This is Part Two of a Nightmare Threads original story. In this tale, Clint hates his job as a telemarketer. Sitting in a cubicle night after night is torture. It would eat at his soul…if he still had one.
Cold Calls – Part Two
According to the screen, Esther wasn’t going to be locked up for selling roxies to some high school kids, so offering her legal help wouldn’t work. The first thing the computer listed was pretty altruistic compared to Clint wanting to save his ass. Apparently, the board at the First African Baptist Church wasn't as pious as Ms. Jones. The collection plates went to line their pockets instead of paying the mortgage. Without a miracle, the church would have to close its doors. "Although I'm not a member of the flock, Ms. Jones, I have heard that your shepherds have gone astray and the good parishioners of First African Baptist Church may be losing their place of worship."
Clint could hear Esther let out a sound that was halfway between a gasp and a moan. “It breaks my heart. I pray every night for God to provide us with a solution.”
Here was his chance, "We all know God works in mysterious ways and maybe this call is the answer to your prayers. What if I told you we could make it, so the doors of your church didn't have to close for a long, long time? Just as Jesus saved you, you may be the one that can save his house."
“That would be a miracle, child. But I told you I’m on a fixed income. What could I possibly do to help? Last I heard, it would take $100,000 or more to keep the church open.”
“Don’t worry about that Ms. Jones money is not a problem with Faust and Sons. And as I told you before it won’t cost you a dime.”
“I’m eighty-seven years old. I was born at night but not last night. Nobody just gives away money for free.”
“Of course not, Ms. Jones. In return for solving the church’s financial difficulties, our company just asks for what we’ll call a favor.” A “favor” was one of those things that lived in the gray area around a lie.
To be honest, Clint had no idea what Esther’s deal would cost her. Everyone’s deal was different. The terms wouldn’t be spelled out until they received their contract in the mail. Clint’s package came overnight and arrived just a few hours before he was due in court. He was expecting an express envelope but what came instead was a cylinder that contained an actual scroll. It wasn’t a cheap prop either. It was the real deal with handles carved from wood and written on what looked more like animal hide than paper. There was a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but basically it said in exchange for his freedom, he agreed to work for Faust and Sons for a specified term. All in all, it wasn’t a bad deal at all. On top of having his charges dropped he’d get a competitive salary with benefits while he was employed with the company. His term would expire once he got 5,475 contracts. One for every day outside of prison he was being granted. It never occurred to him he was trading one form of imprisonment for another. The fact that he had to sign the contract by pricking his thumb with the provided pin and pressing it to the dotted line should have probably been a dead giveaway.
Three years (or three hundred, it all felt the same) into his contract and he had no idea how many contracts he had under his belt. Although there was the 3x rule, he only had to get two yeses on the phone. The third came when they signed the contract. He had no clue what was in the contracts the company sent out because he was sure they all weren’t like his. There were only about 100 cubicles in the call center and with three shifts that was only 300 bodies. Even if he only averaged one sale a day, his sales alone should have maxed out the call center. He sometimes wondered what the other “favors” were, but he never wondered for long. Plausible deniability was a good thing.
“I don’t know what I’d be able to do. I’m eighty-seven and don’t get around so good anymore.”
“Don’t worry about that,” he said as he glanced over at the skeletal RJ. “I’m sure you’re more than capable. Does helping out your church sound like something you’d be interested in?”
“Child, I don’t have time for your foolishness. If God has it in his plan to close our church, then we just have to accept it. The Bible says that when the Lord closes one door, he opens another. So I’m going to have to say no to your offer.”
Clint wasn’t sure that line was actually in the Bible, but he was sure he was getting tired of this “God’s plan” bullshit. If God did have a plan, then it’s pretty fucked up. Kids with cancer, holy wars and the mere existence of Platypuses were proof of this. As far as Clint was concerned, if His plan involved him sitting in this chair right at this moment, then God could lick his taint. He already had one “no” from the customer, but he did have two more chances.
“I understand completely ma’am, and I assure you I’m as serious as the grave. My company just wants to help you get to a place in life that you deserve. Let me ask you about something a little closer to home then. Your granddaughter…” Clint looked down at his screen to get her name again, “Jani is it?”
“Why yes, but how did you know…”
“It’s our job here at Faust and Sons to understand every need of our prospective clients. How else can we be there for you when you need us? Now it looks like Jani is going through a rough patch right now.”
