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by Christopher M Drew

The man buttons his suit jacket and examines the condition of his buffed shoes. He dabs his brow with a handkerchief, straightens his tie, and raps on the door.

The trick is to find the perfect balance: knock too loudly and the client becomes defensive; appear too timid and their uncertainty quickly turns to aggression.

The man bends to check his teeth in the polished brass letterbox and—

“Can I help you?”

The man stumbles back. His cheeks flush and his hair peels away from his crown, fluttering in the breeze like a raven’s wing.

A woman leans against the doorframe and flicks a cigarette over the threshold. She brings the cigarette to her mouth, leaving a smudge of lipstick on the filter. A trail of mascara curves across her cheek.

The man hesitates.

“Oh, I—I’m sorry. Is this a bad time?” he says, half-extending a hand.

The woman laughs. Beyond her shoulder, a crowd of people drift back and forth holding wine glasses, whiskey tumblers, and piled paper plates.

They all wear black.

He clears his throat.

“I am here to offer you—”

“An opportunity to save both money and the world?” says the woman.

“—an opportunity to, um. I represent Solar Systems Limited, a company at the forefront of—”

“Listen,” says the woman. “It rains eleven months of the year in this town. Plus, I’m flat broke. Same as last month. Same as the one before. Besides, it’s just me and Puddles now.”

The man looks down. A tabby feline sits on the step, staring up at him. He reaches out to pet the creature, but it backs away, arching its back and hissing.

“I—I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ll call again when you’re less … busy.”

The woman touches his arm, crushes her cigarette underfoot, and turns away. The feline slinks through the door before it closes.

The man picks up the discarded butt and turns it between his finger and thumb, examining the intricate rose-coloured pattern printed around its circumference. He folds it into his handkerchief, and smiles.

For a brief moment, the sun appears between parted clouds and flashes on his bared teeth.

Christopher M Drew is a writer from the UK. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Third Point Press, Longleaf ReviewMoonPark Review, Flash Frontier, formercactus, Bath Flash Fiction, and others. He has nominations for Best Small Fictions 2017 and 2018, and reads for FlashBack Fiction. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @cmdrew81, or check out his website cmdrew81.wordpress.com.