Dan Rattiner's Stories

Fork Not Taken: What If Donald Trump Had Become a Used Car Salesman?

We’re at Donald Trump’s used car lot. It’s the largest in town. It sits on the old four-lane highway with the big sign out front. Strings of Christmas tree lights sweep over the rows and rows of shined-up used cars with soapy white lettering on the windshields. BEST DEAL. FANTASTIC BUY. GREAT PRICE. There isn’t a lemon among them. Which is what The Donald says to end every TV commercial. “There isn’t a lemon among them. The ones we had we squeezed out.”

About 2 p.m. on a sunny day, a man driving a three-year-old Lincoln convertible pulls in. Trump smooths back his blonde toupee and in four bounds is out of his little office and by the driver’s window.

“Terrible, terrible car you got here,” he says. “Terrible, terrible.”

The man gets out of the car and looks around. “Where’s Charlie?” he asks.

“Charlie, you lookin’ for Charlie? He’s out with a client just now. I can take care of ya.”

“Charlie Bowman.”

“Bowman? Runs the used car lot across the street.”

“I must have made a wrong turn.”

“Terrible person. Used to work here with me. But I found out about him. Fired him so fast it made his head spin. Didn’t know what hit him.”

“What did he do?”

“Can’t tell you that. Wouldn’t be fair. But he’s a terrible, terrible person.”

“He’s who sold me this car. Just came back to tell him how much I like it.”

“This Lincoln? Nobody told you about it?”

“What’s to tell?

“Says Lincoln on it. Nearly all of it was made overseas.”

“It’s an American car.”

“American my ass. Lincoln would be rolling in his grave. And Charlie? Knows nothing about cars. Nothing at all. Tried starting it on cold days?”

“No.”

“Well, you’ve only had it one day. Come on around front. Let me show you some of the things that are wrong.”

The man gets out of the car.

“You look like a nice person,” Trump says after looking him up and down. “What’s your name?”

“Larsen.”

“Good name. Goes back to the early settlers.”

“My grandfather was from Sweden.”

“Must have gone back then. But then he comes back to America. Good man.”

“Married my grandma.”

“Good family. American as they come.”

“Thank you.”

Trump lifts the hood.

“Look at this battery. Made in China. The original Lincoln battery was terrible. Now they replace it with this one from China. Two weeks from now, you’ll stop on a dark road at night and it won’t start. See these numbers on the top? From China is bad enough. These are the batteries that didn’t pass inspection.”

“Wow.”

“You shouldn’t be doing business with Charlie.”

“Wow.”

“Changed his name. He’s a Muslim. It’s on his birth certificate.”

“How did you see that?”

“He worked here. Remember?”

“Oh yeah.”

“And look at this distributor cap. See those raised letters?”

“Mexico.”

“Came in illegally. They make these 12-year-olds swallow them before they leave Mexico. Disgusting. They poop them out. I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. You should buy a car from me.”

“Maybe I should.”

“Let me show you a car I’ve got over here. Just for you, got your name on it. It’s a little older than yours. But that shows you it’s got lasting power.”

“It says on the window it’s a ’98 Chevrolet.”

“Best year for Chevrolet. Very best. You’re going to love it.”

“Good battery?”

“Made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Never been one made this good.”

“How much is it?”

“$10,800. And there’s financing.”

“And how much for my Lincoln?”

“I can take it off your hands. I’d be doing you a favor.”

“It should be worth more than the one you’re selling me.”

“You know what it will cost me to fix up? So much I can’t tell you. I’ll probably just have it towed out of here. And I’ll pay to do that. Cause you’re such a nice guy.”

“Maybe I should go back and see Charlie.”

“Better go today if you’re going to go. Tonight I’m building a wall around his place. Huge. And he’s going to pay for it. That’s the way it is. Terrible. Terrible. Huge.”

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