The same old dirt path with the same old wagon wheel tracks and old footprints still lead to the old town with its old businesses and markets. Legend told of towns such as this that prospered and the fate that waited. Take old Clarkton. There was the stereotypical prospering town. Merchants came from all around to set up markets of their goods that everyone could have lived without purchasing but did. Surrounding farms produced the largest fields of corn, wheat, and pumpkin patches in the whole state. The Chickens and cattle continually sold well and provided well for the purchasers and their familiesónot to mention the sellers. No weather or criminal or new law could possibly knock this town over. That was until he walked in with his merchandise.
The people knew him by only one name: Salesman. This mysterious merchant had many reputations. Some say he convinced the Governor of Clarkton to give up the town. Salesman then destroyed it with a blazing fire caused by the mere snap of his fingers. Others say he tricked the people into giving him all their money by selling his cursed merchandise. Then, after he left, the farms were plagued by some mysterious force and died leaving the town to ruins. Others claim it was a giant tornado concocted by an angered Salesman when no one bought his merchandise that destroyed the small town. In any instance, where is Clarkton now? Good question.
A few of the old folks of the old town told the stories to the younger ears adding even more detail to this Salesman. They claim to have seen him sitting on a stump beside the old dirt path, with his rickety old cart and his young dog, to rest from their walk. Many people have tried to sit on the stump and when they do, Salesman would come over the hill and tall grass, along with his cart and trusty Labrador. The people who tried to invade his territory were never heard from again. And along with this, their names were erased with them. This offered understandable skepticism however, every time a traveler would stop to rest, they would avoid all stumps by the path.
"So is this really the path Salesman walks on, Jess?" the young boy of nine asked his older brother of fourteen.
"Sure is Adam," the older brother answered. Adam and Jesse were the boys of a farmer. Their mother had died of small pox and their father always had them on chores. They were a poor bunch. Neither boy had a decent pare of shoes or cloths. Their teeth were far from straight and their faces were constantly dirty. It raised few brows, however. After all, every boy in the area was like this.
Jesse was a rather tall boy. He had hair past his ears and his body was rather thin. Adam had his red hair and freckled nose and cheek. They were both the mischievous types and also quite vulnerable. Their grandfather had filled their heads with tales of Salesman many a time. Adam took every word to heart, as his brother would work on improving the stories. Jesse and his friends were notorious for causing trouble with mere words but the younger folksólike Adamówere always taking the bate.
The two brothers strolled down the old path chewing on grass and kicking pebbles with their callused toes. Jesse had been feeding Adam with more tidbits on Salesman as they walked from the old town to their old farm. Adam, as usual, hung on every word.
"Whereís the stump that he sits on?" Adam asked his brother with open curiosity.
"Iíll show you it when we get there," Jesse answered keeping his brother in suspense.
"So what does he look like?" Adam asked with his boyish quizzical tone.
"Well," Jesse began, creating a picture in his mind that could fool his brother, "heís sorta tall, like over 6 foot. Heís got hair past his neck and itís all black. Heís even got hair on both sides of his ears but no beard, just the beginings of one.
"HeísÖahÖhe wears this round green hat that sorta looks like those English shoe-shinerís hats with the small brim. Heís got this long tan coat and itís all wrinkled. And thereíre no pockets neither. Heís got brown Indian shoes and these yellow pants with holes in Ďem. Oh, and heís got gloves with no fingers on. He says itís to keep his hand warm but his fingers cold."
"Have you talked to Salesman?" Adam asked anxiously.
""Nah," Jesse relied, waving his hand in a dismissive manner. "He canít talk to me. Fiz says he talked to him Ďfore."
"Fiz always lies," Adam retorted. "He said he saw that big moose on his hill and it called his name." Jesse then put his arm in front of his little brother stopping him in his tracks. He then pointed out to a stump that sat by the side of the path.
"Thatís the stump I saws Salesman sittiní on," Jesse whispered to his curious brother.
"Wow," Adam whispered in awe. He felt he was looking upon a godly sight: the famous stump.
"I dares ya to sit on it," Jesse said insidiously.
