TINGE Magazine - http://www.tingemagazine.org

Issue 6

The Family Discount

 · Fiction

Slumped at his desk, his chair swiveled toward the window and the lot, Cooper Young watched the Hadleys leave in their 99 Oldsmobile Alero with three of four windows rolled down. The fourth, theyd said, had stopped working months ago. They wouldve been his first sale. Their unsigned paperwork lay on his desk behind him, with the keys to the Opal Metallic PT Cruiser theyd refused to buy at the last moment.

A familiar economy car pulled in, passing the Alero on its way out. Cooper perked up because the car was silver, a silver Corolla, with his mothers graying red hair poufed up inside it, and his fathers graying black hair, and those ridiculously large, square, thick-framed glasses, and — penetrating so much glass, the car windshield and the dealerships double-paned window — his goofy smile, aimed directly at Cooper with astonishing precision.

Here we go, thought Cooper. He shot to his feet, then saw others in the showroom doing the sameBrandi was running in high heels, outracing yellow-haired Chief to the front door, but Orlan had stepped out of nowhere, already standing in front of the Corolla, waiting to greet them.

Cooper walked past Chief, then Brandi. He couldnt have been more delighted to see his parents. An easy deal to replace the lost one. He didnt like to lose, either.

Theres your man right there, Orlan told Coopers father.

His father, Henry, closed his door, and when he saw Cooper approaching, he raised his hand as if he were hailing a cab and howled, Hey, son!

Hey, said Cooper, strolling up and hugging his mother, Jewell. He closed her door for her, then walked around their car to hug his father.

All right, Henry grinned, setting his hands on his hips, what do you have in mind for us? Lets look.

Still going with Buick, right? said Cooper.

Yeah, the Buick LaCrosse, I think its called, said Henry. The one with cloth, the CX?

Cooper rolled out his bottom lip. Impressive, he said. You may know more about them than I do.

Oh, you know your father, said Jewell. He likes to bone up on things.

Cooper nodded, and his father excitedly lurched forward and grabbed Coopers shoulders and squeezed. Dont take advantage of us now. Im watching you. He laughed, and Cooper tried to, but his fathers breath smelled like Vienna sausages. Whenever his parents traveled, his father always ate Vienna sausages for breakfast. Straight out of the can, every morning, as if he were camping out.

Well, said Cooper, turning, the Buicks are this way. He wasnt sure if hed be able to tell a LaCrosse from a Lucerne. This would be the first time hed shown a Buick. Nobody but the elderly shopped for Buicks, and he hadnt had many elderly customers. He hated to think of his parents in that way, but he guessed they were. His parents were elderly.

When Cooper found a LaCrosse, identified by its window sticker, he discovered it was a little smaller than the Lucerne, and less expensive, of course. Cooper began picking out CXs.

Do you have the good-looking red? said Henry.

Oh, I dont want red, said Jewell.

But you might want this one, said Henry.

Heres a red one, said Cooper, and Henry walked up to read the sticker.

I dont like it, said Jewell.

No, its not the red I was looking for, said Henry. He turned to Cooper. Lets find the good-looking red.

The good-looking red, said Cooper, looking for a good-looking red.

Oooh, I like this one, said Jewell, and Cooper saw she was standing at a white LaCrosse.

Here it is, said Henry, standing at a deeper red than what the other red was. Jewell, come here.

You come here, she said.

Jewell, just come here, will you? said Henry.

Jewell joined Henry, so Cooper joined Henry.

Take a look at this, said Henry. Red Jewel, its called Red Jewel! You like it?

Jewell scrunched her eyes. I dont like it.

No, its perfect, said Henry.

She shook her head. Come see this one.

They gathered at the white one shed been admiring.

Whats that color called? asked Henry.

Its pretty, isnt it? said Jewell.

Kind of pearly, said Henry.

Cooper looked at the sticker. White Opal, he said.

Do you like it? Jewell asked, and Henry touched her back with his hand.

If you like it, I like it, he said.

You know,” said Cooper, “the opal is a classic symbol of hope. People once believed that opals fell from heaven. He raised his eyebrows, the second time hed used this line today, and Jewell smiled.

I like that, she said. A symbol of hope.

Hes a heck of a salesman, isnt he? said Henry. Well have to watch him closely.

Stop, said Jewell, playfully slapping him.

A chip off the old block is what he is, said Henry.

