An American Dream

Episode 1: Wake Up Call

An American Dream – Episode 1

Despite the promise of a gorgeous day and a steaming plate of eggs and bacon made just the way Robert Martin liked them, today was going to be a very bad day. Robert didn’t know that, yet. He thought it was a normal Tuesday morning. His wife, Angie, knew better.

“I’m serious, Bob. That RV Superstore is trouble.” Angie stopped stirring cream into her coffee to give him the look she usually reserved for when he fought with her father about politics. “Every time I go online, I see their ads everywhere. That didn’t used to happen.”

“People aren’t buying RVs off of some cheap internet ad, Ang. It’s a big investment, and that sort of thing requires trust. People around here know me. They don’t know these new guys.”

“I’m telling you, it’s trouble. You should talk to Jackson. He knows all about this internet stuff.”

“And I’m telling you, I know RV sales. I don’t need your nephew’s help.” No kid fresh out of college knew more about Bob’s business than he did, no matter how good they were with a computer.

At age twenty, Bob had sold his first RV and never looked back. At twenty-nine, he paid for his own RV lot in cash. They’d weathered all sorts of craziness since then, including two recessions, but Robby’s RVs was still standing. His competitors were not. None of them had been as large as this RV Superstore, but the size of the lot wasn’t what mattered. It was the quality of the people, and the pride they took in their work. Bob would pit himself against any salesman in the business, any day.

So would Angie, if she were thinking straight. She’d always been a worrier, but lately the stuff she came across on her computer was making it twenty times worse. It was all Bob could do to convince her the world wasn’t ending every day. She might as well be watching those dateline special reports again—that’s how bad it was. Still, he loved her to pieces, and the only way to convince her everything would be all right was to show her. For that, he needed to get to the lot and sell some RVs.

Bob stood up from the table and pulled his jacket off the back of the chair. He leaned over to kiss the cheek Angie offered up. “I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years, babe. We don’t have anything to worry about.”

Angie smiled at him, but her eyes were searching.

That was all right. He would prove it to her. Bob grabbed his keys off the table in the hall and headed out to the garage. When the automatic door finished it’s slow grind to the ceiling, he put his truck in reverse, looked in his rearview mirror, and—froze.

Parked on the street in front of his neighbor’s house, with a good six feet hanging over into Bob’s driveway, was a 2018 Winnebago Grand Tour. Forty-four feet of the most luxurious RV on the market, complete with heated floors and quartz countertops.

It had to be visitors. Tim had only lived next door for less than a year, but he knew Bob had an RV lot. They had talked about it at the fourth of July block party over burgers. He wouldn’t buy an RV without talking to Bob first…would he? If he had gone down to the lot and one of the guys had sold a half-a-million dollar RV last night, Bob for damn sure would have gotten a call.

Visitors. It had to be.

Whoever it belonged to, it was keeping Bob from getting to work. He got out of the truck and crossed the property to Tim’s house, giving the front door three sharp raps.

Tim opened the door with a wide grin. “Hey, neighbor. How’s it going?”

“Pretty good.” Bob hesitated, pointing over his shoulder. “But I’m having some trouble getting out of my driveway.”

“Oh, crap. You’re blocked in? Sorry about that.” Tim patted his pockets, looking for keys. “I swear, you basically have to build yourself a new driveway if you decide to get one of these things.”

It wasn’t encouraging. Tim wouldn’t have the keys to someone else’s RV in his pockets. Then again, Bob didn’t think he’d stab his neighbor in the back either. “Your in-laws in town? That’s a top of the line model. I’d love to ask them how they like it.”

As Tim’s face lit up with pride, the last vestiges of hope sank to the bottom of Bob’s stomach. “It’s mine actually. Bought it last night. Isn’t it great? Luxury everything. It’s practically a castle on wheels.”

Bob struggled to find something to say around the acidic taste in his mouth. “Yeah, they don’t get much better than that.”

Tim finally located his keys in the pocket of a jacket hanging in the hall and stepped out onto the front path. “They were so busy hyping me up to buy it yesterday, they didn’t mention what a pain it is to find parking for it.”

Robby’s RV would have. Helping their customers make an informed decision was a big part of how Bob trained his staff, so that guys like Tim didn’t end up with way more RV than he actually needed. It was just Tim and his wife—no kids. They could easily have gotten all the luxury they were looking for in something half the price that would actually fit on the cul-de-sac.

Despite his best intentions, Bob couldn’t let it pass. He had to know. “Tim, if you were in the market for an RV, why didn’t you come talk to me?”

A frown wrinkled Tim’s forehead, before realization dawned. “Oh, man. You used to own a RV dealership, didn’t you?”

Used to? Used. To. “No, Tim. I still own an RV dealership. I go to work there every day. We talked about it this summer. You mentioned wanting to travel more. I told you how great RVs are.”

“Did you? I remember deciding to look into RVs after that party, but…” Tim trailed off, cringing. “I’m sorry, man. I really didn’t know. If it helps, it was kind of an impulse thing. RV Superstore emailed me about this crazy deal, and I figured what the hell. I doubt you could have matched it.”

If it was the deal Bob was thinking of, anyone could have. The manufacturer was doing a special pricing promotion all month at every dealership. But not everyone would have taken care of Tim the way Bob’s guys would have, and not everyone was Tim’s goddamn neighbor.

“Listen,” Tim said. “I really am sorry. Can I treat you to a round of golf one of these weekends when the weather is nice to make it up to you?”

As if a round of golf came anywhere close to the value of moving a five-hundred thousand dollar piece of inventory this early in the year.

“I work weekends,” Bob told him. “Down at the dealership.”

Tim scratched his forehead. “I feel awful, Bob. What can I do?”

What could he do? It was done. The deal was signed and that forty-four foot albatross was going to be out on the curb as a constant reminder to Bob every single day that even his own neighbor would rather go to RV Superstore than Robby’s RVs.

“You can pull it forward so I can get to work,” Bob answered. Then, over his shoulder on his way back to his truck, he added, “And if you decide to trade it in for a more appropriate model for you and Lisa, come see me.”

As Bob reached his garage, he saw Angie standing in the doorway to the house, coffee cup cradled between her hands and her eyebrows raised in that “I told you so” look. Before they could say anything to each other, the diesel roar of the Winnebago fired up and Bob took the opportunity to jump in the truck and pull out of the driveway.

It was for the best. Bob didn’t have time to rehash their breakfast argument, especially since he didn’t have a leg to stand on now. He had to get to the lot.

There was a lot of work to do.