"You first," Adam dared back. Adam was not stupid; he knew the legend.
"Suit yourself," Jesse replied. "Iíve gotta get home to do my chores. See ya later, little brother." With that, the older of the two ran off ahead of the younger leaving him to marvel at the old stump. And though it was of his nature to stay and watch, in amusement, his brotherís profound interest in some old stump, Jesse did run all the way home to do his chores. If heíd tricked his brother into one phony story, he could do it again.
Adam slowly approached the mystifying stump hesitantly as though it would attack him at any moment if he were not careful enough. To think, it was this stump the Salesman came and sat on all those many times. It was mind-boggling and very unsettling. It finally got the best of him and Adam could only do one thing after thatÖ
He sat on the stump as his brother had described. The young boy absorbed the invigorating rush that came over him. He then took immediate guard and looked about him up and down the old dirt path that lay in front of him. He knew what happened to people who sat on this wicked stump. Suddenly, the piercing sounds of wheels from an old cart bounced off the ground and rocks into Adamís ear. A figure of a tall man hunched over his cart with the wheels wobbling back and forth slowly appeared from over the tall grass. His long coat blew limply in the small breeze. His hat was tattered and dirtied changing its color from what appeared to be a brilliant green to a dark grotesque olive. The pitter-patter of a dog with his drooling tongue hanging limply from its mouth followed by the strangerís feet. The young Labradorís tail flew back and forth at a rapid speed as his master mumbled to himself. "Copper Kettles. Different kinds of tin," the stranger spoke to himself. His eerie smile curled up his grimy cheeks. The slow formation of a beard added to its haunting affect.
The cart was of an old molded wood that cracked as loud as the wheelsí screech. It held pots, pans, kettles, teacups, and everything in any type of metal imaginable with remarkable no rust formed on any of the merchandise. Compared to the man, these goods would easily make this man a king though he only looked to be a popper. Adam couldnít understand; if this was the powerful Salesman heíd head about from so many people, why was he so dirty and poor?
"Copper kettles. Different kinds of tin," the man repeated again. His pouch followed his master intently, wagging his tail as he did. Adam froze in his seat as the man made eye contact with him. His smile remained as if carved by a fine bladed artistís knife. The young boy could only stare back at the man. He felt he could do nothing else.
"Young boy," the traveler spoke in a distinct southern accent, "I believe you have my seat under your pants."
"S-s-sorry sir," Adam stuttered in fear. He immediately stood up and stepped three paces back from the stump. The traveler slowly approached and, parking his cart next to himself, sat heavily down on the now vacant stump. He removed his hat and, using it as a fan, waved it in front of his face, drying the beads of sweat so to cool his tired hot cheeks.
"Thank ya, boy," the man replied. "I needed this. See, Iíd been walkiní a hundred Ďn ten miles now. Itís tough on the old heals, Ďspecially with these here moccasins, I tell you what."
"Yes sir," Adam replied with a shake in his throat. The Lab sat in the shade of the cart, lying down and laying his head on his front paws. "That sure is a good lookiní dog you got there, sir," Adam commented.
"Thatís my traveliní companion," the man replied. "His nameís Snitch. He likes heariní me talk. By the way, my nameís Salesman." The stranger extended his hand out to Adam. The boy merely stared at it in horror. His fears had come true; he was in the presence of the Salesman.
"Well gee, boy," the merchant said, "ainít ya gonna shake it? It ainít gonna hurt ya." His hand wore a dirtied tan leather glove with the fingers ripped off. Adam hesitantly extended his hand out to Salesmanís and let him do all the shaking. They released as Salesman continued to smile. "See, that wasnít bad, was it?"
"Sorry, Mr. Salesman, sir," Adam timidly responded. "I just-just-yíknowÖ"
"Oh, youíve heard tell all those stories," Salesman finished. "I understand. I get that a lot. Take it from me, boy, none of itís true, not a word.
"If itís all the same, sir, Iíd best be gettiní home now," Adam said, slowly moving back.