Cooper took out his lockbox key and unlocked the doors. Get in, he said. Lets take it for a test drive.

Cooper drove with his mother in the front seat and his father in the back.

Its nice, isnt it? his mother said.

Yes, its a nice car, said Cooper, and safe. He pointed out the side airbags and demonstrated OnStar.

Hmm, she said. And it rides so nice, too. Really, its more comfortable than our Toyota. I like it. Jewell turned around in her seat to consult Henry. What do you think?

Henry looked up and met Coopers eyes in the rearview mirror. How low do you think you can work the price down for us?

Cooper shook his head. I dont know, but Ill do what I can.

Of course, he will, said Jewell. She caressed the upholstery of the seat. This is nice.

They didnt have this color in Memphis, said Henry.

Cooper pulled over at the Baptist Church. This was not the son, but the salesman, who thought the timing was right to swap places with Henry so Henry could view the car for the first time as a particular car, without the confusion of choices surrounding it, so he could begin to take ownership of it by driving it.

And Henry drove them back to the lot in the same manner Cooper had been reared to fear, with his father constantly alternating his foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal so that there was a discernible hesitation, a push and pull, an ebb and flow. It was his fathers lifelong navigational style, pumping between glut and want, and Cooper felt like a little child again, the habitually carsick child who hid in the backseat with his eyes closed, meditating on home.

* * *

Once Cooper had regained his land legs, he recorded all the numbers hed need off the LaCrosse, then escorted his parents inside to his desk. Itll be cooler for you in here while I get your car appraised, he said.

His own office! said Jewell, patting the top of a chair. Look at him!

Sweet, said Henry, sitting down and reaching for one of Coopers business cards.

Cooper raked the Hadleys abandoned paperwork and car keys into his hands and threw it all in a drawer, then retrieved a Trade Appraisal form. Ill be back in just a minute, he said and went outside with the keys to their Toyota Corolla.

He was leaning over the blazing hot fender, recording the VIN, when the Hadleys Alero cruised into his line of vision and parked. He stared after it, transfixed, as if at the result of a creative miracleyes, the return of hope. He jumped off his parents burning fender and jogged over to greet them, passing the PT Cruiser, left where theyd left it before, and he was glad he hadnt moved it. But neither Claude nor Jodie was making an attempt to get out of their Alero, and the engine was running.

Claude gestured with his finger for Cooper to come to the window, so Cooper walked up closer and leaned down. Jodie wouldnt look at Cooper, fanning herself with a piece of cardboard, then reaching back and fanning their baby.

Well sign, said Claude, wrenching the top of the wheel with both hands until the wheel squeaked. But you can bring the paperwork out here, cant you? We dont wanna go inside.

Absolutely, said Cooper. Absolutely. He walked inside with empathy and dignity. All eyes were watching, so he didnt swing his arms with joy or grin for his achievement.

Hey, Mom, Dad, said Cooper, dipping into his office to grab the Hadleys paperwork and keys.

You know, son, this is huge place where you work, said Jewell. I had no idea. Like a little town all to itself.

Cooper nodded. Ive got a little matter to take care of thats just come up, but Ill be right back, okay?

Oh, dont let us get in the way, said Jewell. Do what you need to do.

Youre gonna give me credit for those new tires I put on the car last year, arent you? asked Henry.

Cooper smiled, holding up one finger. Give me one minute. He raced to the door, then walked casually out, trying to control his breathing. He wasnt used to winning. Not after a dozen years of teaching as an adjunct at several different community colleges with no health benefits.

He leaned at Claudes window again and handed him the forms and then a pen. Just sign where I have it highlighted, said Cooper, and Jodie scooted closer. Yall are doing the right thing.

Well, said Claude, nodding, the baby needs air.

And this loan will rebuild your credit in no time, said Cooper.

Claude spread the forms across the steering wheel, and as he signed his name, Cooper could clearly see the tattoos on Claudes forearmsgray sketches of running horses and bison, as if drawn with briquettes of charcoal.

I like your tattoos, said Cooper. Like cave drawings, right?

Claude tilted his head back to look at Cooper. Thats right. He passed the forms and pen to Jodie, then held his arms close together, like two scrolls, then gradually rolled them outward to reveal, on his paler inner arms, the entire piece, of deer and trees and birds and stick men with spears. You ever read National Geographic?”

Sure, said Cooper.

