Astral Home Appliances

Daniel doesn’t usually open his door to sales people, but he’s lonely, and this one’s just so damn cute.

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“Hello, my name is Ivan, and I’m here to represent Astral Home Appliances, purveyors of large machines with unknowable psychic power. Keep your food cold, and experience existential dread like you’ve never known.”

The young salesman on Daniel’s doorstep looked like he’d been trudging for days. Dust coated his shoes and the too-long hems of his pants, and a few strands of his small pompadour had come loose to stick to his sweaty forehead. Daniel didn’t ordinarily open the door to sales people, but it had been so long since he’d talked to anybody but his baby sister, and this guy had looked so adorably pathetic, that he couldn’t help it. He’d meant to turn him away gently. Instead, he laughed and leaned against the doorjamb. “Existential dread, huh?”

“Yes, sir, absolutely.” As soon as Daniel had laughed, the young man’s entire demeanor had changed. His shoulders straightened his eyes grew bright, and his smile bloomed into an unbearably cute lopsided grin. Daniel’s heart stuttered.

If I wasn’t so damn lonely I wouldn’t be so susceptible to cute young salesmen, he thought, accepting the pamplet the man was holding out. He’d already thrown out several of these, from the other times the Astral people had knocked on his door at a vulnerable moment.

The salesman–what was his name? Ivan?–pointed to the mother’s face. “Doesn’t she look like she’s been terrorized into smiling? It’s a trap, I tell you, those dishwashers—they’re ‘more efficient than any other’ because the soap compartment is a portal to your darkest nightmares. The white grime left on your glasses after? That’s saliva. Monster saliva. If you rinse the dishes too much they get angry and leak all over your floor.”

“That so?”

Ivan’s eyes dropped to the sidewalk as a faint blush crossed his cheek. “You’re my last door. I figured I’d have some fun.”

“You been doing this for long?”

“Feels like forever. I think the machines have gotten into my head, and I’m just repeating the same day over and over and over.”

Daniel glanced back into his house, where his cats were having a fight, and his little sister was trying to cook something. It was lonely here, hidden in the suburbs with no friends and nothing to do, nowhere to meet anybody, and Ivan was cute for a white boy, and he had nothing to lose. He reached behind him for the pen holder on the entryway table and scrawled his phone number above the mother’s head.

“I’ve got no use for home appliances, but…” He let his fingers brush against Ivan’s as the salesman took the pamphlet back. “I might need an experienced hand to save me from those dishwasher monsters. Especially the kind I can interview first sometime. Over coffee.  Like maybe this weekend.”

His heart raced as Ivan’s eyes flicked back and forth between Daniel and the pamphlet. He knew, in his mind, that there wasn’t any danger here, but his animal brain was still afraid of revealing himself. He waited while Ivan figured it out.

“Are you… hitting on me?” Ivan asked, and Daniel panicked for half a second before he realized Ivan looked perplexed, not angry.

Daniel ran an embarrassed hand through his hair. “Yeah, a little bit. Not working?”

“I’ve never been hit on before,” Ivan said. He was staring at the pamphlet in wonderment.

“That’s hard to believe,” Daniel said. No… fuck, he’d purred. Who did that? Was he making himself look like a creep? He was a little older than this guy, but not by that much. He felt light under his skin, like he was dreaming. This was impossible.

Ivan shook his head as if to clear it and looked up with an apologetic look on his face. “I’m not into guys, but… I mean…” He shrugged. “I never turn down free coffee. If you still want to hang out, I’m in. Here.” He took the pen out of Daniel’s hand, and wrote his number carefully on the front of the pamphlet, drawing a bubble around it so that the father was speaking it. Actually, he wasn’t speaking it—he was… quavering it, the letters writhing on the paper like they were frightened. “And I never turn down a chance to show off, it seems. Sorry. My night job is comics lettering.” He tore the pamphlet, tucked the half with Daniel’s number on it into his own pocket, and handed Daniel the other half. “My pickup’s coming soon. See ya.”

“Yeah, see you.” Daniel waved, rather dazed, and spent a few enjoyable seconds watching Ivan leave. Then he closed the door and just stared at the number. Even if it hadn’t panned out like he’d hoped, he still couldn’t believe that had just happened.

There was a crash from the kitchen, and I’m fine! shortly thereafter. His sister had friends. She went and saw them all the time.

Maybe it was time he started making some, too.