Young Mr. Grace
Cpt. Stephen Peacock
Mr. Ernest Grainger Mr. Percival Tebbs
Mrs. Betty Slocombe Mr. W.C. Humphries
Mr. Dick Lucas Miss Shirley Brahms
Mr. Mash Miss Bakewell
Canteen Manageress Warwick
Seymour Four Stowaways
Road Manager A Drummer
Notes for non-British readers: pilchards are sardines; a solicitor is a lawyer; the Pally is the Palindrome Theatre; bismol is a medication for upset stomach; Wimbledon is a prestigious annual tennis tournament.
Brahms, Humphries, Lucas, Grainger and Slocombe (her hair is purple) are sitting at their table, where the Canteen Manageress, in a stained pinny, is just finishing serving them their tea from a trolley.
Grainger: (to CM) Ah. Haven't you forgotten something?
CM: Well, I've tried to forget I work in this place, but so far no luck.
Grainger: No, I mean the
biscuits. You usually bring them for our afternoon
Humphries: Don't you remember, Mr. Grainger?
We asked Miss Yardswick to
skip the biscuits today seeing as it's so close to our award dinner at
Brahms: Yes, we didn't want to spoil our appetite.
Lucas: (looking at CM's stained pinny) Too late.
Grainger: Ah, that's right. I had almost forgotten that was this evening.
CM: Award dinner?
Slocombe: (sniffs) Yes, the Grace Brothers Most Improved Floor award.
CM: Wait a minute, I ‘eard the Third Floor won that this year.
Humphries: Oh, they were disqualified.
Humphries: Yes, see, a couple of weeks ago,
just before the deadline, the
Wig Department got in a shipment of Lady Rapunzel Glamour Wigs.
Lucas: Made in Paris from genuine human hair, they said.
Humphries: Yes, and they ran a special offer
and sold out the lot — it was more
than a hundred wigs.
Slocombe: Yes, that's what put the Third Floor over the top
Humphries: But the week after that, all the
wigs started comin' back to the store.
It turned out they weren't made in Paris, they were made in Wales.
Yes, and they weren't made from human hair, they were made from
CM: ‘orse ‘air?! Couldn't they tell the difference, then?
Grainger: Perhaps they came from, er, very beautiful horses.
Humphries: Well, apparently it was unusually
fine hair, even for horses, but it
wasn't long before the ladies wearing the wigs discovered the
CM: When did they catch on, then?
Lucas: When they started sleeping standing up.
CM nods thoughtfully
Slocombe: Well, not all the customers
would take a store credit, so the
department wound up giving refunds for most of them, and that
dropped their floor out of first place!
And you lot moved up. So what improved your Fourth Floor so
much last year?
Slocombe: (sighs) The year before.
Grainger: Yes, it was very bad.
Well, I didn't see anything on our schedule, so Mr. Grace must be
caterin' it for you.
Slocombe: Yes, we're havin' it in the Board Room.
CM makes a haughty face
Brahms: Yeah, with a band, and all.
Grainger: Yes, and then we're off to the West End for the theatre!
CM: Hmff. What show are you seein', then?
Humphries: Oh, it's a revival of Sweeney
Todd. The Demon Barber of
Slocombe: (with a naughty gleam)
And his ladyfriend, who cooks his victims
into meat pies.
(looking at CM's stained pinny). By the way, who's for lunch
There's always room on the' menu for you, saucebox.
(Sticks out tongue, exits)
Peacock enters, bearing a slip of paper.
Peacock: Ah. I'm glad you're
all still here. I've just come from a meeting with
Mr. Grace, and I have the final arrangements here regarding our
dinner this evening. (Dons glasses)
Slocombe: Didn't we settle that already?
We decided on the roast chicken.
It was quite nice at Mr. Grainger's dinner, as I remember.
Peacock: (looks over glasses)
I'm surprised you can remember anything about
that dinner, Mrs. Slocombe.
Slocombe glares at him.
Humphries: Anyway, didn't we vote for the roast chicken?
Lucas: Well, I voted for the macaroni cheese.
Brahms: Tsk! You always vote for macaroni cheese.
Lucas: Well, I happen to fancy macaroni cheese, don't I? It's quite, er --
Brahms: Cheap? (Lucas frowns)
We're still having the roast chicken, only the aperitif has
Grainger: The what?
Humphries: (leans in) A change in aperitif, Mr. Grainger.
Grainger: (befuddled) But I'm wearing my good teeth now.
Humphries: No, he means the appetiser, Mr. Grainger.
Grainger is a bit embarrassed
Slocombe: Well, what about the appertiser? We ordered the oysters, didn't we?
Peacock: Some of you may have
heard over the weekend of several cases of
food poisoning caused by locally harvested oysters, and they've
temporarily been placed on the "quaranteened" list.
Brahms: So what are we gettin' instead?
Peacock: Ahem. It seems
Grace Brothers have a rather large supply of
Slocombe: (making a face) Pilchards?!
Humphries: Not the Grace Brothers Tinned Pilchards left over from the last war?!
