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Because fiction authors just do it better!     

©Shopping with Clare

by author E. Motketsan

 

Jack never liked to leave the house for anything. People both scared him and drove him crazy. Anything he needed was found on the Internet and delivered to his front door. He worked in his office at home where he enjoyed the peace and quiet of no coworkers irritating him, no customers calling him, and no bosses harassing him. Some might have called him a modern day Howard Hughes with his little eccentricities, but Jack couldn't care less what people thought of him and had no intention of ever joining the psychopathic cult of the norm.

There could not have been two more opposite people on the face of the earth than Jack and Clare, who had been married for twenty-five years. Clare loved to leave the house and interact with everyone she met. A typical trip to the grocery store would take hours because she would talk to everyone. She would exchange new recipes with older ladies buying flour or sugar to make their homemade pies. She would talk to new mothers with their infants in their arms asking if she could hold the little angel for just one moment. She would talk to the butcher about the quality of the day's meats with their saline solution injections and corn fillers. She would even talk to the sixteen-year-old bagger about the latest Britney Spears video. Clare's shopping trips were more like excursions into the social abyss.

Now, there were occasions when Jack had to leave the house for those purchases that just couldn't be selected from an Internet picture and delivered to the door–purchases that were going to cost more than a mere hundred dollars or so. This was one of those days. Clare has been hounding Jack to purchase a new bed, and he had run out of strategies for putting it off.

"You promise? We're going today right after lunch, right?" Clare said.

"Yeah, yeah. After lunch," Jack called out as he headed downstairs to his office.

He was busy working on a project when Clare came down with a plate of pasta and set it on his desk with the napkin and silverware.

"Here you go, honey. Eat up. You will need your strength," she grinned.

"Ha-ha. Remember that we agreed on spending no more than fifteen hundred dollars for a bed. Actually, I think we can get one for three or four hundred," he said.

"For three hundred dollars you can buy a pillowcase," Clare retorted.

"Fifteen hundred and no more! Otherwise, I'm not going!"

"Yes, fifteen hundred. I'm sure I can find something for fifteen hundred," she said and left the room.

Yeah, well you better. I know I could find something for fifteen hundred dollars. Shit, for fifteen hundred dollars I could find a whole lot of things far more useful than a damn bed! We already have a bed. Jack finished his pasta primavera and brought his plate upstairs where he placed it in the dishwasher. After grabbing an iced tea from the refrigerator, he sat on the sofa and began to look for the remote control when Clare came down the hallway.

"Oh no! Don't even think about turning on television. We're leaving, Jack."

"I was just waiting for you," he replied.

"Well, I'm here. I'm ready."

Jack slowly got up from the sofa and held his stomach. "I'm feeling a bit queasy; maybe we can do it tomorrow?"

"If you don't get your ass moving, I'm going alone and who knows what I will come home with," she sweetly threatened.

Damn, I hate when she does that. "I'm coming," Jack said as he reached in his pocket and took out the car keys.

After driving to the first furniture store, Jack parked the car and shut off the engine.

"Now remember, what price did we agree on?" he asked.

"Fifteen hundred," she smiled.

"Not a penny more. I don't care if the bed has a built in sauna and whirlpool and vibrates you into ecstasy all night long!" Jack said with a determined look.

"Jack!"

"I'm not kidding!"

They both got out of the car and entered the store. Jack knew he was screwed the minute they walked in. The store had all the fancy furniture lined up in little groupings. There were fresh flowers in cute little vases and oil paintings on the walls. I'm dead. Yep, I'm dead. I've died and gone to the fifth ring of hell.

Clare was beaming with a light that seemed to follow her through the store and to light up everything as she walked by it. The dreaded moment arrived as a saleswoman came bounding over with a smile and a perky little strut in her stride. Jack wanted to smack her right upside the head and knock the stupid grin off her face. Instead, he studied at the floor and wondered how many speckles made up a twelve-by-twelve tile.

"Hello, my name is Mary Kate. How are you? What can I do for you today?"

Mary Kate? What kind of name is that for a grown-up? That can't be her real name. It's the alias she uses when screwing over her customers so they can't find her to press charges later. Jack began to fidget with his coat zipper.

"Oh, hi Mary Kate! We need a new bed. Our bed is really old, and I was thinking of those new comfort beds so that I won't feel like an old person when I get up in the morning." Clare was emitting more light than nuclear fusion and Jack considered retrieving his sunglasses from the car.

