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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bold (emotionally) (08/30/07)

TITLE: Alfie Sells a Widget
By Jan Ackerson


Alfie Schwimmer looked at the phone in his hand, unsure what to do with it now that his boss had stopped talking. He was distinctly aware that his deodorant had failed; Mr. Dove had summoned him.

With sweat glistening on his high-domed brow, Alfie timidly tapped on Mr. Dove’s door. A voice boomed out “Come in!” Alfie opened the door and took a startled hop—Mr. Dove was standing there, his navy-suited hulk filling Alfie’s vision. “Alfie!” he said. “Have a seat, son. Let’s talk about your numbers.”

Perching nervously on a large, leather-covered chair, Alfie began to stammer. “I-I know I haven’t sold many widgets, Mr. Dove. I just c-can’t seem to make people…I mean, p-persuade people to buy…it’s hopeless. Who’d want to b-buy widgets from a l-loser like me?”

Mr. Dove pondered Alfie for a moment. “Alfie,” he said, “I need to see you in action. I’m going with you tomorrow. Nine o’clock sharp.” He stood—or rather, loomed—and Alfie scuttled from the office, a black cloud hovering between his head and the ceiling.

The next day, the two men set out for a nearby subdivision with a heavy suitcase full of widgets. They stood together on the porch of the first house. Alfie adjusted his necktie and tentatively rang the doorbell while Mr. Dove smacked him on the back. “Go get ‘em, boy!”

A woman opened the door about six inches and peered at the men. “Yes?” she said, with an irritated air.

“I wondered—that is to say—would you like to—“ Alfie hefted the suitcase. “W-widgets.” He gave the woman a hopeful and apologetic look.

“Oh, I don’t use widgets. I use doohickeys.” The door closed.

Alfie turned to Mr. Dove and shrugged. “She’s happy with the competitors—who am I to interfere?”

Mr. Dove was silent as they approached the next house. With a heavy feeling of foreboding, Alfie rang the bell. A man opened it wide, his eyes squinting with distrust.

Determined to show more confidence, Alfie hoisted the suitcase with its bright logo. “Widgets?”

“Don’t believe in ‘em!” Alfie’s ears literally rang with the reverberation of the slammed door.

He turned in despair to Mr. Dove, who was standing behind his right shoulder. “I shouldn’t try to compromise his beliefs—right?”

Mr. Dove draped an arm around Alfie’s hunched and dejected shoulders. “Try one more, m’boy.”

Alfie rang the third doorbell. No answer. He rang again, and silently counted to twenty. “Guess no one’s home, Mr. D—“. The door swung open, and a pleasant-looking young man stood there, his eyes alert and questioning.


Alfie had been determined to approach this sale assertively, but the young man’s eagerness intimidated him. “I don’t suppose…you’d like a widget,” he mumbled, his eyes downcast.

“A widget? Maybe. Lemme see one.” He held out his hand, and Alfie fumbled in the suitcase, dropping several widgets before finally handing over a sample.

The young man examined it with interest, then peppered Alfie with questions. “What this alloy? How many decibels is that sound? Will it function underwater? How many cubic centimeters is this component? Can it be linked to my PC?”

Flustered, Alfie looked around for help. Mr. Dove was at the end of the driveway, talking on his cell phone. “Um,” he said, clearing his throat. “I don’t exactly know…we’ll send you a brochure.” He made a hasty retreat, with the young man still standing in the open doorway, holding the sample widget.

He dragged the suitcase to Mr. Dove. “I’m a terrible salesman, sir. I couldn’t even answer his questions. You should just fire me.”

“Well, Alfie, I’m not going to do that. All my employees are valuable. Try this at the next house…” And as they walked, Mr. Dove gave Alfie his secrets.

Alfie approached the next house with a new boldness. “Ma’am,” he said to the lady at the door, “I’d like to show you something that’ll change your life.”

An hour later, she was holding her new widget and gushing thankfully. “You know, I wish I had this widget years ago. I’ve seen people with widgets—they always looked so happy—but I didn’t know how to get one. If I’d known how easy it was—and how great it is—I wouldn’t have made all those non-widget mistakes when I was younger. I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Schwimmer…”

As Alfie left the house, he noticed that his suitcase full of widgets felt as light as breath.