Brahms: And the war before that?!
Lucas: I'll have the oysters.
Peacock: I very much doubt they're
the same pilchards this firm produced for
our fighting men. My understanding is that this lot is imported.
Brahms: From Sardinia?
Peacock: Very funny, Miss Brahms.
At any rate, my information is not that
Lucas: That's not fair. Let Mr. Grace eat his own pilchards.
Humphries: Yes, he could use the protein.
Lucas: That's right. He's not exactly swingin' from the chandelier these days.
Grainger: I have rather
fond memories of pilchards. When I started at Grace
Brothers, you know, a junior didn't make a lot of money.
Lucas: (sarcastically) Unlike today. (Brahms nods)
Grainger: During the war, of course,
things got even more dear, and Mrs.
Grainger and I used to have pilchards on toast every Monday and
Wednesday for supper.
Slocombe: Ugh. And every Tuesday and Thursday they had bismol.
Peacock: Ahem. The staff
may choose to eat or not eat the pilchards, as they
see fit. Now as to the second item, (consults his notes) there's been a
change in the location of the affair.
Slocombe: What, it's not goin' to be in the Board Room?
Peacock: I'm afraid not.
Last night Young Mr. Grace hosted a cocktail party
there for his favorite charity.
Brahms: Don't tell us — the Distressed Nightclub Hostesses.
Peacock: Yes, and apparently
there was damage to the room which will
necessitate considerable repair.
Humphries: Oh, dear. What happened?
Peacock: Well, I don't have
all the details, but I believe one of the chandeliers
will need replacement.
Humphries and Lucas look at each other
Brahms: So it's the Salesfloor, then?
Peacock: (removes glasses)
I'm afraid not. After Mr. Grainger's recent
anniversary dinner, it was decided to restrict such affairs to venues in
which one cannot fall down the stairs after drinking too much
Japanese tinned champagne. (All look at Slocombe)
Slocombe: I never fell down the stairs!
Lucas: Mrs. Slocombe is right — technically.
Peacock: What do you mean?
Lucas: Well, at the time, she thought it was an escalator, didn't she?
Slocombe: (irritated) You're not helping me, Mr. Lucas!
Brahms: So where is it goin' to be, then?
Mash enters, pushing a drum kit on a dolly. The staff gasp.
Brahms: Not down ‘ere!
Peacock: I'm sorry,
Miss Brahms. This was the only room available on such
Oy! Mr. Grace said to bring this lot up ‘ere for your dinner.
You've ‘eard about the Board Room, then?
Peacock: Yes, we've heard, Mr. Mash.
Mash: ‘ad a little woopsie-do, eh? As Mae West said to the midget!
Peacock: How droll. Where's the rest of the equipment?
Seymour's bringing it along. (looks at the name on the bass drum)
So who are "The Egg Men" when they're at ‘ome?
Slocombe: Oh, they're one of those duffelbangers.
Humphries: You mean doppelgangers, Mrs. Slocombe
Slocombe: Yes, you know, sound-alikes.
Humphries: They're one of those Beatles impersonator bands, Mr. Mash.
Impersonators? Phaw! Is that the best Grace Brothers
for your swanky dinner, then?
Well, we didn't have a choice, now did we? It's the band the
Third Floor booked, and it was too late to change, wasn't it,
Peacock: Indeed it was.
Well, my neighbor Rose saw them at the Pally durin' the
intermission at that special show they ‘ad this summer — you know,
when they showed the Beatles movies? She said they looked quite
a bit like ‘em — even ‘ad a left-'anded bass player. And she says
they didn't ‘alf sound like them.
Peacock: Hmmm. Was there alcohol served at this show, Miss Brahms?
Slocombe: Oh, give ‘em a chance, Cpt. Peacock.
Yes, how bad can it get? We've had the Trixie Trio, and lived
Humphries: But we'll never get that night back again, Mr. Lucas.
Oy! Speakin' of the Beatles, they're all in town today, y'know!
We ‘eard it on the radio down in Packin'.
Brahms: Oh, that's right, all four of ‘em!
Humphries: Yes, to sign some documents
regarding all that messy legal business
they've had. I was reading about it this morning. They've finally
settled their differences.
Yeah, I saw it on the telly. And they're goin' to sign the papers
over in Abbey Road, where they made all their records.
Slocombe: Ooh, wouldn't it be fun to pop ‘round and get a peek?
Hah! Too late for that! The radio announcer says it's a mob scene
in St. John's Wood, and they ‘aven't even arrived yet, ‘ave they?
Slocombe: Tsk! Well, everyone wants to see ‘em.
Yes, I recall reading about it, as well. Apparently they're just
reuniting, as it were, to settle the paperwork, and there are no
Brahms: Oh, that's such a shame.
Seymour arrives with a dolly loaded with guitar cases and amplifiers.
Humphries: Well, we can just pretend
that our doppelgangers are actually
Lucas: Aye, and that our dinner is actually edible.
(c) 1999 John F. Crowley