The Deal of a Lifetime

by Lin Stone


Mexico was more romantic than ever as I went strolling through Tiajuana with a young woman who was perfect in every way. Her hair was like rivers of gold. Her lips curled in a perpetual smile the third time I said: "And here is another street named Un Sentido. Why, there must be a dozen of them in this town."

Chellie grinned up at me. "Did I tell you I took 2 years of Spanish in college?" She asked.

I patted the dimpled fingers of her hand that clutched my arm. "Does that mean that you suspect that Un Sentido means One Way?"

When she flashed a radiant smile at me and her teeth sparkled in an impish grin I fervently wished Chellie was not my cousin. She was so pure, so clean, so innocent, so naive.  And I wanted to change all that.

"You promised to show me a thousand bargains."

"No," I corrected her. "I promised to show you how I get a thousand bargains for my business!"

Envious glances followed our every move, for we were obviously rich, and La Rubia (The Blonde) at my side was appreciated as only the roving Mexican eye can appreciate golden girls with flashing smiles. But, Chellie's beauty was so haunting that even their notorious courage failed them.

We were searching for bargains on the streets of Tiajuana; those with bargains were searching for us. "Watch this," I told her as a street vendor finally approached me to speak, even while his eyes so obliquely slid to devour her bashful face. "This guy knows me well!"

"Senor, Little. This topaz ring will sparkle like a diamond on the senorita's lovely hand."

"How much?"

"Only $25.00"

I shook my head, and we moved on. "$15.00", his price caved in. We chuckled and kept walking. "$10.00!"

As we approached the corner his voice rose anxiously behind us. "8.00 -- ONLY $8.00 Senor Little!"

Playing the tyrant, I shook my head with only a half hearted smile. And his final offer was wrung from vocal chords tautened with despair. "For You? $5.00!"

"That's the cue," I whispered to Chellie as we turned to pick up her treasure. "When you hear those magic words in that terribly disappointed tone, you always know you have his bottom offer."

Again and again the scenario was played out, and I showed Chellie the tricks of knowing when you really do have the rock-bottom deal of a lifetime. This was business for me, of course; I made many purchases. I capitalized on Chellie's presence to keep the vendors off balance. But, with her majestic presence, no one had the courage to approach her directly. Just to stay close enough to gawk at her, they reduced the prices lower, and even lower. Her red eyes glowed with respect each time we took our treasure load back to the motel.

Then, as the young night turned to old and the flashing lights sparkled more intensely one young vendor approached us with a bundle of beautiful flowers. I knew at a glance this was un muchacho pobre, a poor boy, and these flowers were the sum total of his wealth. Unless he converted them to cash he would neither eat, nor sleep that night. Unlike the other vendors, El Muchacho's eyes tugged to a rest solely upon my young companion's face. Love, worship, awe for a woman of so much beauty, ached from his very soul.

His words stumbled as he approached for he was hardly the polished salesman of his friends. "Flowers. Pretty flowers. You like? You like?"

Chellie glanced at me for help, but I only flashed her a mischievous grin. "This is Mexico: You can do anything here that you want to, and who at home will ever know? In Mexico, sins are born already forgiven for the rich or beautiful. And Chellie, my love, you are both! Very both."

Almost reluctantly, Chellie decided to be the shrewd bargainer. Her voice quavered. "Cuantos quierre usted por su flores?"

All his flowers were in the crystal vases in his arms and in the wagon behind him. All his soul was in his voice. He thrust everything forward. "$10.00!"

The price was ridiculously low, even for Mexico. That enormous assortment of bouquets could not be equaled in the U.S. for less than a hundred at wholesale. The boy, made foolish with love as all men are, had started at the very lowest price he could accept! His only thought was to offer her all he had at the lowest price he could afford, just to be able to speak to Chellie for a moment longer while he filled his eyes with treasure.

And suddenly it wasn't a game to us any more. Embarrassment flooded Chellie's face, and we hurried away without saying a word. But El Muchacho dragged his merchandise after us. "The flowers, they are beautiful, like you Senorita. $5.00 --- only $5.00!"

Chellie hurried faster. I could hardly keep up. With his lumbering flower wagon --- El Muchacho could not. "$2.00!" he begged.

We got to the corner and wheeled about, uncertain which way to flee. Chellie's eyes had gone wild. El Muchacho caught up with us. With all his flowers he planted himself right in front of Chellie, a willing sacrifice just to let all he had, become a small part of her. The fervor in his voice pealed out to fill the entire plaza: "For you? FREE!"

You can't escape from a bargain like that. And just a week later, I was their best man.

the end

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