He was leaning forward in his recliner trying to catch every piece of the action on his television when the doorbell rang. Quickly checking his watch, he knew it wasn’t his brother and he wasn’t expecting any Amazon deliveries until later in the week.
He decided that the last six minutes of this football game were more important than whoever was outside ringing his doorbell. So, ignoring them, he leaned in closer and took another gulp of beer. He had a c-note riding on this one and it was close, real close.
The doorbell rang again. And again.
Pushing the record button on his remote, he sighed, finished his beer and slowly rose from his La-Z-Boy. If he played it just right, he could still get rid of these jokers on his doorstep and keep an eye on the game at the same time. He turned up the volume, rotated the television set about sixty degrees and headed for the front door.
“Yeah, I don’t want any,” he grumbled as he cracked the door open and saw three people standing on his stoop, one guy about six feet tall and two really small guys. Keeping the door open a bit, he turned so that he could watch the game and still hear what the three of them had to say. They didn’t look religious, just a bit out of the ordinary.
“We’re here, Mr. Jacobs, because we got a work order last December around this time to verify your chimney measurements. Apparently, you have a non-standard chimney and we’d like your permission to go on your roof and take some measurements,” the tall guy said. He had a clipboard and everything and looked legit, sort of.
“Really? Last December? You kind of took your time getting here, pal,” Jacobs sneered, sipping his beer. “Who do you work for, anyway? Our ever-efficient city government?”
One of the smaller guys replied, “No, Mr. Jacobs, we have a contract with an independent delivery outfit. It took us so long to get to your house because there was some kind of a mix-up with the addresses. But we’re here now. The inspection won’t cost you a dime and we’ll be on your roof and done in no time.”
“So, an inspection, huh? You put anything down my chimney to do it?”
The tall guy told him that they lower one of the small guys down the chimney who takes a quick video of its interior and makes some quick measurements. Usually takes about twenty minutes.
“This independent delivery contractor? You guys aren’t talking about? . . . .” Jacobs started to ask before he was handed a card by the tall guy. He stopped talking and looked at the card. He’d guessed right. “Jesus, he’s real? This is some kind of a joke, right?”
“No joke, Mr. Jacobs,” the other small guy remarked, smiling broadly. “And for your cooperation today in letting us inspect your chimney, we’d like to offer you this free box of peppermint candy canes.” His little hands held out a nicely wrapped box.
“So, let me get this straight. And I apologize if I was a little distracted before. I got some money riding on the game in there,” Jacobs said, opening the door a bit more. “I let you guys go up on my roof, let you climb down my chimney and do whatever you have to do, then I get this free box of candy. Right? And I don’t have to believe in your boss or anything like that? What’s the catch? What’s your gimmick?”
“No catch, no gimmick, Mr. Jacobs. You do us a simple favor and we give you a gift. It’s just that simple!”
“And if I don’t go along with the gag, what happens?” Jacobs growled, his patience growing thin. “What’s your boss going to do to me, anyway?”
“Well,” the tall guy said, “And not trying to be too prosaic about it, you’ll be put on his “Naughty List”, Mr. Jacobs. Plain and simple.”
Jacobs didn’t know what prosaic meant, but he didn’t like the sound of it or the idea of being on a “Naughty List”. Moving close to the taller man, Jacobs wondered, “So, this list, what happens if I go on it? I mean, who even reads that, anyway?”
“You’d be surprised. Your bookie, for one. And the NFL, Jeff Bezos, some orders of the Catholic Church, and the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, just to name a few, Mr. Jacobs. And once your name goes on the “Naughty List”, sir, it never gets off it. It’s a forever thing,” one of the small guys added. “Take the candy, Mr. Jacobs. It’s the smart move.”
Jacobs looked back at his television and saw that there were just one minute and forty-seven seconds left in the game. “Okay, you got a deal. But don’t touch the satellite dish when you’re up there. I got to see the end of this game!”
As he took the candy and closed the door, he watched from his front window as the three of them went back to their truck and started taking down one of their ladders. Closing his drape, he turned and headed back to the final seconds of the football game that was blaring from the other room.
Slumping down in his recliner once again, he knew he’d made the right decision. You don’t want to piss off Jeff Bezos. No way, no how.