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Fiction for Factions


*A day early! And this almost ran yesterday. 

Well, hello. Happy Independence Week to one of the least independent populations in the world! I had thought to write something else about the unfolding collapse and the coming, necessary fun. Again. For about the fifty-seventh time. What can I say? Prepare for battle? And, by that I, of course, mean prepare to vote and so forth.

Who has time for all that? Not me, not this week. Instead, I have something much better! Breathing new life into THE SUBSTITUTE, I thought to give you a glimpse of an outtake from the original 2019 cobbling. It’s the side story of how Tom bought the Dodge Demon, originally planned as either a stand-alone or as the opening of chapter three. It failed to make the cut, but it still warrants a little interest. So, here she is! Enjoy.


“Southbound and Down”

Charlotte, North Carolina, June 13, 2018, mid-day…

‘You don’t want to trade that Rover? We’d love to make you an offer on it, my friend! Those things sell here. Based on looking at it, we could probably do Blue Book plus.’ Another overly-friendly man wearing a tie and a wide, cheap grin had appeared at the cubicle doorway. Tom began to answer (again), ‘oh, no. I need something to tow the—’

   ‘Not a problem, my man,’ Mr. Whoever cut in; ‘I had to come ask.’ He extended his hand, the smile a little more genuine now, saying, ‘my name is David Fierce. I’m the sales manager here at Hamrick CDJR. I had to drop by and say hello. Is Ms. Francinia treating you right?’ He almost seemed like a nice guy at that point.

   ‘She’s doing a heck of a job, Mr. Fierce,’ Tom said as he, for a second, shifted into his version of cheap salesman’s mode: ‘She was just telling me about the, everything is 50% off sale, today only. I’d have never known. Really nice of you guys.’

   Fierce was a veteran of the car business, knowing a joke (and a real non-nonsense buyer) when he heard or saw one. ‘Shhh! Mr. Hamrick will fire me if he finds out.’

   Tom and Francinia laughed it off as the manager continued, ‘I just wanted you to know how much we appreciate your business, sir. Mr. Ironsides, is it?’

   ‘It is.’

   ‘Thank you, again, sir. It’s not everyday we sell a Demon. That is some car, huh?!’

   ‘I’ll think she’ll do, until I can find something fast,’ Tom joked.

   ‘Hey! Dodge’s brochure literally says the thing is too damn fast!’ Fierce said. ‘Maybe you can trade it in on an F-18!’ He turned to go but looked back in, adding, ‘and, do let us know if you consider selling the Rover.’

   ‘Will do,’ answered Tom.

   Fierce stopped again. ‘Couldn’t help but notice your hat inside the windshield. Semper fi, brother!’

   ‘Oorah!’ Tom concluded Fierce was all-right and the real deal.

   He’d left New England that Monday on his trek south. This deal was something he’d actually worked out on the phone days earlier, on his other trip back from the Yukon. As he rolled down I-81, the extremely attractive Ms. Francinia Santarosa, his personal buying assistant and product specialist, had called several times to assure him about options, make sure he as coming, and to tell him that a Mr. Kreight had approved his wire transfer payment ability, but he still recommended Chrysler financing. Tom said he’d think about that last part.

   He also had to think about getting his new muscle car down to New Augusta. In Concord, he’d rented a U-Haul car carrier. Hamrick had a padded professional transport cover rushed in after he declined their offer to specially ship the car to his new home.

   When he arrived, an older salesman had rushed out to meet him, becoming slightly dejected when he asked for Francinia by name. He had gotten a slight rush when she first appeared, twenty-eightish, long dark hair, perfect Latin skin, and almost a better build than the Demon. Powerful and fun as Dodge’s supercar was, during the test drive he’d had trouble taking his focus off of her. Now, they sat together, making small talk, and waiting on Mr. Kreight, Tom’s finance manager, to finish whatever it was he was doing. 

   ‘Do you get a commission off of financing?’ Tom was direct. ‘I want you to make money off me.’