My daddy used to get it, and you know how people used to draw on cave walls?

Cooper nodded.

Man, if we could live today without words, you know, like we didnt have mouths, and would have to communicate like they did, with just drawings and music, wouldnt that be better, and just cooler?

A lot quieter, said Jodie, signing the forms against the dash, then she reached over Claude to return the form and pen to Cooper.

Here are your keys, said Cooper.

Jodie took them without hesitation. Thanks, she told Claude, kissing him on the cheek, then thrust her door open and proceeded to raise her seat forward and remove the car seat from the back.

Cooper stepped away and watched Jodie carry the car seat to the PT Cruiser and anchor it in. Music floated from the Alero, while Claude waited for Jodie with his chin in his hand and his arm propped on the door.

Cooper turned and climbed the steps, and from the walkway he looked back once more to watch Jodie, her hair blowing from the A/C, reverse the Cruiser out of its space.

Heat from the pavement seemed to pulse through his shoes as he walked inside to the tower and stood in front of Jimmy Bertellas desk, waiting for him to hang up, to stop barking numbers to some salesman. Terence, the general manager, was sitting at the other desk, studying a computer screen. Cooper wished he knew what to think about what had just happened. What hed talked them into.

When Jimmy hung up, he angled his eyes to Cooper. What do you want?

You know the Hadleys? said Cooper.

You mean, that redneck family you couldnt talk into kicking their trade so they walked on you, wasting my time and yours? Those Hadleys? Jimmy looked over at Terence and laughed.

Cooper nodded and dropped the signed paperwork on the desk in front of Jimmy, and Jimmy clutched it and stared.

Yeah, those Hadleys, said Cooper, and urgently needing to redeem himself and lash out at someone for how he felt, he made a fist, or a partial one. So, fuck you, Jimmy! he said, jabbing his finger in Jimmys face. Is that good enough for you? Fuck you! Fuck you, Jimmy! He was yelling, really yelling now, could feel the heat in his face, his wet mouth, and he was jabbing. He couldnt say it enough times. Fuck you, Jimmy! I did it! They came back because I didnt push. They came back and theyre letting their car be repossessed and we sold a fucking unit, how about that! I did it, I really sold it to them, how about that, Jimmy? So, fuck you!”

When Cooper finally took a step to storm away, victorious, he caught Jimmy turning to a horrified Terence, who looked like he was about to fire someone, but Jimmy was smiling, like a proud parent he was smiling.

I taught him that, said Jimmy.

* * *

Cooper dropped into his chair without speaking to his parents or looking at them. He was thirsty and breathing hard, his heart racing. He took a drink from his bottle of water, which wasnt so cold anymore, and then took another drink.

Its hot out there, isnt it? said Jewell. Im glad to see you drinking plenty of water. Always make sure to drink plenty of water in this heat. In fact, she said, bending down to pick up her purse, I could wet my lips, too, couldnt you, Henry?

With his chin in his hand, Henry gazed over Coopers shoulder at the lot.

Jewell opened her purse and pulled out a bottle of water of her own. Cooper watched her take a sip, then nudge Henry with her elbow.

Sure, said Henry, waking from his thoughts and sitting up. You know, he said, looking at Cooper and waving the bottle demonstratively, maybe eventually, theyll have you train salesmen, be a trainer. Id love to see you teaching in some way. He brought the bottle to his lips, tipped his head, then pushed his glasses back to the bridge of his nose. You ought to talk to them about that, son.

I need to finish my appraisal, he said.

Thats right, said Henry, rising from his chair. And Ill come with you and point out a few things.

Cooper waved him on.

Henry showed Cooper the bundle of paperwork in the glove compartment, proving hed changed the brake pads recently and was up on oil changes and preventative maintenance. There was a deep scratch on Jewells door that had been touched up. And there was a tear in the cloth of Henrys seat, which Jewell had patched.

Other than that and the miles, said Henry, shes like brand new.

Dad, well give you what we can give you, but its still an old car.

Henrys eyes blossomed. Well see, he said.

While Cooper drove them around the block, Henry spoke in riddles. I dont see a mall anywhere, he said, then said, We missed having you clean out our gutters this spring. Then as they returned to the lot, he said, I havent eaten one watermelon this summer. But Henry could lose himself in his thoughts like that.

Once theyd rejoined Jewell at Coopers desk, Cooper picked up the phone and dialed Jimmys extension.

