The Players:


Ladies' Counter

Mrs. Slocombe is handing a bag to a stout woman

Slocombe:        Thank you for your custom, madam.  I do hope you
                       enjoy  your new corset.

Customer:         I shan't enjoy getting into it again. (looks Slocombe up
                        and down) I can see why  you don't bother to wear one.

Slocombe:        (with a cold smile) Just so, madam. (customer leaves; aside
                        to Brahms):   Middle-class cow!

Brahms:            Ooh, the cheek!  And she came in right in the middle of
                        your story, in all!  So what  happened after that bloke tried
                        to pick you up at the pub?

Slocombe:        Well, like I said, I fancied he was loaded with money.
                        He kept buying me gin &tonics and talking about his
                        "new wheels" and asking me if I wanted to go for a ride.
                        Well, finally I went outside to take a look .

Brahms:            Did he have "new wheels?"

Slocombe:        Oh yes -- on his bicycle. I thought Right, he's all fur coat
                       and no knickers!

Brahms:           Oh, one of them. So how did you finally get rid of him?

Slocombe:        Thank goodness for Mrs. Axelby! She leaned in between
                       us and reminded me I  had to get up early to take in my
                       pussy for its six-month washing. He took off like a shot!

Men's counter

Lucas:               Well, you were very nearly late this morning, Mr. Humphries.

Humphries:       Yes, what I horrible night I spent! I had one of those
                        nightmares where you find  yourself marooned on a desert
                        island with no food or water.  I was running about  wearing
                        only a straw hat and a grass skirt.

Lucas:              Well, then, you could've eaten those, couldn't you?

Humphries:       Mr. Lucas! I might have been marooned, but I still had
                        my modesty!

Lucas:              Ah yes.  So there was nobody else about on this island?

Humphries:       Not a soul. I called and called, but nobody answered.
                        That's unusual for me, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:              Yes Indeed, Mr. Humphries. You make friends very easily.

Humphries:       Well, I've always thought so. Anyway, just as I was about
                        to starve to death I found this giant mushroom and started
                        in on it.  I couldn't get enough!

Lucas:                So the dream had a happy ending.

Humphries:        Not really. I woke up and found my pillow torn to shreds.
                          (plucks feather from his sleeve)

The phone rings

Humphries:        (deep voice) Menswear. . . Just a moment. (calls out)
                          Are you free, Cpt.  Peacock?

Peacock:            (at center floor) Mr. Humphries, it is considered rather
                         common to call across the salesfloor like a fishwife!

Humphries:        Flattery will get you nowhere.  Mr. Rumbold wishes to
                         speak with you.

Peacock:            (moves to counter) You might have said so in the first place.
                         (takes phone)

Lucas:                Be kind to him, Cpt. Peacock.  He's moulting!

Humphries:        If you're going to mock me, I shan't share my confidences.

Peacock gets off the phone, returns to center floor

Peacock:            Attention, everyone! Gather 'round.

Slocombe:          Cpt. Peacock! You needn't shout across the salesfloor
                          like a fishwife!

Peacock:            (glowers at her) Mrs. Slocombe, are you free?

Slocombe:          (looks right, then left) I'm free.

Lucas:                (to Humphries) Fancy that! She's free, and still no takers!

Peacock:            You too, Miss Brahms. Gather 'round, now. (looks around)
                         Where is Mr. Grainger?

Humphries:        He's resting, Cpt. Peacock. He's had a very trying morning.

Peacock:            In what way?

Lucas:                His false teeth are giving him trouble, and he spent most
                         of breakfast trying to get the better of a sticky bun.

Peacock:            Indeed!

Humphries:       Allow me, Cpt. Peacock. (goes to where Mr. G is sleeping
                          in chair, leans  down) Are you free, Mr. Grainger?

Grainger:           (with a start) Yes, I'm free. (he joins group)

Peacock:            If Mr. Grainger has quite recovered from his breakfast
                         ordeal, Mr. Rumbold has asked me to assemble you here.
                         He is en route to make an important announcement.

Brahms:            Did he say what it was about?

Peacock:            No, Miss Brahms. But I can say that, as one who is
                         occasionally privy to higher-echelon decision-making,
                          I have a fairly good idea.

Lucas:              What he means is he's been chatting up Mr. Grace's
                        secretary in the lift.

Harman enters with female display mannequin that is dressed in underwear

Harman:           (singing) Round and round the world, looking for the

Peacock:          Mr. Harman! What are you doing on the floor at this hour?

Harman:         You know, Capt. Peacock, it may seem to those what is
                      unsophisticated like I am working at this hour, but in
                      actuality, I am independently wealthy, and I am merely
                     presuming the identity of a poor but handsome working
                     devil to satisfy my heccentric  nature. And in my current
                     masquerade, I have been sent to deliver this display model
                     to Ladies Imminent Apparel what shows off the latest in
                     unmentionables.  Where would you like her, Mrs. Slocombe?

