, they’d see. They’d know. They’d toast him. They’d applaud him. They’d cheer him. His photograph would return to its rightful place in the “Employee of the Year” frame- in addition to Employee of the Month. Life would return to the way it had always been. It would all be right again.

Lars had worked hard- better yet- he’d slaved away for years to learn the trade, studied all the ins and outs, mastered the tricks, memorized the scripts. His most prized possessions were the seven ties he’d sacrificed to tie-cutting ceremonies. Being a salesman was more than just getting people to buy things. Anyone could sell. Computer programs could sell. Some talented salespeople could even sell things that people don’t need. However, when it came down to Lars, it was an art. He could walk into a stranger’s home, no appointment necessary, present an item they’d never heard of much less needed, and be willingly given their money, and lots of it. There was a psychology to this kind of transaction, one that he had long mastered. He could sell a telescope to a blind man. Lars knew this because he had.

It wasn’t that Lars was interested in being number one, it’s just that he wasn’t interested in being anything other than number one.

   Lars lived for sales, and he was convinced at this point in his life that it was simply in his blood. After all, his father had been in sales, his father’s father had been in sales, and his aunt had been a hooker, which is kind of like being in sales. It had been sales that gave him a purpose. It had been sales that had kept him moving even when his wife took the children and left, even through the mornings he didn’t think he could get out of bed, and the nights before when he didn’t think he could go to bed. Sales had kept him alive, and all was well.

   Then they hired Richie Mullins, and the world rolled over. He was a slick, young guy with a straight, bright smile, and a way of making everything he said sound like he’d just read it off a billboard somewhere. Lars was certain the kid was a phony, though he wasn’t foolish enough to believe that there was any other kind of salesman. Richie Mullins convinced people he actually cared about them, though. He fed them line after empathetic line, deceptively leveling the field, removing the jacket and tie, so to speak, and Lars found it disgusting. He’d seen it on Richie Mullins’ first day. Of course, management tasked Lars to show the new kid the ropes since he was the best there was. The very first stop they made, Richie Mullins threw the whole playbook out the goddamn window. The script? What script? The demonstration model? To hell with the models. Lars couldn’t respect anyone who didn’t have respect for the rules, and if the rules say to do this and that, then you did this and that and in the specified order. It was sales. People expected to be sold to, and anyone who defied that was dangerous. It broke the salesman-customer bond of understanding, and Lars almost spat right there just thinking about it.

   Lars did not spit, however, because at that exact moment, he heard his cue. The president of the company was at the podium, looking out over them like Christ himself preaching to his disciples on the mount. There were at least two hundred of them, pressed and dressed, full of catered chicken, pork, or fish depending on how you responded to the email a month prior, sipping their single glass of champagne slowly to make it last. The president had been going on about the quarterly breakdown and how proud he was of each and every person there, that without them, the company simply wouldn’t be. Without them, he wouldn’t be so stinking rich. His employees laughed zealously. Lars’ blood pressure began to rise with anticipation. He breathed deeply to keep his heart from racing beyond control. A few minutes later, five salespeople stood beside the president who was instructing them to give it up for Richie Mullins, the company’s MVP of the year.

   Lars knew this was it. Richie Mullins’ career was about to be flushed down the toilet, and Lars was at the lever. He would wait for the right moment to jump up and object. There would be a dramatic gasp across the room as he strode to the stage. The president would ask him what the meaning of this was. Lars would take the podium, lean into the microphone, and tell the truth about Richie Mullins. Richie Mullins, the phony. Richie Mullins, the deceiver.

   Lars Jefferson did just that. He jumped up and shouted his objection just as the president was about to hand Richie Mullins the award trophy. The audience gasped. He approached the stage with long, confident strides. The president, bewildered, demanded to know what the meaning of all this was. Lars leaned into the microphone and told everyone the truth about Richie Mullins the phony, Rich Mullins the deceiver. He pressed the button in his pocket, and his presentation illuminated the white wall behind them. He showed them his two graphs, the interactive outline, all the photocopies of official documents signed and dated, and each high definition image taken by him, the eyewitness.

   When he stopped speaking, Lars stood before a silent audience, eyes all wide and in varying degrees of shock and amusement. From an unknown corner of the room, a pair of hands began to clap. Then another. And another. The room erupted in great ovation. Richie Mullins shrank away, exposed and humiliated. The president beamed at Lars, before silencing the crowd to tell them how evident it was that Lars was steadfastly committed to the company, and, therefore, deserving of a raise and a promotion. The president asked how they ever could have been so blind.

One week later, as the sunset cast its vivid colors into his new corner office, Lars stood proudly surveying the view of his seven, cut ties which had been framed and mounted on his wall. He smiled contentedly, reminiscing over all the years of hard work that had brought him there. He’d sweat, bled, and cried for sales. There had been times of famine and times of plenty alike, but he’d marched right through it. Some may have even labeled it an addiction, but Lars knew it was love. Love of the chase. Love of the close, of looking into the eyes of the willing prey, navigating into their subconscious and extracting the “yes”. It was for the preservation of all this that Lars had gone to such lengths to vanquish Richie Mullins and preserve the integrity of the sale. It hadn’t been the first time, and, he considered, it might not be the last. No matter, he would do what had to be done. After all, wasn’t that why they’d promoted him to director of sales? Yes, because Lars Jefferson was a salesman.

   Lars, however, was not a director, and within a month’s time he was fired from the company, and he never made another sale again.



Studies In gray.