My second rule is not to become too friendly

August 15, 2012


I was being interviewed for a job. By 2 people. A young man in his early 30s and a young woman of the same age. She was pregnant. They asked me a slew of questions. I answered each question as briefly as possible. My first rule in interviews is not to say too much. My second rule is not to become too friendly. Near the end of the interview when I was shaking their hands I was tempted to ask the young woman when she was due. I remembered my second rule and said nothing. I got the job. Later I discovered that she was not pregnant.

The job place is filled with nightmares. On senior’s day at the pharmacy, Deborah, the new cosmetician, was to face one of hers. (A story from my new ebook, Afternoon Shift.)

………………………………………………………….

 

 

 

THE SECOND MATTER TO BE DISCUSSED

Senior’s Day at the pharmacy. Discounts. Retiree’s gathered. Into posses. Around the tables that offered free coffee and cookies. How many are armed? Like scavengers. They hovered. Listen politely to the sales pitch. A change up and two curves. By one of the pharmacists. A bright young girl named Jenny Lee. Jenny had just recently graduated from pharmaceutical college. Some of the seniors claimed her. Known her from childhood. Hers. Jenny had just moved to Etobicoke from Winnipeg that spring. Never been east of the Mississippi. If the Mississippi went that far north.

“I used to do her mother.” Mrs. Cunningham insisted. A retired hairdresser. “The poor woman was losing it. Bald spot right on top. What a shame. A good looking man like Mr. Lee with a bald woman. Looked like…. what’s the word. Absurd.”

“Jenny went to the graduation. With John.” Mrs. Wright’s pasty red lips shriveled into a smile. “Such a lovely couple. My son and Jenny. I warned my John not to take advantage. John promised not to touch her and true to his words not a finger was laid on that girl. I don’t know why John never called her again. Compatibility. That’s what he told me. That seems to be the explanation for all the young ladies I try to match him up with.”

“Jenny has a lovely mouth, don’t you think?” Dr. Steele offered. “I’ve had my little pinky in there. Many a time. Perfecting that smile of hers for twenty years. I remember her first cavity. The girl bawled her eyes out. She thought it was her fault.”

A giant called Everest stood at the rear of the crowd. Behind the head pharmacist and partner of the drug store, James Edwards. The giant put his huge paw on the shoulder of James Edwards and, leaning over, whispered into his ear.

“Like a soup kitchen in the dirty 30s.” He chuckled. “Redemption. The price of a meal. In this case, prescriptions. I love a good sermon. This new girl you got is quite the looker. What is she, Vietnamese?”

James Edwards turned and looked at the big man. He was about to respond that Jenny was from Winnipeg but thought better of it. Let the old man have his little joke. Instead James Edwards smiled, a smile that was only one weapon in his repertoire of charm.

When Jenny Lee was finished, she turned and introduced Mr. Edwards. The handsome black pharmacist stepped up through the crowd, smiling all the time. When he reached the front of the crowd, he turned, looked at the crowd, and smiled again. Everyone knew it was an insincere smile but forgave him nonetheless.

“He is so bloody handsome,” Mrs. Williams whispered to her friend Maple Parks.

“Do you think so?” Maple asked.

“If I was twenty years younger…” Mrs. Williams responded and the two women began to giggle.

Mrs. O’Hara looked at them sternly. She was trying to listen. Her hearing had begun to deteriorate years before. Shortly after her marriage to Mr. O’Hara who was known for his bellowing voice.

Mr. Edwards placed his large soft hands together. The older women smiled at each other as if they were acknowledging Mr. Edwards’ charm. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a son or son-in-law like Mr. Edwards, each of their smiles spoke. Even the men were taken with the pharmacist, for Mr. Edwards had a manner that was appealing to both sexes. Mr. Edwards said a few words, mostly tiny words, soft words, reminding the gathered throng of the discounts that were available to seniors and how each of his employees were trained to serve their needs, how it was their duty and their pleasure.

When Mr. Edwards was finished, the crowd applauded politely and then headed for the cookies and coffee. Mr. Edwards nodded appreciatively and after shaking a few hands as they passed his way, he headed back to his office. Waiting for him at the door of his office was Deborah, the new cosmetician.

“Can I speak to you, Mr. Edwards?” Deborah had a slight British accent that added a shrill note to any question.

James Edwards smiled.

“Certainly,” he said. He slid his key into the door and entered his office. Stepping behind his desk, he took a seat, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk.

Deborah took a seat.

Mr. Edwards removed his suit jacket. Hung it on a hook behind his desk. He took a seat and smiled at the young woman.

“Jenny, isn’t it?”

“Deborah,” she corrected him.

