Lee Harper studied the little man in front of him. Roy Mason was his name, a soda pop and snack salesman. “I saw you near sold out of the orange cola. Can I put you down for another case?” Roy wiped his brow, sweating profusely. It was early, too early to sweat like that, Lee thought. Roy was always sweaty. He probably sweat when he went to church. Even his hands were sweaty. Roy looked down and fiddled with his clipboard, grabbed the pencil from behind his ear and looked up pensively. “Hmm Roy, les-see. We’ll go the same on the Grape-a-Bama , Creme-a-Bama.” He wondered what about the orange? Lee drifted off, distracted with worry over his wife, Willow, who was at the doctor. She hadn’t been feeling so good so he was minding the store by himself today. “Lee?, LEE?” Lee looked back. “Well, Roy, les-see what’s on the list.” “You got the grape, cherry, creme, root beer and pineapple, four cases each, except for the creme and Pine-a-Bama, one case. You gotta try the Bama-Cola, Lee. People round here like it better’n Coke and Pepsi. It’s sweeter.” Lee pondered: That was Roy’s salesman talk, trying to get more of his product in the cooler. Everybody wanted Coke or Pepsi. He would have to sell Bama-Cola at a discount. The tinkle of glass bottles distracted them. The kid had the wooden cases piled high on the dolly and was about to drag the whole load up the wooden steps. Roy sprung into action, flinging the screen doors open, barking, “Hey podna, I told you to deluxe the load b’fore draggin’ it up on the steps! Half that order right now! You’re gonna drop it all! If you break a bottle it’ll come out of your pay! I’m telling you!” Roy pointed wildly at the kid. Stubby, thought Lee. Roy was stubby and sweaty, waving his arms around. He seemed to shrink in size and grow wider when he was excited. His outfit, shiny black brogans, khaki uniform with the Bama-Cola patch, exaggerated his proportions. The kid shrugged in the gravel by the door, stopped, and started to unstack the cases. The screen door creaked when Roy walked back inside. He paused then mopped his brow. “Look Lee, I can give you half off on a case of Bama-Cola to try it out for now. If it sells you can get more.” Willow won’t like it, thought Lee. Doctor and diagnosis haunted him. “Hmm Roy, les-see, I’ll go with what we did before and if the orange sells out again I’ll consider gettin’ more.” Roy looked frustrated. “I think it’s just the summer for the orange, Roy. The kids drink that. What about those new snack crackers you said you had coming out?” Lee was trying to get out from under the hard sell on the Bama-Cola. It was like this every week. Roy was angling to win the salesman award at the company picnic July 4th. Maybe even get noticed by the brass in Montgomery. “I got the new Snack-o-Meal crackers on the truck,” Roy said, eager to add to the order. “The cheese with peanut butter filling,” making a squeezing motion with his hand. “How about two cases? Add to the order, how about it?” Roy patted the stack of snacks next to him. The cellophane crackled. Lee nodded. “Good deal,” said Roy, checking off the invoice with a sense of accomplishment, handing the clipboard to Lee for his signature. “Hey Pod, Get me two case Cheese Snack-o-Meal! Pod! Hey Podnuh!” Roy walked though the door waving his hands at his assistant. Mrs. Johnston walked in passing Roy on the way out. “Morning, Lee “ she said. “You got fresh corn?” She held her hands together like a praying mantis with a purse. “Yes’m. In the back in the basket.” Lee pointed and walked behind the counter. He closed his eyes. Bottles tinkled, fans hummed. Footsteps drummed on the wooden floor. Willow weighed on his mind. 

Francis Pavy