When fruit blossoms in the spring, the newfound weight pulls the branches downwards. If the fruit is too heavy, it’ll snap off of the branch and fall onto the ground. If it weighs the right amount, it’ll hang low, just above the ground, creating tension in the arm by contracting the muscles. This is the first indicator of spring. The second is when the flesh of the fruit underneath the skin, begins to glow. It shines like the sun through a sheet of paper.
The third indicator of spring is the arrival of prospective businessmen. They enter the woods and go from tree to tree, soliciting ‘lucrative opportunities’ to the area. One of them had long legs and a short torso. His skin was smooth and reflective. He stopped at an oak tree and said, “I have lucrative opportunities for you.” The tree said nothing back to him. He smiled, “They’re time sensitive. I think they’re just right for you.” Nothing still. He nodded, shook hands with a branch of the tree—it was high above him, which forced him to awkwardly jump up and grab for a hold of it.
Onto the next tree. “Has someone come around here already? I’m trying to make some headway, but I think someone has already come around here to take all of my business.” No response. “I brought lucrative opportunities with me.” The businessman nodded and walked on. He looked around the foliage, and up at the branches by the top of the canopy. No one else was around. If he heard a sound, it was a passing deer, or a squirrel climbing up a trunk.
“It’s a lucrative opportunity. If you want it, it’s here for you. No bullshit. I’m not a bullshit man. It’s not in my blood. I’m here to do business. Simple as that. I’m a businessman.” A tree shuttered in the distance. The businessman rushed over. He smiled again, and tried to shake hands with one of the branches, “Hello. How are you?” The leaves rustled quietly. He nodded, stepping closer, while he carefully avoided touching any of the fruits, worried that they might fall and disrupt the calm atmosphere. “I have these lucrative opportunities. They’re lucrative. I want to offer them up to you. Lucrative.” One of the fruits fell onto the ground, and the branch swung up. It snapped against the leaves above. More fruits fell, more branches swung up. The flesh of the fruits began to bruise. It turned the clear light of the forest floor into a patchy set of indeterminate shadows. “I can’t offer these up all day. At some point I’ve got to move on to the next patch of forest and try my luck there.” The businessman nudged one of the fruits with his foot, “This isn’t a waiting game. It’s a sales game.”
What kind of things do you sell?
There are these, these, and these. You interested at all?
Do you want to hear about the dream I had last night?
These spin and whirl, if you give them a good start.
The businessman picked up one of the fruits. He examined the strange and lumpy texture. Sections of the skin were loose and peeling away. Juice dripped out and ran down his hand. The flesh flickered in and out of light, creating blotchy shadows on his face. “I don’t want this to ruin our working relationship. I didn’t mean anything by it.” The tree was silent. “At worst I meant nothing by it. At best, I hope it was a compliment.” He set down the fruit and wiped his hand against his pants-leg.
Other tree branches snapped throughout the area. A fruit would become too heavy, pull its branch down to the ground, and when the fruit touched the ground, the stem would disconnect and fling the branch up against the leaves above, making a distinct snapping sound. Every minute or so you could hear it. The businessman flinched every time he heard it. “Here. I saw this thing on TV. It was an infomercial for these small beads. Shit. They. I don’t remember what they did. But they were these little white beads. It doesn’t really matter what they did. The salesman is what I found interesting. He was selling them to individual people. He would sit down a single person and ask them a series of questions. Weird ones. He’d say, ‘are you the type of person who tends to remember their dreams?’ and most people will say that they are. Then he’d say, ‘have you seen anything about a man who is broken apart?’ or ‘have you recently dreamt of a figure whose limbs float away from his torso?’ It was incredible. Most people said that they had. They’d get increasingly nervous as the sales pitch went on. At the end, he’d say something like, ‘well I want to prescribe you this, I think it’ll help you get a clearer picture on the headset,’ and they’d all quickly scramble for their wallets to pay him.” The businessman smiled, “It’s hard work, doing a long pitch like that on a one-to-one basis, but it was flawless. I didn’t see him miss a single sale. In retrospect, I don’t know if calling it an infomercial was the right introduction. It was more like a livestream, or a talk show. Incredible though. It really was.” The tree rustled quietly. Fruits continued to snap branches in the background, and the businessman continued to fidget.
It took place in the wild west, with cowboys and shootouts, etc.
It’s thirty dollars for one of these, and only twenty for one of these.
Except there were no towns, it was just this endless, dry desert.
Aren’t all deserts dry?
Yeah, but this one was cracked and felt like purgatory.
Right. Well. Thirty. Twenty. Interested?
