The Adversary by Tom Mahony

The Adversary

Tom Mahony

Negotiation is a battle of will and skill. There is no finer display of mental rigor. To negotiate successfully is to defeat one’s opponent on an intellectual battlefield. I rarely lost the fight.

But one morning, I unexpectedly found myself getting pummeled. My adversary was good. Too good. None of my usual skills, honed over decades, were working. Had my inevitable decline started here and now? The thought shook me to the core.

But I could still perform, and I would prove it. My adversary was young and brash but I had experience and cunning. A man does not procure a Corinthian leather chair and matching ottoman for pennies on the dollar—the very prize upon which I sat this morning—without a few tricks up his sleeve. I fingered the supple leather and glanced out the window, plotting.

I turned to my adversary. “I’ll give you two.”

“Five,” he said. His voice betrayed no doubt or hesitation. This wouldn’t be easy.





“Four,” I said. “I can’t go any higher.”

He smirked. “Five.”

His cockiness was infuriating. “Why should I give you five?” I asked, despising the weakness in my voice.

He just stared at me. He was invincible and we both knew it, because he was privy to the incident: an ill-advised indoor football game, a family heirloom vase shattered to pieces, a replacement of said high value vase with a replica of no value, and a half dozen lies to cover it up. It was our little secret, and he was blackmailing me with it.

We parried back and forth. We bartered, I threatened, but he would not relent, would not yield an inch of ground. I rubbed my forehead and cursed. He’d beaten me. Things would never be the same.

“Fine,” I conceded. “Five.”

I opened my wallet and forked over a five dollar bill. My seven year old son took his newly minted allowance. “Thanks, Dad.” He walked away.

“And you better not tell mom about the vase,” I called after him. “We have a deal.”

He waved vaguely and left the room.

I’d taught him well. My decline had begun. And there was no turning back.

About the Author

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications. His first novel, Imperfect Solitude, was published by Casperian Books on December 1, 2010. Visit him at