"Aww, come on boy," Salesman whined yet still maintaining his unearthly smile. "It hurts to think you donít trust me. Iím just a traveliní merchant tryiní due with what I got." His eyes then narrowed and his brow turned in. He then stood and approached his cart digging through its contents. Adam stepped forward in curiosity to see what he wanted to get from his cart. The Lab looked up at his master in curiosity as well, his tongue dangled from his mouth.
"I see you donít believe me," the traveler began, still searching through his cart, "so Iím gonna show you Iím good." He stood back up and turned around to Adam. He held a copped urn. It was rather small and the top opened on a hinge. There was no real detail to it however its shine reflected the sun sharply causing Adam to squint as he marveled at it. "This is for you," the man said, handing the boy the urn. Adam took it cautiously.
"Thatís kind of you, sir," the boy said, "but I donít have any money to give you for it. ĎSides, I got no use for a-a-whatever this is."
"Ah but you do, boy," Salesman began, sitting back down on the stump. "See, this hereís a magic urn. It will give you wishes. You just tell it to give you what you want, no matter what the size or cost and youíll get it. Go Ďhead. Try it."
Adam thought far a second. He then looked at the urn and said to it, "I wish for a sugar stick twelve inches long." He waited a second or two but he saw nothing appear or change. He then looked to Salesman curiously. "What happened? Whereís my sugar stick?"
"Open the top," the man said. Adam cautiously opened to lid letting it hang from its hinge. Inside stood, straight out the top, a long brown pastry glistening in sugar. Adamís eyes grew to the size of saucers. He pulled out the stick; it stood longer than the urn. He bit off the tip and savored the taste.
"Itís got cinnamon on it too," Adam, remarked happily. "Howíd it know?"
"The urn can do anything," Salesman replied. "But you canít be too greedy with it. Anyone who is may not like whatís coming to him or her. Keep the urn safe and if you need my help again just sit on the stump." The merchant the stood up and took hold of his cart again.
"But mister," Adam began, "what ifÖ"He cut himself off as he looked up and noticed that the traveler had vanished. Adam was stunned. How could the man have disappeared so quickly and quietly and without Adam seeing?
A week had passed since Adamís encounter with the mysterious Salesman. He had taken his urn and hid it in his pillow so his brother would not find it. He hadnít used the urn either for fear of getting caught by either his brother of father. If word spread that he had made contact with the infamous Salesman, he would surly have to do it again and he would get punished or get Salesman in needless trouble. He had told his family that his delay that day he encountered the merchant was due to a detour he had made to avoid a sever pit that was being filled. Luckily his father did not question the authenticity of the story and Adam was let go. Jesse, however, remained slightly suspicious. He had followed the path home that day as well and noticed no pit.
That night, Jesse and Adam lied in their bed in their shared room. Jesse began telling other stories he had heard about Salesman from the old men at the tavern. For instance, it was reported that a trail of the travelerís dogís saliva was found coming from the stump. (Little did Jesse know the stump he pointed out was the one he was describing.) He was then seen strolling past the old Wilson farmówhich was just two miles from the old town by the path and a half a mile from the stump. He was then seen waiting by a tree for his dog to do his personal business. Rumor then had it Salesman was heading for the old town to do business of his own. Some of the residents were reported to have shut down their shops early to pray it was not true.
Adam just listened with half a heart. He knew Salesman could not have been heading for the old town; he had been walking in the opposite direction when Adam met him. Salesman had to have passes the town a week ago. Adam just silently fell asleep to his brotherís wild stories.
The next morning, the brothers woke at the sound of the roaster as they did every morning and walked into the dining room to have their breakfast of eggs and grits. Their father sauntered in through the back door. He held his head low and sat down in front of his two sons.
"Boys, I have some bad news," their father began. "Our whole chicken pen was attacked by a weasel and all the hens were killed. We got no eggs for this morniní." The boyís mouths hung open at the shock. "That ainít all. The wind busted the barn door and the horse escaped along with the goat. All we got left now in the corn to sell. If we canít sell any tomorrow at market, Iím afraid weíre gonna have to sell the farm and move."
"Why, Dad?" Adam asked.
"I canít pay the taxes up," he answered. "Theyíre cominí Monday and if I donít money for them, weíd be forced to sell the farm."
