Tuesday, February 27, 2024

"The Carpet Salesman" - short story

Business in the carpet department was slow; in fact, it was non-existent. Ziv sat behind his desk from the moment the store opened in the morning until it closed for the night, and looked out at the furniture displays with little to distract him.

Occasionally, shoppers walked into Ziv’s section of the floor and admired the classic handmade Persian carpets bearing certificates of authenticity, or the multi-colored Boho-chic area rugs with their handwoven geometric designs hanging from ceiling-high racks, but few expressed real interest. For long hours, Ziv remained motionless and undisturbed. His shift passed slowly, and he had to prevent himself from yawning and stay presentable at all times.

“It’s minimum wage, but you’ll earn substantial commissions,” the store manager had promised Ziv on his first day of work, three months earlier. “Our carpets are of the highest quality and sales will be good.”

But there were no sales. Ziv knew that the imported carpets were over-priced and apparently the customers were aware of this as well. Of all the departments in the store, Ziv’s was the least successful, yet Management insisted it was to be manned full time. As long as Ziv was available for shoppers, whenever they had questions to ask, and as long as Ziv didn’t complain, he would keep his job, and for this he was grateful.

When he finished work, Ziv boarded the bus for the journey to his small apartment in a quiet Ramat Gan neighborhood. He climbed three flights of stairs and unlocked his door. Immediately Charlie, his ginger-colored cat, rubbed against his legs, purring in eager anticipation of leftovers from the night before. Ziv couldn’t afford canned or packaged cat food, but Charlie didn’t seem to mind. Before feeding him, Ziv picked up the animal with affection, but Charlie had a mean streak and scratched Ziv’s cheek, drawing blood.

As Ziv stared into a mirror, holding a tissue to the wound, he wondered where his life had gone off track. He had grown up in a middle-class neighborhood with caring parents and three older siblings, but he had lost touch with them after his army service. They refused to support him when repeated failures in mathematics studies caused him to drop out of university. “Get a hold on yourself,” his father said to him the last time Ziv had visited home. “We love you, but it’s time for you to start your own life,” his mother said.

He hadn’t seen them since.