I want to go and see if that’s what the wild west is really like.
He picked up one of the fruits again, and motioned with it to the tree, “sorry that we couldn’t make a deal. You sure that another guy didn’t already come through here with his own pitch?” No response. He nodded, and took a bite out of the fruit, walking away. He thought about the questionnaire of the salesman, and where it might have come from. He imagined this well-dressed figure, reaching down into a sleeping man’s skull, and pulling out all of his dreams. Shadows cast jagged shapes on the surfaces around him. Trees continued to snap. He heard something moving in the distance.
He discarded the pit of the fruit and walked over to the noise. “Hello? I have lucrative opportunities with me. If you’re interested. Lucrative ones.” The businessman stepped through the various fragments of light into an opening. A nude woman sat on the ground. Her legs were crossed and she had a blank stare. Pitch black streaks ran across her body, slithering across her chest and arms. The businessman said, “Hello. I’m a businessman. I’m not a solicitor, don’t worry.” He tapped his briefcase, “I brought these lucrative opportunities with me.” The woman didn’t respond. He squatted down next her and tried to spot what she was looking at. “Let me level with you. I’ve been out all day trying to make a sale. No luck yet. This is a tough job. I know what I signed up for. It’s hard to sell something to someone as sturdy and stubborn as a tree. I haven’t even gotten any of them to talk to me. But. Well. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?” No response. “Are you the type of person that remembers their dreams?”
In one spot, there’s this shootout going on.
Are you the type of person that remembers their dreams?
But, you don’t know it’s a shootout at first.
Have you seen anything about a man who is broken apart?
They’re all just standing in this triangle talking to each other.
Have you recently dreamt about a figure whose limbs float away from his torso?
Then, boom. All three of them drop. Not even enough time for a gun to go off.
Is this getting through to you at all? I’m trying to do something here.
The businessman rubbed his temples and stood up. The nude woman remained where she was, yet to move since he had arrived. Fruit trees continued to snap, and he continued to fidget. “I feel like I’m not getting through to you. Have you seen that salesman already? Is he the one that already came through here?” The woman said nothing. He fidgeted again. “Thanks for your time. If you change your mind, I’m headed in that direction. I’m just walking, so it shouldn’t be hard to catch up to me. Thanks.” He walked off, looking over his shoulder every couple of feet.
Discarded fruits laid all across the forest floor. Some remained intact, shining dimly while other leaked their light through cuts in the skin. Shadowy blotches flickered overhead, forming strange shapes in the canopy. They shifted constantly. They’d look like a mushroom cloud, then seconds later, look like a walking figure. As the businessman stumbled away from the nude woman, he saw this shadow of the figure walking. He quickly jumped up to his feet and began looking around. He imagined the set of questions, and the man who had broken apart.
He rushed from tree to tree, looking around them to see if someone had been hiding from him. Paranoia swelled. He knocked against the trunks of the trees, clicked his tongue, and looked back up at the canopy. “If there’s someone here, I’m the guy to talk to.” About what? He walked to a distant tree. He nudged it with his elbow, “here’s the deal, friend.” The businessman put on a fake smile, “here’s the deal. You’re at the edge of my territory. You’re the furthest tree that I can market to. What I mean. Well. You’re the last guy that I usually get to offer up these lucrative opportunities to. I work my way from there,” He pointed to the first tree, “to here. And usually I don’t get to talk to you. Someone else buds in before you get a chance. Today though, is the day.” The tree said nothing. He frowned for a moment, looking back at the other trees.
His eyes scanned for any oddities: a scratch in the bark, strange hues of light, an excess of bruised fruit. He thought about the woman from earlier. Why had she been sitting there? Had those dark shapes on her body been shadows, or some other entity? He wondered if she had been swallowed up yet; if she had become unidentifiable. The businessman looked up at the canopy. “Do you know what the seasons are for these fruits? I can’t remember a time when they weren’t all over the place, like they are now.” No response. The businessman nodded absent-mindedly. “It’s fine. Excuse me for a moment.” He walked away to a cluster of three trees, took a deep breath, and tightened his grip on his briefcase.
“How are all of you?” The trees leaned in towards one another, arching over the businessman. Fruits snapped off of their branches. He flinched. “I’ve been having a lot of trouble today. No one wants to talk with me. I have good deals here, but no one seems up for them. It’s made me a little desperate, so I’m willing to cut a deal with you.” He was again met with silence. “Let me ask you something else. If I wanted to find out if someone else had been here before me, how would I go about doing that? Who should I talk to? What should I look for?”
