The colorful old truck clattered down the street, attracting the attention of a handful of people. It came to a stop on the courthouse square, and a rotund little man appeared from the cab.
He squinted into the sun, then peered at the small crowd gathering around him.
He rubbed his hands together, then smiled, revealing a row of tiny, perfect teeth. “Well, well. Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Albert Simmons at your service. May I show you some of my wares?”
Before anyone could reply, he opened a battered trunk. He pointed at a little boy staring intently at him. “Young man. I bet you would love to have this, wouldn’t you?” One stubby hand held up a shiny silver cap gun.
The little boy’s eyes twinkled when he saw it. He turned to a woman standing beside him. “Can I have it, Mom?”
She glanced at her son, then leveled her eyes at the peddler. “Mr. Simmons, I’m hesitant to let my child play with a gun. Even a cap gun.”
“Oh, I quite understand, Ma’am, but this isn’t just an ordinary cap gun. Why no, it’s a fine scale replica of the gun used by Doc Holliday in the shoot out at the OK Corral. It’d be a treasure for any young man to have.”
The little boy pulled on his mother’s hand. “Please. I won’t shoot it. I promise.”
“I don’t know.” She faced Mr. Simmons again. “How much?”
“Nine dollars, Ma’am, and you won’t be sorry.”
“I’ll give you five.”
He handed the gun to the boy. “Done. Congratulations, young man.”
Mr. Simmons turned his attention to a middle-aged woman. “For you, Ma’am, I have something no kitchen is complete without.” He took a box-shaped object from the trunk. This will chop, shred or dice any fruit or vegetable in an instant. Surely you could use one of these.”
“Well, I don’t know. I ordered something like that from a TV ad once. It didn’t really work very well.”
“Oh, of course it didn’t. You see this?” He pointed to the underside of the contraption. “The model I carry is the only one with this double-edged surgical grade stainless steel cutting blade. It’s guaranteed. Surely you could use a wonderful time saver like this.”
“Well, maybe. How much is it?”
“I can let you have this today for the special price of fourteen dollars.”
“That sounds high. I wouldn’t be interested.”
“How about twelve dollars, and I’ll throw in the mini chopper for free. I’d hate to see you pass up a bargain like this.”
The woman rummaged through her purse. “I only have eleven dollars and thirty-seven cents.”
“Close enough. Enjoy it, Ma’am.”
The little man paced for a moment, then zeroed in on an elderly gentleman. “Sir, I’ve got just the thing for you. Do you ever have trouble sleeping?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Of course you do. We all do at times.” He held up an oddly shaped pillow. “If you had this, you’d sleep like a baby. Yes sir, this 100 percent Fantastic Foam pillow molds to the curves of your neck and upper back, allowing for a perfect fit to your body’s specific contours. I’ve got one myself. Can’t sleep without it any more.”
Just as the elderly man was about to reply, a police officer walked up to the peddler’s truck. “May I see your peddler’s license?”
“Peddler’s license? Why sir, I beg your pardon. I am not a peddler. No, not at all. I’m an artist.”
“An artist? I don’t see any paintings.”
“No sir, you don’t. That’s because I’m not that kind of an artist. I’m an expert in the art of salesmanship. Just like painters and sculptors create beautiful pieces of art, I create desire in people for things before they even realize they want them. ”
“You’re a peddler. Obviously you don’t have a license. I’ll need to see your ID.”
The little man frowned and handed his ID to the officer.
“ I recognize this name. You’ve been arrested for this before.”
The peddler looked at the handcuffs in the policeman’s hand. “Surely we can overlook this little indiscretion just this once. I’ll pack up and move along.”
“Sorry. Hands behind your back.”
“You don’t have to use those, do you?”
The officer snapped the cuffs firmly around Mr. Simmons wrists. “Afraid I do, Michelangelo. I’m an artist, too, and these assist me in the art of persuasion.”
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