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This article has been read 1589 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey09/06/07
Great satire! I loved the dialogue ... each character was visual to me just because of the dialogue. And aren't we all a bit timid when selling widgets??!!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/06/07
This clever story demonstrates so well how to be a "bold" salesperson. It brought back a memory of my college days when I was working one of the front registers at Woolworths and was supposed to sell the pecan bars on the counter. My boss came to me one day and said, "Miss Cole, if I hear you say to one more person, 'You wouldn't want to buy one of these pecan bars, would you?' you're fired." Thanks for providing an interesting story and for stirring my memories.
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/06/07
Great story! I wish there had been more words available, as the resolution seemed to come to easily, but otherwise this was great, and I agree that the dialog was good.
Sheri Gordon09/06/07
Maybe I read more into this, but the following lines made me immediately think about the way I approach sharing my faith:

“Don’t believe in ‘em!” ...

He turned in despair to Mr. Dove, who was standing behind his right shoulder. “I shouldn’t try to compromise his beliefs—right?”

I don't share my faith boldly -- I let others dictate the flow of the conversation. And I'm easily turned away.

And your ending is wonderful.

I think your allegory is incredible. Great job with the topic.
Pat Guy 09/07/07
Yes, a great satire on our resposiblites when it comes to sharing our faith. (especially about being ready to give answer ...)

So many points! So well done. I was drawn in from begining to end of these simple lessons.

You tell a great story!
Jacquelyn Horne09/07/07
I don't know what you call articles like this, but it is a great example of how we witness. I suppose that was the point. Good writing.
Joanne Sher 09/08/07
Awesome allegory, thought-provoking cautionary tale, and humor! Who could ask for more than that? I absolutely LOVED this.
Sherry Wendling09/08/07
Great descriptions, dialogue, and flow. . .Your delightful satire is an arrow shot to the core!
Dee Yoder 09/08/07
Wonderful analogy! Great dialog and interesting characters. Perfect for the Challenge topic.
Lisa Holloway09/11/07
This is a too-true portrayal of how we often approach witnessing. I enjoyed your approach and your writing.
Sherrie Jackson09/11/07
I confess, I had to read the comments to realize this was an allegory. But I'm a bit hyper-literal, so don't worry too much!

You have a real gift for setting the tone of a piece, especially through dialogue. "Don't believe in 'em!" - that was perfect. :) I also liked how he was selling widgets, which could have been anything, and I see now is the tip-off to the allegory.

Superb job as always!
Betty Castleberry09/11/07
I'm smiling, but yet see the serious side of this, because it reminds me I need to examine my own witness.
Love the analogy drawn here, and love your milquetoast MC. Sometihng tells me he's going to be a top notch salesman.
Linda Watson Owen09/11/07
Oh, this is great! I think you were right on target with the balance in this delightful satire! Not too obscure. Not to obvious. Just right! Mr. "Dove"...haha...gotta love it!! ;-)
Brenda Welc09/12/07
Worst you have entered? Do me a favor, reach around your neck and pat yourself on the back. This was such a display of the underdog in all of us and how God is always there encouraging us to go on just one more time. The was a very feel good story! Great writing silly girl! You sold me a widget for sure!
Loren T. Lowery09/12/07
Good for Alfie's boss and his not giving up on him. See how perseverence blessed the end user! Yes, a lesson to all of us Alfies out there, that in life sometimes we just need to keep on keeping on.
Patty Wysong09/12/07
What a great demonstration of the difference boldness makes, and also how knowing a 'secret' (or two) can build one's boldness! Great dialog and descriptions of the two men. :-) hugs!
Kristen Hester09/12/07
Great! Your writing and dialogue is top notch as always.

I wanted to hear what Alfie's boss had to say. I was so sad to miss out on that.

I enjoyed this!
Diane Bertrand09/13/07
I know alfie..I AM Alfie. hehe...I was rejoicing for him when he sold a widget. Thanks for a great story.
Leigh MacKelvey09/13/07
Hey! Congrats! See!.. whether people understood the satire or not, it was still great reading and writing! Love Ya' Leigh
Janice Cartwright09/13/07
A great illustration that writing doesn't have to be heavy or morose to have depth of meaning. Because your dialogue is so brisk and colorful it acts like a memory peg to ensure this story stick with me a long while.
David F. Palmieri Sr.09/16/07
Beautiful allegory, "I art the man." I am Alfie. Half way through the reading I knew you were talking about my years of non-wittnessing excuses. Prayerfully the Lord is working in that area now in my life. Thank you for the reminder...congratulation
on your ribbon...Dave
Sharon Henderson10/20/07
I'm just sorry it took me so long to find and read this. It is so true to the faith sharing part of the Christian life. Don't we all need a Mr Dove to encourage us to keep on sharing? This needs to be submitted to a youth or young adult magazine with discussion questions and such.