“You go in first.”
“You’re the oldest.”
I shot a glare at my two younger blond sisters. They stared defiantly back me in bright red polka dot dresses with giant green polka dot bows accenting their pigtails. I felt my hands—holding two cellophane-red-bowed-brownie plates—begin to shake as I stared up at the giant hi-rise building.
“Okay, girls,” my voice wavered. “Follow me.”
We pulled open the two glass doors that towered over our middle-school heads and walked into the lobby of “Smith & Son’s Real Estate offices.” A bright-faced receptionist beamed as we shuffled up to the counter.
“What can I do for you today, sweeties?” She crooned.
I gulped, feeling like an avocado seed was stuck in my throat, “We’re selling brownies for St. Patrick’s Day.”
“They’re only five dollars,” Kelsey cut in. My eight-year-old sister’s pudgy freckled face crinkled into a smile as she looked up eagerly at the kind woman.
“We’re earning money so we can go to a Mother-Daughter retreat,” Kyla piped up shyly, still white with fear.
“Here honey’s,” the woman smiled and we opened our eyes wide with disbelief as she laid a ten dollar bill on the counter. “I’ll take two. You girls are so cute!”
Kyla shoved the plates across the counter, and Kelsey’s pudgy fist snatched the crumpled bill before my skinny fingers could grab it.
“Thank you!” We called back over our shoulders as we ran out the door.
We were in business! Kyla, Kelsey and I danced around outside, completely unaware that we there were other people in that building. This was going to be fun!
A couple hours later, we were liquidating brownies as fast as we could collect the cash exchange. We’d do anything to make a sale.
“Sorry girls,” a portly man oozed over his chair and scratched behind his large ear. “I’d like to help, but I only have a fifty.”
“That’s alright,” Kelsey’s eyes sparkled. “We have change!”
The man took one look at the electrocuted-looking pigtails and animated grin staring up at him, and began digging through his desk drawer.
“Hmmm,” He looked up, ten minutes later. Each of his desk drawers had been thoroughly searched, and beads of sweat accented his ample face. “I can’t seem to find it.”
I figured we had waited too long to stop now. Kyla was staring out the windows counting the cars race by far below us, and Kelsey sat cross-legged, drawing circles on the carpet. I leaned over the desk confidentially, “No worries, sir. If you write Daddy’s name on it, we can take checks!”
“Checks?” My client moaned and sank back into his chair . . . probably relieved we were so adaptable.
I waited just long enough to see Mr. Sweaty un-wedge himself from between his chair’s arms and stumble into the next room. Then, I popped another candy from his desk in my mouth. Mmmmm. We could wait here as long as we needed.
With the coveted check safe in Kyla’s money pouch, we marched across the street and entered Umpqua Bank in a bright burst of color and energy. Even Kyla was beginning to emit confidence. But as we threw open the heavy wood doors, my heart skipped a beat. There, at the far end of that vast expanse of marble and glass, sat a very narrow woman with a ramrod for a spine and stone for a heart.
“No soliciting!” Her pinched lips opened just wide enough to send those staccato words ricocheting off the towering ceiling
and pelting into our eardrums.
We continued advancing in a straight line toward the middle of her perfectly straight parted hair, with the Vulture’s beady eyes watching every step we took.
“I said no soliciting!” The Vulture glared over her narrow spectacles, and I found myself shrinking down with my sisters until just our eyes were above the desk.
“Ummm…” Kyla pushed her blond bangs from her eyes and spoke quietly, “we aren’t solicitating or whatever you said. We are just selling brownies so we can have girls time with our mommy.”
The Vulture’s thin lips curled back in a sneer. “Humph. You girls should be in school developing your vocabulary instead of traipsing around being public nuisances. Besides,” she leaned over until her nose nearly touched mine. “I already baked brownies today.”
“Well, if you already had brownies, we’ll just go to the other desks and ask them,” Kelsey turned and headed for the opening that led to the other offices. But our antagonist sat up like she had been shocked and barked, “I baked four pans of brownies and gave them to everyone in the office this morning. They are sick of brownies!”
It only took one glance at her long pointed nails clicking impatiently on the glass desk, for me to take off after my sisters. Once more safely in the bright sunlight, we paused and gasped for breath.
“Let’s go home,” Kyla sighed.
“I think she’s a witch, “Kelsey scowled. “I wanted to pinch her long ugly nose!”
But when we arrived at where our Father waited in the van, he wouldn’t hear about us going home until we had sold every plate. I looked helplessly at the eight plates still siting demurely on the back seat and sank to the asphalt.
“I’m tired of selling brownies!” I moaned.
“Okay,” Daddy sighed. “I’ll make a deal. Go to one more stop, and we’ll go home. You girls got this! One more shot and I bet you’ll sell out.”
Kelsey squinted into the sun at our eternal optimist and fellow entrepreneur, “but if we don’t sell ‘em all, we can still go home, right?”
Worn and bedraggled, we stumbled back over near Umpqua Bank.
“Look at those black steps,” Kyla pointed to a long thread of steps climbing to the floors above the Vulture’s domain. “I bet there’s another business up there.”
It didn’t look like any other entrance we had used, but eager to not walk anymore, we climbed the stairs and tried the solid white door. It was locked.
But just as we turned to leave, a thin, balding man poked his head out the door.
“Why hey there, girlies,” he laughed. “We never know who’ll show up out here, do we?” He threw the door wide open and we raced inside to a sea of desks, giving our well-rehearsed sales pitch as we went. The balding man whispered to a colleague who laughed and passed on the apparently funny message. Soon the whole room quietly laughed at some secret joke, but we didn’t have time to join the giant game of telephone. Kyla sold three plates to the bald man and Kelsey and I raced up to the same buxom woman. Her large fluorescent shirt matched her bright pink lipstick and enormous boa. While Kelsey made the sale, I stared at the pink fuzzy bird pen that bobbed on her desk.
“Sweetieeees!” My cross-eyed-stare-down with the flamingo was cut short as the pink lady squished Kelsey and me into her large arms. I just had time to see Kelsey’s beaming face before I was engulfed in perfume, soft silk, and darkness.
“I cannot BELIEVE THIS!” A recognizable shrill voice sliced through the air. I was dumped out of a smothered embrace into blinding light. As I stared at the towering figure in the doorway, my jaw dropped.
“Oh, Eva,” the pink lady gushed, “aren’t they cute!” I matched the Vulture’s glare with one of my own and burrowed next to my protector.
“How did they get in?” Eva snapped waving the little gold sign from her desk that had the “S” word in black letters.
“So you already saw ‘em?” The bald man laughed. “They came in through the fire escape. Glad they did too, I’ve been cravin’ brownies.”
I arched my eyebrows at Eva smugly. So, she had lied to us, hmmm?
“Here, Eva, we bought the kids out but we’ll share with you,” another deskman offered a plate.
“I Don’t. Eat. Chocolate!” The Vulture spat each word with her steely eyes locked on mine. Then she turned on her heels and left.
The room erupted in laughter, and we beamed.
When we marched out through the marble and glass dome the second time, we flashed Eva a smile. Then, we paraded slowly through the glass doors, heads held high. Today, we were businesswomen.
P.S. $5 for two brownies (from Costco brownie mix) is a total rip off. You could start a “family” business and get paid for having cute kids. . .