"Excuse me sir, would you like to see ..." "Madam, I am sure that you are interested in this..." "Young man, have you heard about the new..." "Young ladies, may I have the pleasure to interest you..."
Unfortunately, he didn't have the fortune. Everyone passed by him in the mall, as though he was invisible, or they were deaf. Either way, Vikram Chopra was a miserable man. With his tie strangling him, and sweat drenching his shirt, Vikram was in a desperate state.
Being the salesman of Akon furniture shop, Vikram had to sell for at least 5,000 dollars in a month. Twenty-nine days had elapsed. It was almost impossible that he could salvage his job within just one day. Throwing his tie into the bin, Vikram walked home.
In the dim light of the orange bulb, the dingy room was illuminated. There wasn't much in the house, except for a bed, a wardrobe, and a few chairs. The bed almost touched the floor, unable to bear the weight of the depressed man sitting on it. Vikram wanted to get rid of it all. He wanted to get rid of his ridiculous job, his one room apartment ... his life, too.
In his hand were a few papers all weighing heavily on his already stretched wallet. The landlord was waiting to chuck him out the next day. Besides, the electricity department would hound him, for the three months of overdues he had to pay. Life was miserable.
Vikram looked up, and saw the table in front of him. In the dim light, the faint silhouette of a bottle was visible. And with strained eyes, he saw the six letters written on it. P-O-I-S-O-N.
Something that would end it all, quickly and silently. Vikram had joked about it a month ago. With every passing day, the joke became more and more real. It seemed as though life was playing with him, toying with his mind. He was drowning in debt, and had about an ounce of self esteem left. No prospective future, no ambition.
It was horrible to see that everything that he was doing at the moment was useless. Vikram's life was almost mechanical. He spent 2/3 of his life in the mall, trying to get at least a single customer. His bank account had almost gotten depleted, since he hadn't deposited or withdrawn anything. The reason was simple: The account was empty and he was broke.
But, even when he was contemplating the thought of a possible suicide, Vikram felt a deep urge to make a statement. Something that would make him famous. Something that would find himself a place in the newspaper.
He looked up and saw the fan. No, not the tried and tested fan method. It was so dull and unexciting ... then, with a sudden jolt, Vikram got up and looked at the thing in front of him. His eyes shone as he saw his way out. Using that simple apparatus, he could make sure that he had a solution, a final solution to all problems.
The next day, everyone moved around in the mall as usual. There was a large crowd, moving around looking for something that would appease them. Slowly though, it seemed as if a large crowd was gathering. It was not apparent at first. But, at about 10.30am there was enough people surrounding the Akon furniture shop, to make the boss come out.
"What is the matter here?" he asked, secretly wondering if they wanted to pull down the shop. "Sir," asked a young lady, with tears in her eyes. "Is this poster true?"
The boss looked at the poster. "Oh yes, we got the information this morning. thought this could be the last respects..." His voice trailed away as the crowd stood motionless.
On the window was a large poster, with a large face pasted on it. Vikram's eyes peered at the mall goers, oblivious to what was going on. Under the photo was a notice:
In Memory Of...
We regret to inform you that our beloved salesman, Mr Vikram Chopra passed away due to massive heart failure. We offer our condolences to his grieving family. Akon Furniture will also be accepting donations in the form of sales, to pay for Mr Vikram's funeral. He is survived by two handicapped parents and an unmarried sister.
The notice had a magical effect on the audience. Everyone looked down, silently grieving the loss of this salesman. The boss went into his room, grumbling that he didn't get the opportunity to fire Vikram. Besides, he had tried to ask the man who called, how exactly Vikram had died. Heart failure for a young healthy man like Vikram seemed highly unlikely. Something suspicious was going on.
Not only was something suspicious going on, but also, there was something unbelievable happening in the Akon furniture shop. Two hours later, the assistant banged on the boss's door, asking him the most ridiculous question:
"What do we do when our furniture stock is over?"
The boss chided him at first, but then, dropped his jaws, literally, in shock and surprise. In front of him was the largest crowd that he had seen in his life, at least inside his shop. People were moving around, looking for small useful furniture. There was no one to tell them the price, or the quality. Instead, they took the small handmade pieces to the cashier and demanded to see the manager.
"Dear Sir," said an old lady in a croaky voice, "Please make sure that you give the commission for this furniture to Mr Vigam Chopra."
"Vikram Chopra, Ma'am?"
"Right. Give it to Mr Vigam, please."
"And, mine too," the rest of the crowd chimed in chorus. The boss looked baffled. "But, he is dead ? I mean he has passed away!"
"That doesn't mean that his family can't take his money, does it?" Someone asked. The tone of his voice was dangerous. The eyes of the crowd were bulging.
The boss meekly nodded his head, and agreed. In front of their eyes, he zipped 45 credit cards and transferred 12.5 per cent to Vikram Chopra's account.
After the crowd left, the boss sat in his chair, and said to his assistant. "Oh, during his 29 days here, he couldn't sell a single piece. Now, he just emptied the shop. It is a pity he isn't there with us today. God knows how far above he has reached?"
"Excuse me sir, would you like to see..." "Madam, I am sure that you are interested in this..." "Young man, have you heard about the new..." "Young ladies, may I have the pleasure to interest you?" "Young man, would like to?-"
"Hey, mister!" A teenager snapped. "Why don't you understand? We don't want to buy your furniture, we don't! I wish you would drop dead!"
The salesman smiled. Your wish just might come true. He walked into his boss's office, and said:
Sir, tomorrow is the 30th day of my job. Please, make sure that you send all the commission to my bank account!
The boss gave him a spiteful look. Rahul Varma had hardly sold a piece of furniture. "I don't think I will be sending anything to your account!"
The salesman smiled. Well, that's exactly what my previous boss said, and then I died, and he sent me 6, 991 dollars. I am sure that you'll do the same!
Vikram Chopra, the deceased salesman, also known as Rahul Varma, walked out of the mall ...
?Mohammed Musthafa Azeez, 14, Grade 9, Al Khor International School-Indian stream, Doha, Qatar
The winners of the Young Times Short Story Contest 2006 are:
I Prize ? Mohammed Musthafa Azeez, 14, Grade 9, Al Khor International School-Indian stream, Doha, Qatar
II Prize ? Roshini Srinivas, 14, Grade 9, The Asian School, Bahrain
III Prize ? Husseina Ibrahim, 16, Grade 10, Dubai Carmel School
This is a short story that I wrote for Young Times in 2006. Dont know how, but I ended up getting first place. Please give me your sincere opinion on this, because I dont think it was prize worthy...