Looking at his reflection in the window of a car, Kyle adjusted his tie wondering if there was supposed to be a visible pinch in a full Windsor, or if the knot was supposed to be smooth. He’d gone for a dimple-like pinch when working with it in the mirror that morning but now one side was rolling and he thought it looked better smooth. At least the suit was warm. He’d taken a bus to the car lot, and that had left him with a half a block walk to get to the front door of the dealership. The cool fall air had graduated to cold late fall air and the sky was slate grey with clouds. He wouldn’t be surprised if there was snow.
As he approached the front door a heavy-set man bustled up to him. “Hello, sir. What has you walking on a day like this? You’ll catch your death if you’re not careful. Don’t tell me you don’t have reliable transportation!”
“Well, I guess I don’t really. But that’s not…”
“So, no car. Or no usable car, huh? My name is Ralph, and this is Ralph Smith Honda. You’ve come to the right place. We can get you set up with a really prime used vehicle, or a brand new model if that strikes your fancy.”
“Sure am, did you say you had a car? Because we can get you good value on your trade-in even if it’s not running right now.”
Kyle held up his hands in mock surrender. “Actually, I believe we have an appointment.”
“Oh…” He trailed off seeming to think about it. “Well you must be the illusionist! Why didn’t you say something earlier. I was trying to sell you a car. You don’t still want a car do you? Because I wasn’t lying, we’ve got some great stuff!”
Instead of answering Kyle forced a chuckle. He didn’t want a car, and he didn’t want to fend off any more offers. He also didn’t want to offend his client.
“I loved your show down at the mall, by the way. Shame it all ended in such a mess. Say how does that pink princess win in the end? My little girl’s been asking. She does win, right? If she doesn’t that’s kind of strange, but you never can tell with stories these days. Some of them might let the kid lose to teach little kids a lesson about pinning all their hopes on pink dragons. My little girl’s been asking me how it goes.”
Kyle blinked, trying to adjust. That had all come as an unbroken wall of words. “No, they win. The regent’s dragon is stronger so it looks like they might not for a little bit, but then the girl manages to distract him at a critical moment and his magical compulsion of his dragon breaks so it flies away. I guess there’s a little lesson in there about it being better to have friends than just power – at least that’s what the princess says.”
Ralph gave Kyle a look as though he hadn’t just asked for that information. Maybe just saying ‘she won’ would have been enough. But, really, he’d memorized the whole story. He had to tell someone how it ended.
“Well let me show you around while I fill you in on just what I’m looking for.” Ralph set off at a near trot; Kyle had to hurry to keep up. “I don’t know if you’ve got much of an eye for cars, kid, but if you do you’ve already noticed we’re up to the gills in current year models. That’s how we get every year around this time. Current model year cars don’t sell too great once the manufacturers start releasing their new models. People want the new models because they figure when they go to sell them they’ll get a better deal because the car will sound newer.”
Ralph broke off his explanation to grab a skinny looking kid who seemed like he could still be in high school, “Hey Tim, this is Kyle he’s the illusionist I was telling you about. Tim’s our advertising manager. Tim, walk with us.”
“I…” Tim started to say.
That was all he managed to get out because Ralph launched back into his previous explanation. “So the manufacturers do what anyone does when they have a product that’s not going to sell. They lower the price. I mean, pricing is kind of complex with cars it’s not like they just charge us ten bucks a pop, but lowering the price is the basic function of what they do. So then we stock up. But we can’t sit on them so then do you know what we do?” He looked expectantly at Kyle.
“You lower your price?”
“That’s right! That’s right!” He thumped Kyle on the back, you’re quick on the ball. I like that. “We do lower our price. ‘Course, we don’t call it that. We call it a sale. You know what kind of sale it is?”
This time Kyle didn’t even have a guess, mutely he shook his head.
“Tell him about it Tim.”
“It’s the Tax Sale. Tax sales are used to move out the older stock.” Tim’s voice shook during his brief speech, and Kyle realized he was shivering in the cold.
“That’s it!” Tim got a congratulatory thumping. “Around this time of year we always have the big Tax Sale. Perhaps you’ve seen my ads? Tim put those together for me.”
Kyle looked over at Tim. The young man rolled his eyes and shook his head rapidly apparently not wanting any credit for the ads. Kyle could understand why. They typically featured Ralph standing on the roof of one of his cars in a Santa suit, shouting about how great his prices were. Kyle actually liked them somewhat better than his usual ads because he didn’t go on about how crazy he was. Of course, for a guy standing on the top of a late-model Honda dressed as Santa and shouting at the top of his lungs, that could probably be assumed.
“I don’t know who came up with the Tax Sale concept but they really are great. All kinds of customers come down because they think they’ve got you over a barrel of some sort. Which is totally ridiculous. I know what I always say, but my taxes go up the more cars I sell. They don’t actually make me pay taxes on my stock, just my profits. But anyway everyone comes on down and since the cars are marked down because they’re all current year rather than next year’s models I move ’em like hot cakes!” He stopped and grinned over at Tim and Kyle like he’d just announced the secret of anti gravity.
“Well, that certainly does sound like a great event,” Kyle supplied. It sounded appropriate.
“Oh it is. It’s also where you come in. Like I said, I saw your little show in the mall the other day and I was hoping you could do something attention-getting like that for me during the sale. I’ve got some really great ideas I’d like to go over.”
Kyle hadn’t been doing illusion long, but he still didn’t like the sound of that.