Cpt. Stephen Peacock
Mrs. Betty Slocombe
Mr. W.C. Humphries Mr. Percival Tebbs
Mr. Dick Lucas Miss Shirley Brahms
Mr. Beverly Harman Young Mr. Grace
Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold Miss Bakewell
Edward, a butcher's son Chloe, a baker's assistant
Gentleman Customer Lady Customer
Notes for non-British readers: a dogsbody is a gofer or flunky; low man on the totem pole; Bob's your uncle means easy, nothing to it; a whip-around means passing the hat.
It is just before opening time. Slocombe is taking the covers off her counters, and Humphries is readying the Men's counter. Peacock is in the center, looking at his watch and frowning. The lift doors open, and Tebbs waddles out.
Peacock: Ah, Mr. Tebbs. I was just beginning to wonder if the rest of the staff had gotten lost.
Tebbs: Hmmph! Good morning to you, too, Cpt. Peacock. (he waddles downstairs)
me, Percival, but I am somewhat concerned. Our departmental figures
a sharp increase in tardiness this week, and I'm sure to hear about it from Mr. Rumbold.
(gives hat and coat to Mr. Humphries) I see. Well, I
may have cut it fine today, but
my record here at Grace Brothers is most exemplary in that regard. Why, I haven't
been late since 1964, when I was knocked down after getting off my train at Marylebone
Peacock: Dear me. Robbers?
Tebbs: No. Schoolgirls.
Oh, yes. A great horde of them came bolting down the platform
upon me, and I found my self upended. Most undignified. I learned later they were
chasing after some infernal be-bop combo getting on another train. The Beat Bugs,
I believe it was, or the Rolling Crickets.
at watch again) Yes, well, the store opens in five minutes, and
missing Mr. Lucas and Miss Brahms.
Tebbs: Ah, I believe you'll find Miss Brahms outside the front door, Cpt. Peacock.
Slocombe -- her hair is blue -- comes over.
Slocombe: Oh, don't tell me she's
still out there with that boyfriend of hers! I saw them on my
way in fifteen minutes ago!
Yes, and by the way they were clutching each other, one would think
she was going
off to war rather than to Ladies' Intimate Apparel.
Slocombe: That's every morning this week!
Humphries: Oh dear, I've missed him
again. I do want to see what Miss Brahm's young gentleman
looks like. I'll just slip downstairs a moment, if you don't mind, Cpt. Peacock.
Peacock: That's out of the question -- we're about to open.
The lift doors open, and Mr. Lucas emerges.
Peacock: Mr. Lucas. You are very nearly late.
Lucas: Sorry, Captain, I had to push my way through a crowd to get in the door.
Slocombe: Oh, are there customers queued up already?
More like spectators. There's a great kissing contest goin'
on between Miss Brahms
and her boyfriend. (descends stairs)
Peacock: Indeed, and should Miss Brahms win, first prize will be a note of reprimand.
Humphries: Yes, and the runner-up gets lip salve.
Slocombe, when your junior arrives, perhaps you would reaquaint her with
Article 7, Paragraph C.
Slocombe: Come again?
Grace Brothers Staff Code of Conduct, Mrs. Slocombe.
Article 7, Paragraph C
outlines the proper rules of decorum for staff on their way to and from their jobs.
Lucas: Cor, they get you coming and going.
his glasses, takes booklet from inside pocket and flips through it)
it is: "All employees shall conduct themselves respectfully while entering and leaving
the building, and shall not loiter, solicit, smoke, expectorate or otherwise violate the
boundaries of good taste."
Lucas: Expectorate? Is that as bad as it sounds, whatever it is? (looks at Humphries)
Humphries: Well, don't look at me!
Hmmph. You young people today have no cognizance of the tongue. If
more time improving your vocabulary, and less time standing about expectorating,
you'd know what the word means.
Humphries: Well, what does it mean?
It means -- er, will you pardon my French, Mrs. Slocombe? (she
nods) Ah, thank you.
(pulls himself up, puts his hands on his lapels. His tone is quite serious)
It means -- to spit.
Lucas: Ah. So it was the French started doin' that.
