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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)

TITLE: A Peddler's Portrait
By Betty Castleberry


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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This article has been read 1297 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Tabiatha Tallent01/25/07
Great job. Very interesting spin on the topic. Your dialogue was right on.
Timothy Oesch01/25/07
lol! That was definitely an amusing ending. Good break from writing about historical sorts of stuff. Personally I would have like to seen a little bit more description of the peddler himself and his mannerisms (the way he smiled, moved his hands, etc.) and perhaps had the buyers be a bit more precautions (kind of human nature), but overall definitely a good piece. Ending was extremely funny.
Chrissi Dunn01/25/07
Someone with a very good sense of humour wrote this one! Very funny, and well written.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/25/07
I loved this. The peddler stepped right out of another century to move comfortably into this one. Great job!
Joanne Sher 01/25/07
Boy, I didn't see that ending coming! You did a wonderful job of developing that wonderful "artist" character in the man. Definitely a fun take on the topic.
Edy T Johnson 01/26/07
This is just perfect! [My guess this is not only a winner (of course I've only read a handful, so far, in this level), but it will take "first place" if not here, somewhere in publishing land :]
Unexpected take on the topic; clever; good dialog and I love the punch line at the end. Now all I need to know is who wrote it. Bravo!
Marilyn Schnepp 01/27/07
Cute story...sounds like one of those scenes from Law & Order; nicely written.
dub W01/28/07
Yup, this goes on my favorite list. Very well composed, delightful language, and perfect defined Art.
Laurie Glass 01/28/07
What a unique take on the topice and so well written. Good job.
Pat Guy 01/29/07
Wow! This carried me from beginning to end! I felt I was watching a scene from a movie. Well, well done!
Jan Ackerson 01/29/07
What a memorable character you've created! Why, you're an artist!
Shari Armstrong 01/29/07
LOVE IT!!!! had me grinning the whole way -waiting for the punchline and I wasn't dissapointed!
Donna Powers 01/29/07
A very unique perspective on the topic but I loved the story and you definitely created a great character. I agree that the dialog was well done. Thanks for sharing this
Sally Hanan01/31/07
Congrats on being out of the box and having such a unique entry. It was a fun story, especially the bits where you made fun of ads in TV:)
Sara Harricharan 01/31/07
lol. I couldn't help chuckling at this piece. I liked the ending with the last line and the 'art of persuasion'. Very interesting.
darlene hight02/01/07
Congratulations Betty! I just might know of a magazine that this would fit right into :)
Jacqueline Zerres02/01/07
Congrats on your win!
Catrina Bradley 02/02/07
Ah, the art of the sale! Great job - a very enjoyable, engaging read. Congratulations!
Edy T Johnson 02/07/07
Congratulations, Betty! A well deserved win for sure. I'm delighted this story caught the judges eyes.

Thank you for reading and commenting on my "art" story, too. I appreciate you!