   ‘We do. Off of the back end. The finance office. Yes,’ she answered directly.

   ‘Then, I’ll think about it. He said I could pay off the loan as soon as the paperwork came in.’

   ‘Don’t worry about me, Tom,’ she said with a smile. ‘I do alright. Top sales four months in a row.’

   I can believe that! he thought. He imagined that her looks and charm (and considerable car knowledge) made a big difference. He was more direct: ‘Do you ever date customers?’

   ‘I’m open to the idea,’ she said as she batted her eyes.

   ‘Okay. Good. I’ve got a few days. Now, I don’t usually date older women, but I might make an exception for you. [The cheap line worked before…] What time do you get off today?’

   ‘I’m at double my weekly quota already. They’ll let me leave anytime I want. Let me go change and I’ll be yours at—’

   ‘You’re perfect, right now. Already too good for this old man,’ he said.

   ‘Ha! Okay. Four work? I could drop by your hotel.’

   ‘That’ll be perfect!’ Tom thought for a second. ‘Where’s a nice hotel around here?’

   ‘Come back here at four,’ she said. ‘I’ll lead you.’

   ‘I’ll be happy to follow…’

   Mr. Kreight interrupted the match-making. ‘Ookay, Mr. Ir, uh, Ironsides. I’ve got everything set up. Here’s your license back. Oh, and I made you a paper copy of what USAA emailed me. New card. If you’ll come with me. This shouldn’t take too long.’

   Kreight was actually efficient. First he rattled off the car information from a brochure or dealer sheet:

    • 2019 Challenger SRT Demon
    • Pitch Black (Tom had wanted Maximum Steel but this color was satisfactory)
    • Leather interior
    • No backseat
    • 840 HP! (running racing fuel)
    • 203 MPH top speed

   There was the matter of titling in South Carolina versus New Hampshire. Neither state, Tom learned, had a percentage sales tax on car purchases. Because he technically had an address in Derry, and as he technically did not own a home in New Augusta, just yet, they opted for the Granite State’s paperwork. As optioned and with Tom’s cover, the price came to $95,745. To this, Tom agreed. In the end, he paid cash. Not having any debts was great for him, but not so great for his credit score (that he never cared about) nor for Chrysler financing (which he really didn’t care about). To make it up to Kreight and Francinia, and to boost any future effort to offload a collector’s item, he bought a transferable protection and service plan. Kreight insisted on working in a discount on something, which rounded down the overall cost; as such, his bank transfer was for exactly $99,999, out the door. When he approved the wire, he thought: Hey! You’re first new car, ever. A hundred grand car! Holy moly!

   Francinia met him with his new car cover and an extra-large, tall Hamrick’s Racing polo shirt, compliments of the house. After she made sure he was comfortable in the new driver’s seat, and after Mr. Fierce thanked him several more times and pleaded for a good buyer’s survey, they had a surprise for him. Fierce, without knowing more details, understood that Tom was spending the night somewhere. Tom gratefully accepted the kind offer for help trailering the race car and being allowed to store the rig overnight in an enclosed, secure bay in the back of the shop. Fierce also reminded him about the Rover. Tom made him a deal of sorts: Hamrick Auto Group also sold Chevy’s. Fierce agreed to get in touch with that sales manager and to keep an eye out for the new 2019 Corvette, rumored to have 1,000 HP – and some structural issues that stalled availability. That was a trade Tom would consider.

   Back to the Rover, and the rest of the day, Francinia thought it was a nice old truck, faint cigar smoke smell and all. He’d followed her home at four. Ms. Santarosa did very well for herself, having just purchased a new house in a fashionable neighborhood off I-85, north of town. After several hours of fun there, they went out for dinner. He never did find a nice hotel that night.



If one was really keeping score, then Francinia was at least Tom’s number three by chapter three. He, of course, has or had his ways. If you’ve not read the novel, then wait; the revised edition, so much better, is coming soon. I’ll tell you all about it when it happens. -P