Peacock: Mr. Lucas, we're wasting time.
Slocombe: Indeed. Cpt.
Peacock, there's nothing in your book that says Miss Brahms and her
boyfriend can't have a cuddle on the way into work.
I may be allowed to continue, I believe the next sentence will shed some
light on the
matter. (consults booklet) Ah, yes. "In cases where employees are delivered or
collected by spouses or other loved ones, displays of affection shall be kept brief and
Slocombe: Oh, are we still usin' that old thing? Let's have a look.
it to her) It may not have been printed this year, Mrs. Slocombe,
Staff Code of Conduct contains guidance which, when properly applied, can help
propel any firm to the pinnacle of the modern business world.
Slocombe: (reading pamphlet) Yes, like Article 7, Paragraph E.
Peacock: Ah. What is covered in that section?
Slocombe: (looks at him, deadpan) Cleanin' up after your horse.
booklet back) Ahem. Just the same, Mrs. Slocombe, please
have a word
with your junior.
I have done, Cpt. Peacock, but you know how it is with young girls these
Why, they've no sense of modesty. When I was Miss Brahms' age, we were certainly
spirited, but we didn't comport with our young men in the street!
Lucas: Of course not. They'd all gone off to the Crusades, hadn't they?
Peacock: Mr. Lucas!
Slocombe: Oh, pay him no
mind. Now that Miss Brahms has a boyfriend, and he's like a bear
with a sore 'ead.
Humphries: In all fairness, Cpt. Peacock, someone should have a talk with the young man, too.
Quite right. A gentleman of quality would
never allow himself to be seen in such a
scandalous display in public. I should be very surprised to see you grappling with a
young lady in a public street, Mr. Humphries.
Humphries: I think that would surprise all of us, Mr. Tebbs.
The opening bell rings.
everyone! Mrs. Slocombe, I'm afraid I shall have to make an adverse
regarding Miss Brahms in my--
The lift bell rings. The doors open and Miss Brahms rushes out and down the stairs.
Ooh, I'm late, aren't I? Sorry, Cpt. Peacock, I was outside, sayin'
Edward, and I just lost track of time.
Lucas: (to Humphries and Tebbs) I hope that's all she lost.
Brahms, you are in fact late, and for the second time this week.
I'm afraid I shall
have to make an adverse entry in my book.
Brahms: (descends stairs, smiles sweetly) Thank you, Cpt. Peacock.
Peacock looks at her quizically.
Slocombe: I'll have a word with you, Miss Brahms, after you've put your things away.
Brahms: Ooh, Mrs. Slocombe, I've got something to tell you.
Whatever it is, it can wait until you've straightened your clothes and
your lipstick. You look like somethin' the cat brought in.
Brahms: (still smiling) Aw. Thank you, Mrs. Slocombe.
Slocombe: Tsk! Off with you!
Brahms exits toward fitting rooms. Peacock goes to Ladies' counter.
Peacock: I don't think Miss Brahms appreciates the gravity of her situation, Mrs. Slocombe.
Slocombe: I'm not sure she even noticed us!
Peacock: You will speak with her, then?
Slocombe: Yes, I said
I would. Now you must excuse me, Cpt. Peacock. I've got to
Mr. Hemple. (picks up phone)
Peacock: Mr. Hemple from Stationery? Must you ring him now?
Slocombe: Yes, I must, Captain. I have to make arrangements for my Christmas cards this year.
Peacock: Your Christmas cards?
Slocombe: Yesterday was
the deadline for the staff discount. I want to catch him before he
Peacock: Can't you wait until Miss Brahms returns?
Slocombe: Oh, there's no customers yet. Let me just ring him. It's important!
Peacock: Hardly important enough to take you away from your duties.
Slocombe: Oh, but it's
different this year, Cpt. Peacock. Instead of the usual sort of card,
you can have your own photograph put on the front -- whatever you want.
(proudly) This year I'll be sendin' everybody a picture of my pussy!
certainly breaking with tradition. (Brahms returns, still smiling)
Miss Brahms now. You may place the call, Mrs. Slocombe, but keep it brief.