"Well, I have just the bed for you!" said Mary whatever-the-hell her name was. She walked Jack and Clare over to a huge bed with a ruffled base and solid oak frame. "This is the Dorean. This bed is hypoallergenic, has a four-inch layer of NASA foam, an independently wrapped coil box spring, and the mattress conforms to your body. You will never sleep better than in this bed!"

"I've read all about this bed, Jack. This bed is to die for! You can jump up and down on your side of the bed and my side never moves. And it conforms to your body like a glove! I love this bed!" Clare said.

First rule of negotiating is never let the salesperson know you want an item. Once they know this, the game is over. "How much?" Jack asked.

"For the king size mattress, double-twin box spring and metal frame it is three thousand dollars. That price also includes a ten-year warranty on the box springs and a twenty-year warranty on the mattress. If it ever rips, stains, or loses its firmness, the company will replace it free!" Mary Kate proudly announced.

"Three thousand dollars! For three thousand dollars the damn bed better drive me to work in the morning!" Jack fumed.

"Oh, Jack! You have to pay for a quality bed."

"What else do you have?" Jack asked.

"We do have lesser grade beds that cost less, but I don't think that you would be happy with them. In the long run, you would be better off spending a little more money now, than paying with back problems later. We do have financing available." Mary Kate said, shooting a "you-tight-ass" look at him.

"I'll finance my house, maybe my car, but I'm not financing a shitty bed!" Jack declared. "Come on, Clare, let's see what else this town has to offer."

"I can't believe you swore in the store. What's the matter with you?" Clare said once they were in the car.

"What? I didn't swear," he said.

"You called it a shitty bed."

"What did we discuss before we went in? How much were we supposed to spend?" he interrogated.

"Fifteen hundred dollars."

"And how much was that bed?"

"Three thousand," she said without even batting an eye.

"And you don't see a problem here? We have to work on our communication skills because we are obviously not hearing each other." Jack pulled out of the parking lot and drove a few blocks down the road and to another furniture store. He turned off the car and looked at Clare.

"Now, how much are we going to spend in this store?" he asked.

"Fifteen hundred dollars, the same as the other store," she said and smiled as she got out of the car.

"I don't get it. It's like we're talking the same language, but there just isn't any communication." Jack opened the car door and stepped out. They walked into the store and looked around. It was more down to earth and didn't have anything set up in little groupings. Everything was just laid out side by side with the price tags prominently displayed at the end of each bed. A salesman walked up to them and asked if they needed help.

"We're going to look around a bit," Jack said.

"Ok, if you need anything let me know," the salesman said and sat down in a La-Z-Boy recliner.

"Now that's my kind of salesman!" Jack said to Clare.

She ignored him and continued to look at all the beds on display. She walked up to each one and pressed down on the mattress or sat on it and then continued on down the line.

"Um, dear? Hello? The farther down the line you go the higher the price. See, we're already at $1499. How much did we say we're gonna spend?"

"Yes, but that bed has the meshed coils that are all wound together. If it snaps the whole thing unravels and sticks you in the back. We need to do better than that." Clare said and continued to walk down the aisle. "Besides, some of these are on sale."

Jack shook his head and remembered back to a time when he and Clare had gone shopping for a boat that he wanted. Actually, he just wanted to look at boats, a twenty-two footer in particular, with a small cabin and decent hull. Just something to go bopping around the lake on, but nothing too extravagant or big. Clare had called a place ahead of time and found out that for fifty dollars they could take a boat out for the day and see how they liked it. This actually sounded like a good plan to Jack. He could take the boat out for a day, see how it handled and if it was what he wanted. Maybe he wouldn't want a boat after dealing with it all day.

They went to the boat dealer with the intention of paying the fifty dollars and taking the boat on the lake for the day. However, when Jack left the dealer, he and Clare owned a thirty-foot boat with an aft cabin, a birth cabin, a head with a shower, a galley, and numerous other features that Jack didn't even know existed on a boat. Instead of buying a small, used boat for eight thousand dollars, he ended up with a thirty-foot used boat for nearly thirty thousand dollars.

"Yeah, is that the same kind of sale that we got with the boat?" he asked.

"Don't start," Clare said and glared at him. "Ooooh, look at this bed! This is exactly what I'm looking for."

"It's two thousand dollars! How much did we agree on?"