Deborah smoothed out her slacks. She bit on her lip, brushed her long blond hair off her shoulders and looked across at her boss.

Mr. Edwards turned on the radio beside his desk. They were playing Glen Miller’s version of In The Mood. Mr. Edwards looked at Deborah.

“Deborah.” He smiled. “How can I help you, Deborah?”

The young woman smiled. She cocked her head slightly to one side.

“There are two matters at hand.”

“Yes.” Mr. Edwards cocked his head in the same direction. To maintain the balance between himself and the young woman.

“First,” Deborah said matter-of-factly, “I have been accosted.”

Mr. Edward’s jaw dropped. “Accosted?”

“Yes.” Deborah cocked her head to the other side. “A young woman came into the shop and berated me about makeup.”

“Berated?” Did she just cock her head to the opposite side? Mr. Edwards cocked his head to the opposite side.

“The young woman,” Deborah continued, “said that we were reinforcing a negative view of women. That everyone… well she went on in that mindless feminist dribble about self-image.”

“I see.” Mr. Edwards nodded. “You didn’t agree with her.”

Deborah sat up sharply, the abruptness of her movement jolting Mr. Edwards.

“No, I did not. Certainly not.” Deborah shook her long blonde hair off her shoulders.

Mr. Edwards leaned slightly forward. Did she just shake her hair?

“And,” Deborah continued, “she also said that the cosmetic companies experimented on innocent animals.”

Deborah laughed, more like a bark laugh then briefly glanced up at the ceiling. Mr. Edwards glanced up at the ceiling to see what she was looking at. And then she abruptly lowered her head and shot her eyes at Mr. Edwards and shouted.

“As if they should experiment on children! Better some monkey than someone’s seven year old.”

Mr. Edwards retreated slightly. He adjusted his tie. It seemed to be getting tighter.

“You said that?” he asked. The girl’s abrasive response to a customer was troubling. It was not company policy. And it certainly was not the manner in which Mr. Edwards would have dealt with the situation. Mr. Edwards had never had an occasion upon which he felt it necessary to raise his voice.

Deborah hesitated.

“No.” She lowered her eyes in contrition but abruptly raised them again. “But I felt like it.”

Mr. Edwards ran a finger across his chin in thought. He looked up at the young woman sitting across from him. She is pretty.

“Well, you’ve had quite an eventful first day, Deborah. You said there were two things you wanted to discuss.”

Deborah nodded. “I think we should go out.”

Mr. Edwards stared at the young woman for a moment. Excuse me?

“Excuse me?” he said.

“I think we should go out,” the young woman repeated. It was more a demand than a suggestion.

“Out?”

“On a date. Dinner perhaps.” The young woman continued to smile at the handsome pharmacist who continued to stare back at her.

“You have me at a disadvantage,” Mr. Edwards began but was interrupted by the young woman.

“I made reservations at the Canadiana for eight o’clock. I’ve brought a change of clothes. You won’t need a change of clothes Mr. Edwards. As usual you are dressed impeccably.”

That’s what Deborah wanted to say.

“Miss Hall?” Mr. Edwards looked at Deborah with a concerned expression.

Deborah looked at Mr. Edwards with a dazed expression.

“There was something else you wanted to discuss?” Mr. Edwards asked. “You said there were two things.”

Deborah laughed. She put her fingers over her lips.

“Slipped my mind. Phew.” Deborah waved her hands in the air as if she had released a bird into the air.

“Slipped your mind?” Mr. Edwards asked.

“Phew. Gone. I can’t imagine what I was going to say.” And without another word, Deborah stood up and stepped out of the office. Mr. Edwards watched with a stunned expression.

“That was odd,” he said.

That was what Deborah feared would happen.

“There was something else?” Mr. Edwards asked.

“Excuse me?” Deborah replied.

“You said,” Mr. Edwards said, “there were two things you wanted to discus. We have discussed the first. Perhaps we should move on to the second.”

“Oh yes.” Deborah smiled. “I’d… I’d like to meet your wife.”

Mr. Edwards stared at Deborah for a minute.

“You’d like to meet my wife?”

Deborah nodded.

“Well,” Mr. Edwards glanced around his office looking for something to say. “I’m sure you’ll meet her one day. She comes into the store quite regularly.”

“I’d like to take her out to lunch. To talk.” Deborah giggled. “Girl stuff.”

Mr. Edwards’ mouth fell open.

“Girl stuff?”

“Oh,” Deborah began but broke down into tears. “Just forget everything I said.”

Deborah stood up and turned toward the door. When she reached the door she turned around and waved.

“I’ll be getting back to work now.”

Deborah closed the door behind her, walked out of the office, across the store floor, straight into the bathroom, into one of the cubicles, and screamed.

 

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