(returns to center floor)
Brahms: Mrs. Slocombe, I--.
Slocombe: Not now, Miss
Brahms. I've got to ring Stationery. Put new bills in the salesbooks
and tidy up the scent display. (starts dialing phone)
Brahms: (frowns a bit) Oh, all right.
Lucas and Humphries are at the side counter, sorting and pricing a tray of gloves.
Humphries: So you never told me what he looks like.
Lucas: What who looks like?
Humphries: Miss Brahms' young man!
Well, I could hardly tell, couldn't I? I only got a glimpse
of him, and even then his
face was busy at the moment.
Humphries: So I've heard. Well, just tell me what you remember.
Lucas: Well, he was quite tall, actually; brown hair--
Humphries: What sort of brown?
Lucas: What sort?
Humphries: Yes. Was it a light, sandy brown, or a shimmering auburn, or a deep chestnut, or --
Lucas: Criminy, I should have taken notes!
Humphries: Sorry. I've a curious nature
Lucas: Not half. Well, I would say his hair was, er, chestnut brown.
Humphries: Hmmm. Anything else?
Lucas: Yes. He had sideburns, and all.
Humphries: Oh, he sounds quite nice.
Reminds me of a gentleman I met last month at that new
disco I was telling you about.
Lucas: You mean the one in dockland that the police closed down?
Humphries: Tsk. It wasn't the
police, Mr.Lucas, it was the Health Ministry. And they only closed
down the snack bar.
Lucas: Oh, that's right -- the fairy cakes had gone off, hadn't they?
Humphries: I shan't continue if you're going to take the mickey.
Lucas: Sorry. You didn't eat anything there, did you?
Humphries: No, I was looking at the
menu when this tall gentleman with dark hair I mentioned
pulled me behind him into a conga line. You know, we danced 'round and 'round the
club, and when the song stopped, we were in front of the bar, so we had a drink and
a chat, and I got to know a bit about him.
Lucas: Yes, I expect you only saw one side of him in the conga line.
Humphries: Well, we'll move right past that bit. But I did find out his name was Randy.
Lucas: Hmmm. Didn't catch his last name?
Humphries: He didn't throw it. Well,
it was that kind of a night. Anyway, he told me he's in the
transport business. And he has a lovely flat in Kensington.
Lucas: (raises eyebrows) Oh, did you see it personally, then?
Humphries: (stops, looks at Lucas) The less you know, Mr. Lucas, the less they can beat out of you.
Peacock greets a gentleman descending the stairs. He is stout, middle-aged, and wincing a bit.
Peacock: Good morning sir. How may I assist you?
Customer: Oh, thank you. I need a belt, please.
Peacock: Ah. Gentlemen's accessories are right this way. Mr. Tebbs, are you free?
Tebbs: Cpt. Peacock, I am free and ready to serve!
Peacock: The customer is interested in a belt.
Tebbs: Good morning, sir. What sort of belt had you in mind today?
Customer: Well, I haven't decided.
I just need to replace this one I'm wearing. It's become rather
uncomfortable. They seem to, er, shrink as time goes by. (pats his ample stomach)
Tebbs: Indeed, sir. They do tend to ride in with wear.
Tebbs: I shall have my assistant bring the belt display. Mr. Humphries, are you free?
Humphries: I'm free. (drops gloves)
Tebbs: Belt display, please.
Humphries: Yes, Mr. Tebbs. Belt display, Mr. Lucas.
(drops gloves) Belt display, Mr. Humphries. (brings
the belt display to the front
counter and stands by)
Thank you. As you can see, sir, we've quite a selection from
which to choose: leather,
patent leather, simulated leather, cowhide, rawhide, woven, braided and plastic.
Humphries: Yes, and don't forget the
new line that came last week, while you were on holiday,
Mr. Tebbs: (selects one of the belts) the genuine Patagonian snakeskin.
Tebbs: Ah! Thank you, Mr. Humphries.
Customer: Patagonian snakeskin?
Humphries: Oh, yes, sir. Previously available only by special order.
