WWP Week 1: The Salesman

In Fiction on October 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Last week I proposed a new, weekly writing prompt based on Wikipedia’s featured article of the day. I dubbed it the Wednesday Wiki-prompt, and today I’m making good on my promise by sharing the fruits of my labor.

Last week the featured article was on Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s duet ‘Say Say Say’ (it was a hit, somehow, despite being…horrible. Watch the video at the end of this post for the proof). Anyway, as bad as the song is, the music video inspired this short story (I’m breaking my own rules, week one, by going over the 500 word cap, but what are rules for if not to be broken? Shh, don’t answer that).

Anyway, enjoy.


A selection of jars containing herbs and other potion ingredients

The Salesman

The salesman was lithe and frail and had a showman’s grace. He held the bottles up for all to see – glinting orange and pink in the sun, then blue and green – before setting them rattling in the back of his cart.

“One sip, friends, will give an ordinary man amazing strength,” he said. His voice was rasping and thin, nearly a whisper, but the crowd was perfectly silent. “An entire bottle –well! Let’s just say that your life will be changed forever.”

The bystanders laughed; Samuel snorted.

“Charlatan,” he grumbled.

“Oh, he’s not hurting anyone,” Anna replied. “And it’s a nice diversion isn’t it? Nice to get away and spend some time…together?” She gave Samuel’s hand a furtive squeeze, and Samuel reddened.

“He’s leading honest people astray, is what he’s doing, and stealing their hard-earned money.”

Anna sighed. The salesman was strutting before the crowd.

“But you don’t have to take my word for it,” he said, “let me show you! Do I have a volunteer?”

Anna giggled and gave Samuel a shove at the small of his back, sending him stumbling into the clearing.

“There’s a good lad!” the salesman cried, and he turned to his cart. When he faced the crowd again, he held a horseshoe lightly between his thumb and forefinger.

“For luck, boy – you need it as badly as you need my elixir, from the look of you.”

The crowd laughed and Samuel felt the crimson spread on his cheeks, but the Salesman smiled kindly.

“Only a joke, lad, I meant no harm,” he said.  “Here, take that and see if you can bend it for me.”

Samuel took the horseshoe in his hand and glowered. He stood a moment, awkwardly stooped, humiliated and reluctant. But then his eyes met Anna’s, and she smiled.

“Alright…” he said, and he gave the horseshoe a squeeze – only half-heartedly at first, but then so fiercely that his arms shook and his brow broke out in a sweat. But the metal was unmoved.

“Not to worry, son,” the salesman said with a grin. “It’s no easy task – give it here.”

The salesman took the horseshoe and, with an effortless turn, twisted it into an elegant spiral. He tossed it off into the dust with a bored affect and let out a rasping chortle.

The crowd whispered their amazement, and Samuel heard the jingle of silver, as here and there purses were made ready.

“There’s some trick,” he groused, pushing the salesman aside. He strode to the cart, tossed two coins into the coffee pot that waited there, and violently unstoppered a bottle.

“I’ll show you,” he growled, and he downed the iridescent liquid in one pull. “Here, hand me another shoe,” he demanded.

The salesman held up his hands and bowed slightly.

“Now, son, give it time,” he wheezed. “The effects are… gradual.”

“Or non-existent.” Samuel laughed and started back into the crowd, satisfaction curling the corners of his mouth. “You’ll get nothing more from –”

But then he stumbled, and staggered, and sank to one knee. He coughed and there seemed a gurgling rush building somewhere deep within his chest. The salesman reached for him in a useless gesture, but Samuel had already collapsed.

Suddenly, wave after wave of thick, blackened blood began pulsing from Samuel’s mouth and onto the thirsty ground. His eyelids fluttered and his feet twitched and his body shook — as Anna’s screams went shrill into the cloudless sky.

In his last moments, Samuel felt a hot breath on his neck, smelling sulfur and bile as the salesman knelt over him.

“I said my elixir would give a man strength,” he whispered, so quietly that no one but Samuel could hear. “I never said which man.”


And there you have it! This length is a particular challenge, I think, so I’m going to keep doing this every Wednesday. As with everything I write, your comments and criticism are extraordinarily welcome.

The prompt article for next week is Madagascar. If you’d like to join me, come up with a story somehow inspired by that article (I’ll say 500 words or less, but as is evident from my own effort, that’s pretty flexible), and link it up here — then I’ll share them all next week when I post my own story.

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  1. Very nice…weirdly though the whole story was sound-tracked by SAY SAY SAY for me and I had Michael Jackson as the salesman, Linda as Anna, Paul as Samuel.

    Gonna have a go with Madagascar…

    • Why, because MJ is lithe and frail and graceful? Actually, that kinda works haha — glad to have you aboard with Madagascar!

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