My man, Cooper. On a roll, arent you? Ive got you down for one saved deal and youre going for another?

Well, said Cooper, Im sitting here with my parents, and theyre looking at a new Buick LaCrosse.

Jewell smiled and sat up straight.

A CX, added Henry.

Excellent, said Jimmy. The family discount. Get your paperwork together, then come see me. Tell em thisll be as easy as it gets.

Cooper whipped out a prepared deal folder and completed the paperwork efficiently and professionally. Filling out the income portion of a Credit Application could generate awkwardness, but if you spoke matter-of-factly and didnt make eye contact, Cooper had learned that it put his customers more at ease. He didnt know how his parents would react, but they didnt let the questions unnerve them, and he appreciated that. Even though his shirt was showing wide bands of sweat under his arms and across his back, maybe they could see him as a car salesman and not be ashamed. Maybe they could see him more as a consultant, a sales and leasing consultant, because that was what he really was. He was flying through the forms and having them sign them like nobodys business.

All right, said Cooper, closing the deal folder and standing up. My manager tells me thisll be as easy as it gets.

Good, I hope so, said Jewell.

Tell him were not financing, said Henry. Tell him that. Tell him were paying cash. So tell him to sharpen his pencil.

Oh, stop, said Jewell, waving her hand dismissively at him.

Henry crossed his legs. And tell him how far weve come to buy here. Drove six and a half hours. Passed a lot of dealerships from Memphis to Alabama.

Cooper smiled and patted his father on the shoulder. Ill tell him, he said. He looked at Jewell, and she gave him a wink before he left.

Cooper took the paperwork to Jimmy and sat in the tower while Jimmy pulled credit and printed out the Kelley Blue Book trade-in value for the Corolla. Then Jimmy turned to him. You got the keys to their car?

Cooper nodded.

And its paid for? Youre sure?

The titles in there, said Cooper.

Come on, said Jimmy, pushing himself out of his chair and walking for the exit closest to the trade appraisal lane.

Cooper watched him walk around the car, examining the tires and feeling the seams along the hood and doors and fenders.

Does it shift out okay? Jimmy asked.

Oh, nothings wrong with it, said Cooper.

Jimmy folded his arms and nodded, staring at the car, then he motioned with his head for Cooper to step in closer.

Cooper did, and in a low voice Jimmy asked him if he had the stomach to steal their trade. Cooper didnt answer. He didnt quite understand the question.

Im asking, said Jimmy, do you want to make some money off your folks or not? Up to you.

Cooper hadnt considered profit with his parents a possibility. No, theyre not dumb, he said.

And Im not either, said Jimmy.

Oh, no, I know, but you dont know my parents. And theyre my parents, you know?

So whyd they come here to buy a car?

Well, Cooper shrugged. It seemed obvious. To get a better deal, of course.

Oh, okay, for them, though. Not you, right?

Yeah, said Cooper. Yeah, I guess so.

Jimmy hung an arm around Coopers shoulders. Thats fucked up, dont you think?

Cooper twisted with nerves. I see your point. Its probably fucked up. But thats how itll have to be, Jimmy, please.

All right. He removed his arm. Thats fine. Your call. Suit yourself. He walked inside and Cooper pushed himself to follow.

Ill show you a deal then, said Jimmy. He took the top off a green Sharpie and scrawled large numbers on the Buyers Order. Then he sat back and explained them. Got it, Coop? Dont get any easier than that.

Appreciate it, said Cooper.

Ah, no problem, said Jimmy. Look, I know we cant make money on every deal, and when we cant, lets make sure to get it done quickly, so we can move on to one that will. Make sense?

Yes, sir, said Cooper.

All right, so get outta here then.

Cooper strolled back to his desk, feeling more confident than hed felt in a long time. So he sat in front of his parents more as an equal than as a son. Hed worked his boss on their behalf. They would be grateful, impressed, if not a little beholden.

Heres the MSRP, just to remind you, said Cooper, pointing with his finger at the top number. Then he moved his finger down to the next number. But well sell the LaCrosse to you at this, which is Invoice, minus this rebate. Then he moved his finger to the trade number and explained how his manager had arrived at that, showing them the Kelley Blue Book printout. He gave you the value for Excellent condition, not Good, or Fair, which is whats normal. So, said Cooper, dropping his finger again, that leaves this difference, and with tax, title, and fees, your out-the-door price is here. Cooper looked up with a grin, but Henry and Jewell appeared to be studying the numbers with fixed expressions of confusion and doubt.

