Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bookfield, Serial Rapist

I continued to go from trailer to trailer that morning. I had to skip many because the folks were not at home, and I didn’t really get into many others. I felt pretty de-motivated by the time I met up with Mary again.

“Hi. Great to see you again.” I said to her. “Did it go okay?” I was dying to ask her out right how she did, but I knew that the Parchment rule was that it was not okay to ask.

“Everything is fine.” she said blandly. Her poker face kept me in the dark as to how she had really fared. I thought I noticed an upbeat mood, and maybe that meant that she had sold a book. Maybe if I told her how I did, she wouldn’t be offended by my breaking the rules and would reciprocate. After all, she couldn’t really intend to go through the entire summer without sharing her experiences with me.

“Well, I’ll tell you first.” I started. “I didn’t sell anything, but managed to get in a few demonstrations.” Then I just waited for her response.

She smiled. “That’s great Sue, but be careful, we’re not really supposed to tell each other things like that.” Guess I’d never know if she’d made a sale yet. Moreover, she was sticking to the rule about not discussing sales results, good or bad with her roommate. I was disappointed because I had hoped she could see beyond this one rule.

We went to the town tourist information center and got two maps of Athens. We sat on a cement bench and opened our maps. They were up-to-date and had little dots representing each house. We decided to divide our territory in half so that each of us could pick one of the halves. We looked over the little house dots and tried to split the map fairly. Broad Street bisected the town evenly from East to West, and she chose the northern section of Athens. I took the Southern section.

It was lunch time, and we knew from our car ride the night before that it was not a long walk from there to the Varsity, a campus fast food restaurant. We ordered grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and to my horror the fry cook behind the counter slathered both sides of the white bread with mayonnaise. I was used to butter, lightly applied to one side of each slice of bread. “Could I have less mayo?” I asked.

“HOLD THE GREASE!” yelled the waitress to the cook. We sat at a metal picnic table outside. I had my first Southern iced tea. I didn’t know it already had sugar in it, so I added more. It was unpalatable, and I was so hot and thirsty. They taught us at sales school to drink a glass of water every hour while selling, and I had not managed to get any all morning.

After lunch, we looked at rooms to let in houses of retired couples in the center of town. This area, between Broad Street and Prince Avenue was an old neighborhood. The houses were huge and looked like they were built circa the 1800's. Most had three stories, were white, and had large pillars in the front around their ample porches. I remember looking at one house in particular. When the front door opened I could smell urine. The old man had had a stroke and now lived sitting on a potty chair. His wife was also ancient and looked overwhelmed with caring for him and the house. I focused on just getting away from the stench. The room was $10 a week. They were nice people and felt pity for them, but there was no way I could stay there.

We had no luck. Places were either too expensive, or just unlivable. It took so much time walking from location to location, that before we knew it the afternoon was over and we telephoned Beverly to pick us up. She lived in a very nice middle class neighborhood on the East side of town. She showed us pictures of her son, who had sold for Parchment some time ago. We stayed in a bedroom upstairs that had white eyelet lace covers and curtains. That evening she gave us dinner and we talked while eating.

“The first thing I ought to let you ladies know is that there is a serial rapist on the loose in downtown Athens. It’s terrible. The victims are young white women. They are raped and then stabbed to death. There have been three murders so far and the police seem to have no leads. You ladies have to be really careful out there.”

We stared at her wide eyed, not knowing what to say to this. “Gee, thanks for letting us know.” said Mary.

Our hostess continued to instruct us. “The murders have been in the part of downtown not far from the projects. It’s really just across Broad Street that the neighborhood is all poor blacks. What ever you do, don’t sell books there because they’ll shoot at you. Anyhow, those folks will want your books, but never come up with the money at delivery.”

“Really?” I asked. “They’d go ahead and order the books when they know they can’t afford them?”

“Yup, they’re too weak to say no, I think. Look, there are lots of great neighborhoods to sell in here in Athens. How about if I drive you to one in the morning after breakfast?”

“Wow that would be great. We don’t want to put you out though.”

“It’s no problem really. I just think of when my son was out there all alone selling books and I hoped that nice people were looking out for him. The least I can do is help any one Parchment steers my way. It’s my pleasure, really.”

The area Beverly proposed was in Mary’s territory, but Mary said that it was alright with her. Beverly also said that she would call some friends of hers to see if they had rooms to let. She was a tremendous help and support.


evie said...

when i sold books door to door i found i could smell a poor person's house from the door. at one house i demo-ed the babies were playing in a puddle of dog urine on the floor.

good work, sue at helping me relive these memories! :-)

Sue said...

Anytime, Evie. Thanks for commenting.

Wild Reeds said...

Nice blog. Simple and evocative.

Sue said...

Thanks Wild Reeds.

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