That's right. It used to be, you'd give them your waist size, and
they'd go out and
hunt down a snake to fit. "Look!," they'd cry, "There goes a 42, under that shrubbery!"
Tebbs glares at Lucas
Customer: Hmmm. There are so many choices. Which kind do you wear?
Tebbs: Oh, I've never worn a belt, sir.
Customer: You haven't?
Oh, no, no, no, no. Ever since I was a lad, I have found braces
in every way superior
to belts in holding up one's trousers. Especially at mealtime. All that buckling and
unbuckling can be very tiresome.
Customer: Yes, I know.
I'm on the last notch and I've just had breakfast. (pats stomach
You know, I might try some braces if I could get my wife to sew the buttons on my
trousers. (leans closer) She's not very domesticated.
Ah. A pity, sir. I'm rather fortunate in that Mrs. Tebbs has
always been mindful of
the sartorial necessities of the distributive trade. (all nod ) And she knows that if my
trousers come down, there'll be hell to pay.
Customer: I see. Do you wear braces with your casual trousers, as well?
Tebbs: Oh yes, sir. Every pair I own has accomodations for braces.
Lucas: Surely not your pyjamas, Mr. Tebbs!
Tebbs: (to Lucas) Of course not. I don't wear pyjamas.
Lucas: Oh! You sleep as nature intended, then, eh? (nudges Humphries)
Tebbs: Yes, I do.
Humphries and Lucas look at each other, shocked.
Lucas: You do?
Tebbs: Of course. Now return to your tasks.
Lucas and Humphries return to the glove trays.
(to customer) You'll have to pardon my dogsbody, sir.
He is callow, and does not
yet comprehend that nature intended us to wear flannel nightshirts.
Slocombe is still on the phone.
Slocombe: Are you quite
alright now, Mr. Hemple? Right. I'll bring you the photo at
time, then. Thanks ever so much. (hangs up)
you get your order in, Mrs. Slocombe? For the Christmas cards with
Slocombe: Oh yes.
He's very nice, that Mr. Hemple. But he kept suggesting that at Christmastime,
a card with me and Tiddles together might be more appropriate. A "family portrait,"
he called it.
Brahms: So what did you tell him?
Slocombe: I told him that
at four quid for a box of twenty, anybody who gets a card will have to
satisfied with a look at my pussy. (Brahms nods) And right after I said that, he must
have got somethin' down his windpipe, 'cause he started coughin' quite a bit.
Brahms: Oh, Mrs. Slocombe! Before the customers arrive, I've got to tell you somethin'.
Slocombe: Listen, we'll have our chat later. I'm supposed to talk to you about your tardiness.
Brahms: Oh, yes, I am sorry about that.
Slocombe: Well, not only
that. (draws herself up) Cpt. Peacock has brought to
repeated violations of the Staff Code of Conduct.
Brahms: The what?
Slocombe: The Staff
Code of Conduct, and I specifically infer to Section 11, Paragraph
which covers smoking, loitering and expectating.
Brahms: Blimey! I'm not expectin'!
Slocombe: (lowers her voice) Well, you will be if you don't come up for air once in a while.
Harman enters from the direction of the goods lift, pushing a trolley bearing a box, and stops at the Ladies' counter.
Harman: (singing) Round and round the world, looking for the sunshine --
Peacock sees him and comes over.
Peacock: Mr. Harman! Did you not hear the opening bell a few minutes ago?
is nothing wrong with my auditortory organs, Cpt. Peacock, although I thank
you for askin.'
Peacock: Then why are you here?
am I 'ere? Well, in the grand scheme of things, Captain, I suppose
I am 'ere on
this troubled horb to work uncomplainingly and spread a little sunshine wherever I go.
But at the moment, I am 'ere on your floor to deliver a special parcel to Ladies'
Slocombe: Oh, what have you brought me now, Mr. Harman?
not for you, Mrs. Slocombe. (to the puzzlement of the others, he
pulls a bouquet
out of the box and hands it to Brahms) On be'alf of the Packin' Department,
Miss Brahms, congratulations, and the best of luck.
Brahms takes bouquet, looks around nervously.
