Bi g Bill Mendacus caressed the car’s gleaming hood and patted his yellow power tie. “This vehicle,” he announced in his most sincere voice, “is a veritable cream puff.”
Marvin thought of pointing out that the phrase cream puff, in the automotive context, had long since degenerated from its original status as a mercenary metaphor, and was now merely an inane cliché … but instead he just adjusted his glasses, smiled weakly and said, “Well, it might be all right. But are you sure this wasn’t caught in last winter’s monster flood? I heard that a bunch of cars were swept into Farble’s Creek. I figured that when they finally got pulled out, some of them would get superficially patched up — and then end up in used car lots.”
“First of all, my good friend, this isn’t a “used car lot.” Big Bill carefully adjusted his voice, switching from his “slightly annoyed” tone to his “helpfully explanatory” tone. “Everyone knows that this here establishment is a deluxe-class emporium for fully qualified, extensively refurbished, previously owned vehicular conveyances.” The complex phrasing slid out of his mouth as smooth and polished as the waxed finish on his merchandise. “And as for the flood, we would not risk our famous flawless reputation by dealing in aquatically damaged goods. In fact, this particular vehicle was owned by an elderly lady who never got wet in her entire life.”
Marvin coughed into his hand. “Was she also an elderly lady for her entire life?”
Big Bill forced something vaguely resembling a smile onto his face to show that he understood the joke. He pointed at the car, waggling his finger suggestively. “So, you want to take her for a test drive?” Without waiting for an answer, he yanked open the car door and reached out his arm to shove Marvin in, but then thought better of it and just gestured vigorously at the empty driver's seat.
The presumptive customer positioned himself behind the steering wheel as Big Bill, with some difficulty, maneuvered his substantial bulk into the passenger seat. Marvin carefully adjusted his glasses again and tried a couple of different hand positions on the steering wheel. Then he sniffed the air, his nose wrinkling like a small rodent’s. “Say, I smell fish.”
“Ah, sorry about that. I had a tuna sandwich for lunch, and I should’ve used mouthwash, but — say, why don’t you take her around the block?” Big Bill made a rapid circular motion with his hand to demonstrate the concept.
As they were pulling out of the lot onto the highway, a wisp of smoke seeped out of the air vent into the passenger compartment. The salesman appeared not to notice, but Marvin decided he’d better say something — politely, as was his habit, but in a way that would make clear that he was an attentive and educated customer. “This car appears to be somewhat nepheligenous,” he said.
Big Bill had no idea what that meant, but unwilling to be bested, he replied with the biggest words he could muster. “That’s okay, Marvin my friend, I take no oombridge at your bellicositous remarks. You’ve no doubt observed that I’m not your typical ‘salesman’ — in fact, I consider myself an automotive consultant, and speaking of auto motives, I’m not even proactivated by money, believe it or not. Au contraire, I’m only concerned with my customers’ welfare. In fact that’s central to my religiosity. Speaking of religion, I can assure you that this car is immaculate and —”
A loud rattling sound cut short his remarks, accompanied by a jarring vibration that repeatedly shook both occupants.
“What the hell is that?” asked Marvin. He slowed the car somewhat but the racket only intensified.
“That’s just — I’m a little cold today and my false teeth are chattering, they make that noise when I —”
An unearthly metallic screeching interrupted the salesman’s explanation as thick black and green smoke poured into the passenger compartment. Coughing and gagging, Marvin frantically opened the window, just as a small dead fish was hurled out of the dashboard air vent into his lap.
“Never caught in the flood, eh? Never been in the creek, huh?” Marvin jerked the car over to the side of the highway while slamming on the brakes. He fumbled for the door handle, which was hard to see through all the smoke. “Only interested in your customers’ welfare, eh?”
“That’s right, this is just — no problem — my mechanic can fix these little quirks, and —”
There was a loud whooshing sound as high-powered steam rocketed sideways from under both sides of the hood. The two men leaped from the car. Sheets of flame and showers of instantly roasted fish-parts sprayed out in every direction as they sprinted frantically away — just in time, as the car exploded behind them with a shattering roar.
Despite being out of breath, Marvin couldn’t resist screaming at the salesman as he ran. “Not interested in money, eh? You pompous swindler, you’re — you’re positively lucripetous!”
Nepheligenous is a real word, but it isn’t in either of my so-called “unabridged” dictionaries. Shame on them.
Lucripetous is obsolete and no longer in most dictionaries — but as it’s in my old print edition of the OED, I’m legally entitled to use it.
The meanings of both words can be inferred from the story context, but if you must know, you can click here for definitions by yours truly. Yer welcome.