"A bed is something that you can not skimp on, it will last for a long time."

"Then buy the queen instead of the king. The queen size is $1499."

"I'm not sleeping on a queen. It's too small."

"Then find a cheaper king size bed because this one it too expensive. That's two thousand dollars for a damn bed, Clare! Then there is always tax, delivery, and all those other little incidentals that you end up getting talked into."

By this time, the salesman had wandered back over and started to talk to Clare.

"This is a great bed. It is the same one that I sleep on and I wouldn't recommend anything that I didn't use myself."

Great, that's all we needed. Mr. Mattress speaks. He probably sleeps on concrete cinder blocks that he lifted from the K-Mart parking lot. "Plus, you make more commission on the higher priced beds, huh? What a deal for us!"

"Oh Jack, behave yourself!" Clare said shaking her head. "I want this bed."

"Look at this thing. It's so high. The mattress must be two feet thick and with the added six inch pillow padding on in, we're going to get nose bleeds sleeping on this thing." Jack nudged Clare towards the less pricey beds.

"You have no sense about quality. This is the Beauty Rest 2000 with the foam padding, individually wrapped coils, and you can bounce a bowling ball on it and it doesn't affect the rest of the bed," she insisted.

"Well, yeah in that case … I mean that's an important characteristic for buying a new bed. I'm always sleeping with a cart full of bowling balls!"

By this time, the salesman retreated to his recliner and Clare moved closer to Jack to whisper in his ear. "If you say one more sarcastic word … you and your balls will be sleeping in the garage."

"Fine. Buy the damn bed! But I'm doing the negotiating. You just let me do the talking. I don't want to hear one word about what else we need," he conceded.

"But of course, dear."

"Hey, Mr. Beauty 2000, I want this bed for $1850 with free delivery," Jack called out.

The salesman double-timed back to them leading with his calculator. "The Beauty Rest 2000 in a king, with a metal frame and delivery …," he punched in some numbers on the calculator and then looked up at Jack. "I can give you the bed for $1800.00 but I have to charge you $69.00 for delivery. The delivery guys work on their own rates and I can't negotiate their figures."

Jack looked at Clare who was forcibly restraining herself from jumping up and down next to the bed. It was only $19 over what his price was and if he said no, Clare would make his life absolutely miserable. "Okay, done."

They walked up to the counter and the salesman wrote out a receipt for the bed. "Do you need any bedding?"

"Oh yes, we need new king size sheets. Our old sheets would never fit that big mattress," Clare said.

Jack shot her a look and sent all the proper warning signs.

"Jack, we can't use our old sheets, they would never fit this bed."

"One set of sheets," he replied.

"Our bedding is down aisle two. Why don't you look over what we have and pick something out?" the salesman said and pointed toward the aisle.

Clare came back with two full sets of bedding. The packages had a fitted sheet, a top sheet, and two pillowcases.

"How much are those?" Jack asked.

"Fifty-nine dollars a set."

"We only need the fitted sheet–we don't need this other shit. We already have pillowcases and nobody uses top sheets anymore. They just end up on the floor next to the damn dog!" Jack could just see the ticker tape on the cash register cha-chinging away.

"Look, Jack, we need the fitted sheets for the new mattress and they all have to match. Anyway, our bedding is old."

"Why do we need two sets?"

"Are you going to do the laundry every week and strip the beds, do the washing, hang them to dry, and make up the bed all in one day?"

"Sure."

Clare gave him the head-bob and then placed both packages on the counter.

"Would you like a mattress pad? It keeps the mattress from getting stained and also adds life to the mattress," the salesman said.

"Yes, we should get the pad," Clare said.

"How much is that?" Jack asked.

"$129.00"

"What? Forget it!"

"What's the point of spending two thousand dollars on a bed if it will be ruined in a few months if you spill something on it. It's like insurance," Clare patiently explained.

Jack and Clare were driving back home after their shopping escapade. It was not the worst bluster Jack had been through, but it ranked pretty high on the charts.

"The next time I go shopping with you I'll have a walker, my teeth will be in a cup, I'll be completely deaf, blind, and have Alzheimer's so bad I won't remember who I am much less who you are!" Jack promised and looked over at his wife.

"Isn't this exciting? We'll be sleeping on our new bed tomorrow night. Thanks honey!" Clare slid her hand into Jack's.

Jack looked back to the road and sighed under his breath, "We need to work on our communication skills."

 


 

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