Mike enjoyed working in the garden, out in the clean, fresh air. On a warm, overcast summer day like today, under cool shade provided by the cherry tree, he found the light reflection from his laptop computer screen, tolerable. True, working outside meant he had to put up with noise pollution from the neighbours. However, classical music streamed through decent loudspeakers served as an antidote, creating an aural backdrop acceptable to work to.

The front door of the house opened and re-closed, keys clinked together as they landed in a bowl. Serena, his girlfriend of six months had returned from a shopping trip. A few minutes later, she appeared in the garden with two, tall fizzy drinks, served with ice and paper straws.
“Hello my darling.” Mike turned from the computer screen and looked up, admiring the casually dressed young woman. “How was town?”
Serena joined Mike at the table, sat down and let out a tired groan. “I feel exhausted,” she stretched her legs straight, flipped her sandals off and twiddled her toes, “but it was great fun!”
“Good!” Mike said, as they leant towards each other and kissed briefly on lips.
“I found a fashion label I really really like.” Serena’s eyes widened in excitement. “Literally, all the clothes they make, I’m able to imagine myself wearing. It’s a wonderful feeling; have you ever had that experience?”
“I think so,” Mike gave the thought more consideration, “at least nearly. Yes, I can appreciate what you mean.”
“I’ll give you a catwalk display later.” Serena winked an eye. “So, what have you been doing today?”
“Mostly selling more non-existent, high-end luxury cars to Chinese businessmen.” Mike swivelled the laptop around forty-five degrees. Serena peered at the web page, while sucking on the straws in her drink. She scanned the contents thoughtfully.
“That’s a pretty sophisticated looking web site.”
“Heh, it ought to be. Each year I pay upwards of one hundred thousand dollars to an exclusive network of developers.”
“Seriously?” Serena let her mouth drop open in a comic expression of shock.
“Yup, and that buys me live, around-the-clock support, daily routine maintenance, unlimited upgrades, and production of one of the most stylish, user-friendly websites you’ll ever find on the entire internet.” Mike turned the laptop back around, tapping fingers across the keyboard. “But as an overhead, as a percentage of the sales, well, look, I’ve sold a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar car today and I will expect to sell another two cars at a similar price, by the end of the week.”
“How does someone justify paying that sort of money out on a car?” Serena shook her head in disbelief.
“Well, bear in mind, with the vehicles in question, I am selling them at a knock down price. As far as the purchaser is concerned, they are getting a very good deal,” Mike cleared his throat, “while of course the graphics, the video and photos on the web site, the specification blurb, the testimonies, the leather-bound presentation packs and courtesy bottles of highland whiskey mailed out to them, that’s about as close as they get to actually owning these cars.”
“Why do you specifically target Chinese businessmen?” Serena grasped the underside of her chair with both hands and hopped closer to Mike. Once in position, she rested her arm on his shoulder and began stroking the back of his neck.
“Because they are stupid and greedy, amoral, unethical, corrupt, complicit with and supporting of an evil dictatorship. A regime that frankly, the world hasn’t seen the like of for over eighty years.” Mike took a sip of his drink. “They’ve got very dirty hands. That’s the motivation for why I do this. Yes, we live a good lifestyle, but most of the income is distributed between philanthropic causes competing with Chinese investment wherever it exists around the world, and support for any other organisation actively opposed to the present Chinese government.”
“Easy.” Serena kissed Mike’s ear lobe and slipped her arms around him in an affectionate embrace.
“Effortless.” Mike said.
“Oh, Mike – you are a con man – but I love you.” Serena paused for a moment, “Aren’t you ever afraid they’ll come after you?”

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a collage)

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