"I bet Salesman did it," Jesse sneered.
"Now no more of that Salesman nonsense," his father scolded. "This was no devilís work. This was fate. Now letís get ready. We gotta harvest all the ripe corn soís we can bring it to market tomorrow."
"But tomorrowís Sunday," Adam chimed. "No oneís gonna be out to buy stuff. Theyíd be at church prayiní all day."
"We have to do what can to get money, son" their father replied. "Youíre motheróGod rest her soulówould want us to."
That day, the three walked up and down the acre of corn patch inspecting every stock for any cobs that were ripe enough to pick. Everyone that was just barely developed enough to pick would have to do and there were very, very few. It got to the point where the boysí father decided to dig up his most youthful stocks and sell them whole. It was desperate.
The boys easily went to bed early that night. The work had them tired enough to go to bed before the sun set. But before Adam went to sleep, he had made a decision. When he was sure his brother had completely fallen asleep, he pulled out his urn and held it tight. Concentrating on it, he spoke to it: "I wish we can make enough money tomorrow to get our horses and chickens and goat back and we can grow all out corn back too. I donít want loose the farm. I donít want my family to be poor." He then heard rustling from his brotherís bed as Jesse fidgeted in his sleep. Adam quickly shoved the urn into his pillow and went to sleep.
The next morning at market, a swarm of people seemed to be coming left and right through the town. People from all over the state came up to the boyís stand purchasing everything. Adam had to handle the stand at one point so his brother and father could go back to the farm and retrieve more goods. With the money they were making, they could easily afford twice as many supplies and livestock and still pay off the taxes to the house.
Finally, the last bundle of corn was left at their stand. Adam watched every man to see who the next customer would be. Then, a tall man with a long coat and dog by his side approached the stand. His olive hat covered his face and his hands were shoved in his pants pockets. He walked to Adam and took out his hand holding five silver shiny coins. His has wore a glove with no fingers.
"Gíday, boy," the strangers southern accent greeted. "I wish to purchase yer last bundle of corn there." Adam concentrated hard on the man until something clicked in his head.
"Salesman," he whispered.
The man looked up,, his sinister grin still curved on his sinister rough face. "It suren id nice to see you finally used the urn Iís gave ya," he said in a sneering tone. "It wandered what Iíd have ta do to get you to pull it out of yer pilla."
"You did this?" Adam asked quietly so not to grab any needless attention. Salesman just shrugged his right shoulder. "Oh sir, I wasnít beiní greedy. I just wished our family could get fixed so we wouldnít have to move. Thatís all; I swear."
"I ainít objectiní none," Salesman said. "I just want my corn over there."
"Please sir," Adam began, taking the corn and handing it to the traveler, "take it for free. Itís the least I can do to repay you for the urn."
"Yer a good kid, boy," the merchant replied taking the bundle of corn, "but you ainít the one whoís gonna be payiní me and it wonít be with just corn neither." He dropped the coins on the table and turned away. The boy watched as a crowed of people passed between him and the mysterious traveler. When they cleared, Salesman had vanished. How did he do such a unfathomable act? And how did he know where Adam kept the urn?
The farm prospered well after that. Two more horses were added to the farm, twice as many chickens came, and the healthiest corn in the history of the farm was harvested. The family was happier than could be imagined. Adam hadnít used the urn since for fear of over using it. He had already received everything conceivable to his families standards. Anything moreóto himówas too much.
Jesse notice his little brother becoming less and less interested in the legends of Salesman. He became suspicious as to why. Had his brother been effected by his cursed ways? Was his brother in conjunction with Salesman? Or did his brother find out the stories he had been fed were fake?
Suddenly, and without warning, the boys father took ill without warning. He was confined to his bed and his chores had to be done by the brothers. The boysí Aunt had to come in and care for her sick brother ant there was little light at the end of his tunnel.
Adam found this to be another perfect time to pull out the urn. This was not greed; this was love. He ran into his room one day after lunch and took the urn from his pillow. He held it tightly out in front of him and said to it, "I wish my father to get better. I donít want him to die. I love him and we need him."