But here’s the weird part, all of the gunmen stand up afterwards.
Do you want any of these, or are you just pulling my leg?
What’s the point of a shoot-out if no one dies?
Well, these guys, this one and this one, we’ve been doing dream sales for.
Maybe it’s just a game. Or maybe they’re bored and passing the time.
The businessman rubbed his temples, “Did you see anything? I’m not trying to sound like a paranoiac, I just want to know if I’m wasting my time or not.” The trees said nothing. “I’m worried that this salesman has already come through and talked to all of my prospective customers. People tend to lunge at these lucrative opportunities. They’re a good buy. Today though, nothing. Not a bite. And that’s just strange to me.” No response. “It’s not strange though, if you saw a man, looks a lot like me, but he says things like, ‘are you the type of person who tends to remember their dreams?’ or, ‘have you seen anything about a man who is broken apart?’ If he’s been through here, you’ve gotta tell me. It’s just the polite thing to do.” Fruit snapped off of the branches.
The businessman fidgeted. “It’s all about dreams, you know? Who doesn’t have them? Everyone does. An odd few don’t remember them as well as most, but a little bit of practice pulls you out of that easily. If a product can jump up into your skull like that, you’re defenseless. That salesman, he’s a bastard, but he’s a smart one. He’s got the right idea on how to market to people. He has to sell one-by-one, and it takes a little while, but his track record has got to be something like 95 percent. Maybe even higher than that. It’s time-consuming, but effective.”
The businessman said, “The rest of us are left wandering around here trying out weird experimental shit. I know a guy who’s been prodding at this one technique. He brings this metronome around with him, and he whispers these keywords to the customer. I don’t know how ethical it is. The dream sales probably aren’t either. I’m not trying to have that issue. I want to be an honest businessman. I’m just going from prospective customer to prospective customer. I tell you what I have, and you can say whether or not you want it. It doesn’t carry the same certainty, but when you’ve got something like this, the commission is usually reliable. These are lucrative opportunities. Do you know what lucrative means? They’re profitable. They’re a guaranteed success. I don’t think the salesman has that same luxury. I don’t know what he’s selling, but it’s uncertain enough to require that dream pitch. Poor guy probably got stuck with some faulty product. In retrospect, I’m probably the lucky one out of the two of us. I don’t know why I’m trying to sympathize with him. That’s not what I’m trying to get at. Did he make that dirt ring over there?” No response.
A good sale is one that doesn’t seem like a sale.
What’s the market like for undead cowboys buying revolvers?
But you know, the problem is, it can’t feel like an anti-sale.
Or. I mean. Do any of you market to a demographic like that?
If it’s too much of an anti-sale, no one will be in the right mindset to buy.
“Here’s what I’m worried about. I want to be straightforward with you. I think that the salesman already came through here. I know that he did. At first, I thought it might’ve just been a bad day. Not everyone wants to spend money on a daily basis. But now I think I’ve got a broader picture. I think that someone else came through here. Do those trees have any dreams? Do you think they remember them?” No response. “It would make sense that this salesman bastard has been selling fruit to all of you. It’s everywhere. And if this dream method is as effective as it seems to be, then it’s logically sound that the product he’s been selling would be so ubiquitously present that it wouldn’t seem out of place. I mean, if you’re a good salesman, then your product is going to be everywhere. Someone like me, who’s just arrived on the scene, shouldn’t even notice that the product isn’t naturally occurring.
The businessman looked at one of the trees, “are you the type of person who remembers their dreams?” No response. “It’s okay if you are. You’re not the one at fault here. It’s that bastard who came into my territory, and started selling his bullshit. This is my space. Everyone gets one. There’s no need to invade someone else’s. There’s no need to fuck over another working man. That’s all I am. I’m a goddamn working man, and this salesman can’t appreciate that. He’s too busy throwing change into his own pockets to look around and see who he’s screwing over. What a bastard. What a goddamn bastard.”
He sighed, “I’m not here to stir the pot. I’m just trying to do my job. That’s all.” The businessman listened to all of the snapping fruits, and watched the flickering lights of their flesh. “Thank you for your time.” He spotted a new customer and approached, “Hello there. I’m a prospective businessman and I’m here to offer up a couple of lucrative opportunities to you.” The customer stood in place, looking at the businessman, and said nothing.
Mike Corrao is a current student at the University of Minnesota where he is studying English and Film. He is part of the Art House Collective, and a former artist in residence at Altered Esthetics. His work can be found in magazines such as Entropy, decomP, and Cleaver. You can find out more about him at: http://www.mikecorrao.com/