The Manchester Review
M.J. Hyland
Selling Fakes
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      Mark held out his hand, palm forward. ‘Just take a seat, mate.’
      The English boy sat, then immediately stood again.
      ‘The ad said we could make thousands. Is that bullshit? How much will we make?’
      Mark folded his arms across his chest.
      ‘What’s your name?’
      ‘Listen, David. Take a seat. I’ll explain everything in a minute.’
      David sat and shook his head.
      ‘Look,’ said Mark, ‘the bottom line is if you want to make a lot of money you’ll need to be a good actor.’
      The blonde woman asked who painted them.
      ‘We’ll get to that later.’
      Mark explained that the artist would take fifty percent of every piece sold, the company twenty percent and we’d take thirty-percent.
      ‘How much do we sell them for?’ said the Scottish boy.
      ‘That’s up to you,’ said Mark.
      The Scottish boy said nothing.
      Mark wore a fawn jumper and nothing underneath. The jumper was too small and when he bent down to move a painting, it lifted to show his pink back. I’d recognise this jumper in a mountain of jumpers, but I wouldn’t recognise his face.

Mark looked at his watch. ‘So hands up who wants to start tonight?’
      We all said we would and Mark told us he’d take us out in the company car at six o’clock and drop us at our streets. We’d travel together, but work four blocks apart.
      I went downstairs to an air-conditioned café, drank two cups of coffee and chain-smoked Benson & Hedges.
      At six, I went back up to the eighth floor. The others were already there, except for the blonde woman.
      ‘She chickened out,’ said Mark.
      He gave us our black folio-bags and told us not to open them until we arrived at our street.
      ‘Why can’t we look at the paintings?’ I said.
      ‘Because they don’t want you to know they’re all the same,’ said David. ‘They’re all just exact copies of the same six pictures.’
      Mark laughed. ‘You can think what you want, mate. I’m not saying anything.’

I was the first to get out of the company car, a white mini-van.
      I agreed to be back at the same spot by ten o’clock.
      The suburb was newly built. Each house a mirror of its neighbour.
      I walked to the door of the house on the nearest corner and knocked.
      A woman answered.