Then, I tight grasp on his wrist caused Adam to drop the urn on his bed and gasp in shock. Someone had caught him. The hand oh his wrist forced him to turn around. As he did, he met his brotherís fiery eyes. Jesse picked up the urn and held it just out of reach of his brotherís hand.
"Give it back!" Adam demanded. "Give it back now, Jess!"
"Where did you get this?" Jesse charged. "How could you afford this?"
"I didnít buy it," Adam answered, still struggling to get free of his brotherís grip. "Some one gave it to me."
"Who?" Jesse ordered, squeezing his brotherís wrist ever tighter.
"I-I-I canít tell you, Adam responded hesitantly and fearfully.
"Iím going to tell Aunt Clare you stole this," Jesse threatened.
"No!" Adam pleaded. "No, Iíll tell you who gave it to me." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Salesman gave it to me."
"Liar!" Jesse accused. "There is no Salesman!"
"Yes there is!" Adam insisted angrily. "Heís not bad. He gave me that urn to make wishes. Thatís how we got all that money from market. He even bought the last bundle while you and Dad went back to get more good."
"How did you meat him?" Jesse demanded.
"I sat on the stump," Adam answered. "The one you pointed to."
Jesse looked one last glaring time into Jesseís eyes. He then released his grip and stormed out of the room, urn in hand. The older brother continued out the door toward the old path. The little brother pursued after until he finally caught up and pulled on his brother to halt.
"Donít go," Adam persuaded. "Heís not bad and he didnít do nothiní wrong."
"Hey, if he can give you something like this for free, He can surely give me something too," Jesse replied. He then pushed Adam down on the dingy ground and ran down the old path. The little brother decided not to follow his brother. He would find for himself what his fate would be.
The next day, Adamís father was improving dramatically in his health. Though he was still weak, there was no doubt he would recover fully. However, Jesse hadnít returned home from his trek down the path the day before. It was not like him to leave and not return for supper. Aunt Clare was becoming concerned and told Adam to go out searching. The boy knew exactly where to go.
The little brother hurried down the old path to the familiar stump and without hesitation, sat upon it. Immediately, the eerie sound of the old decrepit cart and the words "Copper kettle. Different kinds of tin," grew from beyond the hill. Salesman and his dog appeared pushing his raggedy cart with its luminous merchandise. Adam quickly stood up with no dawdling. He glared at the manís snarling grinning face as it made contact with his. Salesman parked his cart as he had before and sat down on the stump once again using his hat for a fan.
"Whereís my brother, Salesman," Adam demanded with no preamble.
"Who?" the traveler asked with no evidence in his tone that he needed to.
"My brother came to find you," Adam retorted. "What did you do to him?"
The immoral merchant reached his hand into his pants pocket. "Remember I told you you werenít goiní ta be the one repayiní me fer that urn?" he asked. Adam nodded. The traveler then pulled out a pouch and held it in front of Adamís eyes. "Well, yer brother did and very well too. Iím sure some mother is makiní good bacon on him now." He shook the bag. The ringing of change was heard from it. Salesman laughed in a terrifying tone. Adam turned closing his eyes as the vision of what his brother had become shook his mind and body . The laughter added to the petrifying image. The boyís head filled with rage and he whirled around ready to beat the evil merchant but when he opened his eyes, the man was gone. The only thing that remained was his haunting laughter, a puddle of dog drool, and that wavy tracks of the tottering wheels of the wooden cart.
From that day on, stories of Salesman diminished. The old town was repaired and with its old look went the old folks and their tales. The old path was soon fixed and marked and all the trees by its side were cut so the infamous stump disappeared among its brothers. There was no talk of the whereabouts of Jesse only that he ran away and never returned home. Adam just remained with his father until his fatherís dying day. The farm was left to time and Adam just walked away as if nothing happened. He never forgave himself for letting his brother go to his fate that even he didnít deserve because of his jealousy of Adam for meeting Salesman. And if ever asked about his thought of Salesman, he responded with the same words: "Whoís Salesman?"
Gee, ya thinkitís long enough