Harman: Don't try to sniff em, darlin' -- they're simulated.
Peacock: Harman, what on earth are you talking about?
you all know, don't you? Warwick overheard Miss Brahms and her boyfriend
talkin' outside the entrance, and -- (looks at her) oh-oh. 'aven't you told em?
Brahms: (annoyed) No, I 'aven't!
Harman: Go on, tell em!
Harman: She's gettin' married!
Brahms: I was trying to tell you ever since I came in!
Humphries and Lucas rush to the Ladies' counter, where Brahms is showing Slocombe her engagement ring.
Humphries: Did we hear right, Cpt. Peacock? Miss Brahms getting married?
Peacock: It would seem so.
Slocombe: Oh, it's a beautiful
ring! But isn't this rather sudden? I mean, you've only known
him for a few weeks!
Humphries: Young love is always in a hurry. (clasps Brahms' hands) The best of luck, dear.
Lucas: (stunned) Yes, best of luck.
Harman: Aye. When's the blessed event?
Slocombe: (peers at Brahms) After a respectable interval, I should 'ope!
Harman: I was talkin' about the weddin', wasn't I?
after Edward popped the question last night, I rang the vicar at me mum's
and 'e said we were in luck, as 'e'd just 'ad a vacancy.
Slocombe: A vacancy?
the couple what was supposed to get married next Saturday had to call it
The groom got frostbite while 'e was mountain climbing.
Harman: Blimey! I've 'eard of cold feet, but that takes the cake!
So it's set for Saturday week. Oh, and we've hired the hall afterwards
for the reception.
Edward's dad is a butcher, and he's catering it for us. You're all coming, aren't you?
Humphries: Why, of course we're all coming.
Peacock: Indeed. We're all very happy for you, Shirley.
everyone. Oh, please don't be mad at me, Mrs. Slocombe. I did
tell you first, really I did.
Slocombe: Oh, I know you
did. It's just all happened so sudden like. I know you'll be happy,
chicken. (hugs her) Dear me! The wedding's a week off, and I'm cryin' already!
shall inform Mr. Rumbold of your happy decision. He'll want to know
be coming back from your honeymoon.
Slocombe: (dabbing her eyes) Ooh yes, where will you be going?
Brahms: We'll be going to Paris!
Slocombe: Paris! How romantic!
Humphries: Oh yes, there's no place like Paris for honeymooning.
Lucas: They do a fair amount of expectorating over there, as well, I've heard.
Peacock: Ahem. So when may we expect you back?
Brahms: Well, could I just 'ave a week, then, Captain?
Peacock: Under the circumstances, Miss Brahms, I think it can be arranged.
Slocombe: And who knows?
Perhaps soon you'll be takin' off to look after things at home.
(winks at Brahms)
Lucas: What things?
Humphries: Oh, all the things a young
wife does, Mr. Lucas, to feather the nest for when the
little eggs appear in the spring.
Lucas: Blimey. Is there a butter-and-egg man in the family, as well?
The lift doors open, and several customers emerge.
I shall notify Mr. Rumbold. Back to your posts, everyone. (he
goes to greet
a woman customer)
Brahms: Oh, Mrs. Slocombe, I almost forgot: You will be my matron of honor, won't you?
Slocombe: Oh, certainly,
chicken. I'm so glad you asked. (sniffles) I'm so happy
Just the thought of our little Shirley walkin' down the aisle . . (she wipes her nose)
Brahms: Now steady on, Mrs. Slocombe. Here's a customer what will take your mind off.
As the fortyish, well dressed woman approaches the counter, Slocombe composes herself.
Slocombe: Good morning madam. Are you being served?
Woman: Thank you. I'm looking for a hat.
Slocombe: Certainly. May I enquire as to which occasion madam is shopping for?
Woman: I'll be attending a wedding, actually.
Slocombe: A wedding?
Slocombe's smile fades; her lip quivers, and in a moment she is sobbing. Brahms goes to her.
Woman: Oh, dear. Have I said something wrong?
Brahms: Pay no mind, madam. She's just practicing.
(c)1998 John F. Crowley