He doorsteps on blustery days. Wind-wrecked hair and a harassed expression elicit purchases out of pity and, on occasion, an invitation to come in out of the cold. Today, a teacher is offering coffee. Her kitchen is a disgrace. The Salesman eyes dishes abandoned in cold water, crumbs swept in the direction of the bin. The Salesman asks, ‘When did you last dream of swans?’ and without pause, ‘If you’ve never been blessed with dreams of swans, why do you think that is? Are the dreams you do have of any benefit to anyone but yourself?
‘I dream I’m a raven,’ the teacher says, ‘with a beak as strong as onyx. I play with pine cones and rip flesh from a foxes carcass.’ Tea’s spilling from her mug onto the filthy floor. The Salesman snorts.
‘My ex was the same. Feckless. There is something you need to see.’
The Salesman produces bar graphs and pie charts, evidence of the benefits of aquiring what he is selling; toast racks in the shape of swans. He litters the teacher’s breakfast bar with proof of the stability his customers have found, verification that their once tangled thoughts now glide. The teacher glances over the paperwork as if it is disappointing homework.
‘I’m more of a muesli person.’
The breakfast bowl she introduces to the Salesman is the most pristine object he’s ever seen. The teacher’s home, reflected in its glazed surface, looks immaculate, carefully considered. The air resting in it fizzes like tracks when trains are approaching. One cautious touch, and The Salesman falls, convulses and is still.
An ambulance arrives too late. The Salesman is gone. Fled with the bowl while the teacher dialled nine, nine, nine. This is a thing ravens do; if they want to keep others from something they crave – they lie down beside it and play dead.