Esther let out that moan/sigh again. "It breaks my heart just thinking about her. She was always just the sweetest little thing always smiling and happy. I just don't know what happened to her. She started running around with the wrong people. She forgot about the Lord. I just don't know. But the devil got his hooks into her, and she got hooked on the drugs."
Wrong again honey, Clint thought. The devil doesn’t work that way. He was more of an apple than a stick type of guy. Clint was surer of that than anything else in his life. “How would you like to see that smile again? Have the old Jani back, like when she was little? We could help you out with that. And all for the same small "favor." How does that sound?"
There was a pause. Clint knew it was best to give them time to think. They always said something to break the silence eventually. “No. The child has to find the Lord again on her own. Her old grandmother meddling around in her business would only work to push her farther away.“
Fuck, fuck, fuck, thought Clint. That was no number two. Maybe he had this old broad wrong. Maybe she was like him. Maybe she was in this game for herself just like everyone else. There was only one more want left on his screen. If he were going to get a sale off this one want number three would have to be the one to seal the deal.
“I can tell that family is a big part of your life ma’am.”
“They are my life. I’m eighty-seven years old. They keep me going.
"They must especially be a comfort to you since your husband, Willie passed. How long has it been? Six months now?”
“Eight months, two weeks, three days,’ she breathed slightly less than a whisper.
"Of course," Clint replied mustering as much false sympathy as he could. He wondered why the hell they didn't list this one first. This was her deepest desire. “Every day must feel empty without him.” Clint continued in his best “I can feel your pain” voice. “You were together longer than I’ve been alive, longer my parents have been alive for that matter. I couldn’t imagine losing someone who I've shared the most intimate moments of my life with, from childhood to old age. The absolute hardest part must be going to sleep and waking up without him by your side." Clint knew he was laying it on a bit thick, but Esther's succession of sigh/moans over the line gave him the confidence to going further. "I bet you'd give anything to have one more day with him."
“Yes. I wait for the day when we will be together again in the Kingdom of God. But I don’t see where this is any of your…”
“I do apologize ma’am. I just want you to know that I sympathize with your loss. Faust and Sons want you to know that we are here to provide a respite from your pain in any way possible.” Clint needed to cut her off before she before she could object further. Also, he had one yes now.
The closing was the part of the call where Clint always started to feel a little shitty and could never figure out exactly why. He was giving people exactly what they wanted. If they didn't want it all they had to do was say no. He wasn't twisting any arms. If all the deals were like his, it wasn't that bad. He was only giving up eight hours of his day versus the 24 he'd be giving up in prison. People working in fast food or retail were selling their lives at a much lower rate than he was. So, in the grand scheme of things he wasn't too bad off. But for some reason, he always felt dirty closing a deal.
"But he's gone. I don't know what you could do about that."
Clint didn't have an answer for this, but from his time with the company, he's promised some extravagant things. Money, fame, love. It was his first time promising to raise the dead, but he didn't doubt that it was true. Faust and Sons weren't kidding about their "No Lie" Rule. If it was on the screen, he could offer it to her.
“To be honest with you ma'am, I don't know. It's a little above my pay grade. But I can promise you that Faust and Sons follow through on their promises. You will have more time with husband. I tell you what Ms. Jones. We can send you out the paperwork, you look it over and see if it’s acceptable to you. If you don’t like the terms, don’t sign it. Does that sound fair to you?”
There was no sound on the other end of the line.
“Ms. Jones are you still there?”
“I’m here. I just don’t know about all this. It sounds…”
"As I said, let me just send you the paperwork. When you get it, sit down with a cup of coffee, and look it over. If you don't like what you see, throw it away. But if you do, I can promise you; you will see your husband again. What do you say?”
“Yes, I suppose I can look at it.”
“Thank you, Ms. Jones. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.”
"Thank you, dear." Esther hung up and went back to her life.
Clint filled out the remaining fields on the screen and got up to stretch again before submitting the application. The same lifeless faces seemed not to have budged an inch since before his call. Those with their mouths open, staring at the ceiling, now had bit more drool on their chin. And RJ was still squinting at his screen. Clint sat back down at his seat. The popup screen on his computer had two buttons on it "Sale" and "No Sale." Staring at the screen, he could see his reflection staring back at him in the dark space behind the buttons. After closing his eyes for a moment, Clint clicked the appropriate button and logged off for that much needed extended bathroom break.