Then Jewell turned to Henry for answers, and Henry shook his head. He looked at Jewell, then at Cooper and shook his head.

Thats not going to cut the mustard, son, he said. Send it back and have him try again.

What? What are you talking about?

Henry leaned to the side and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a sheet of yellow ledger paper and unfolded it. The dealer in Memphis said that would be the lowest youd go. He nailed it. He said there was $1000 bonus cash you wouldnt let go of, plus something called holdback money upwards of $750. Now, what I want you to do is let your manager know Im aware of all this and frankly insulted by his offer. He folded his sheet of paper and tucked it back into his pocket.

Jewell sat with hunched shoulders, looking at her lap. A vein throbbed across her furrowed brow.

Cooper didnt know what to say. He wasnt sure whod betrayed him, or whod betrayed him worse. So he walked away without saying a word. When he entered the sales tower, Jimmy turned with a smile.

Ready?

Cooper looked blank and shook his head.

What? Why the fuck not?

Theyre under the impression theres another $1000 in bonus cash and another $750 in holdback.

Jimmy smirked. Under the impression, huh? So your own parents are shopping you?

Terence overheard from the next desk and laughed. He peered at Jimmy over the rim of his reading glasses. This is your up-and-comer, is it?

Fuck, I dont know anymore, said Jimmy. He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. All right, come here then, see for yourself, he said, lowering his hands. He showed Cooper the chart of incentives from Buick. See this. Im giving em everything I can give em. He tossed the chart aside. Now, maybe, just maybe the salesman they talked to was innocently mistaken about the extra grand, or maybe he was lying so they wouldnt buy from you and would go back home and buy from him. Thats what I wouldve done if I was that guy. Smart, right? But Ill tell you this, and you tell em thisthey aint getting holdback, not a goddamn penny, and they wont get it anywhere else either. That covers our expenses. Thats our money. Thats non-negotiable. That fucking salesman cock-blocked you, Coop, on your own fucking parents. I promise you, he doesnt have any intention of giving up holdback either. I guarantee you. He eyed Cooper without blinking, then slapped his hand against his desk in sudden exasperation. Now, Ive spent all the time on a loser deal Im gonna spend. If you cant convince your parents to buy, then tell em they can have a nice day. I dont care. No offense, but I dont care. He turned to Terence. Do you care, boss?

I dont care, said Terence.

See? said Jimmy. So its all on you now, Coop. Were done.

Again, Cooper didnt know what to say. He walked back to his desk. He figured the words would come. Hed just sit down and they would come. But if they didnt, and he feared they wouldnt, he knew it wouldnt be pretty. A salesman who couldnt close his parents. Lord. That sounded worse than anything hed ever been.

His mother looked upon him hopefully, and so did his father. Maybe this was how theyd first looked upon him, before theyd even decided upon his name. The story went that three days passed before they finally committed to Cooper Lee Young. But he didnt have three days to wait this time.

Cooper patted the Buyers Order. This is it, said Cooper. The salesman you talked to was wrong.

His father smiled smugly, and it infuriated Cooper.

Why do you want to believe that guy? asked Cooper. You dont even know him.

His father continued to smile, and it continued to infuriate Cooper.

Cooper looked to his mother for reason.

Are you sure theres nothing else you can do? she asked. Because this is too high for us.

Dont fucking lie to me, said Cooper.

Dont you talk to your mother that way, said Henry.

Look, said Cooper, at this point, I dont care if yall buy a car from me or not, but dont lie to me, and dont doubt me, and dont you dare embarrass me. Not you, my God, of all people. He scratched two Xs at the bottom of the Buyers Order. Trust me and sign right here, he said, or have a nice day. He set the pen down, folded his arms, and didnt say another word, until Henry and Jewell, after offering each other knowing looks, had pushed their chairs back in concert and stood up.

Youre kidding me? said Cooper.

His father was already shuffling away.

Jewell paused with a smile of condolence. I guess well see you back at the apartment. Leahs there, right? She can let us in, right?

Yeah, said Cooper, watching his mother turn and jog three, four steps, rather spritely, before catching up with his father and locking arms. Their departure seemed so grandly final and defiant. As if the moment of satisfaction would never pass.

Eventually, theyd remember their title and have to slink back begging for it.


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