Slocombe:      What exactly is this line, Mr. Harmon? These hardly seem
                     like new items.

Harman:         Now there's where you'd be mistaken, dear heart, for these
                     are Naughty Nibbles -- underwear what is edible!

Slocombe:        Edible?!

Harman:          They're made out of rice paper, sweetened up a bit.  There's
                      a men's display, too.

Humphries:      And me on a diet!

Peacock:         What idiot instructed you to set up these ridiculous displays?

Harman:          That idiot what just come up behind you, Captain. (he leaves.)

Rumbold:         Pardon me, Capt. Peacock, I believe I missed your comment.

Peacock:          Oh! I, er, was just saying what a clever idea these, er,
                       edible underthings were.

Rumbold:         (enthusiastically) Yes, my secretary tells me they're all the
                        rage in some of the other shops about town, and I have
                        decided to include them in our stock.

Slocombe:         Mr. Rumbold, as senior salesperson, I should have been
                        consulted, and I am  unanimous in that!

Brahms:            Right, they's dead common.

Rumbold:         (looks over his glasses at Brahms) Er, yes, Mrs. Slocombe,
                       that is usually the  case, but I had to act quickly. When I
                       contacted the supplier he said that he had very little stock
                       left, and that they were selling like hotcakes.

Lucas:              Fancy that with your morning coffee!

Peacock:          Is this the announcement you wished to make, Mr. Rumbold?

Rumbold:         Certainly not.  My news is much more important.

Slocombe:        (looking disdainfully at display) Really? What could be
                       more important than knicker-noshing?

Rumbold:         Now listen up, everyone. Young Mr. Grace has informed
                       me that he has selected the Grace Brothers Employee of the
                       Year, and that this year's winner is entitled to a one-week,
                       all-expense-paid holiday!

Peacock:          That is most generous of Young Mr. Grace.  May we ask
                       who the lucky winner is?

Rumbold:         Our leader has expressed a wish to announce the winner
                        personally, and you are all  invited to remain behind
                        directly we close this afternoon. I trust you will all be here?

Peacock:          We'll be here, sir.

Rumbold leaves

Brahms:            Ooh, if he's coming here, it must be one of us!

Peacock:           It would seem so, Miss Brahms.

Brahms:            Isn't it exciting?  I wonder where the winner will go
                        for holiday?

Slocombe:         Personally, if I were to win, I'd prefer someplace warm
                        and romantic, like the Caribino.

Brahms:           Don't they have those hurricanes down there this time
                        of year?

Lucas:              That's alright.  There's a big wind wherever Mrs. Slocombe

Peacock:          Mr. Lucas! Back to work, all of you. It's a long way to
                        closing, and you've all plenty of time to speculate.

Grainger:         (lingers) A holiday would be most welcome.  Have you
                       given any thought to where you'd like to go should you
                       win, Steven?

Peacock:          Well, I had rather considered going to the continent, Ernest.
                        I do so enjoy traveling abroad.

Humphries:      Hmmm.  Mother sent me abroad for my 18th birthday.

Lucas:             Cor, did you ever figure out what to do with her?

Harman returns wheeling male mannequin with edible undie display

Harman:           Right, then, Mr. Grainger. Where do you fancy this
                        poor bloke?

Grainger:         (inspects the boxer shorts) Actually, I prefer you take it back
                       wherever you got it.  This is Gentlemen's Ready-to-Wear,
                       not Ready-to-Eat!

Harman:          Hmmm.  They don't seem very stylish. I mean, they are a
                      bit long.

Lucas:             Not to worry, Mr. Humphries.  They'll ride up with wear.

Scene 2

The Canteen

The staff are seated at their table

Slocombe:      (arms folded) Well, we've been sat sitting here for ten minutes
                      now, and still no lunch. I liked it better when we got our own.

Brahms:         Yeah, whose stupid idea is this?

Peacock:        Have patience, all of you. I understand Young Mr. Grace
                     instituted this change personally after dining at the Lally's
                     and Willet's canteen, where employees enjoy table service.

Slocombe:     Well, they don't have the lot that works in this canteen, do
                    they?  And anyroad, what  was he doing in Lally &Willets?

Peacock:       Captains of industry often socialize, Mrs. Slocombe.
                    Although they may be competitors in the marketplace, civility
                    dictates a certain detente among great men of commerce.

Lucas:           Honor among thieves, I call it.

Peacock:       Ahem.  At any rate, the change has been made.  Personally,
                    I find the arrangement a bit  more elegant.

Canteen manageress arrives in stained pinny with several plates on tray

CM:              Rissoles!

Peacock:       I beg your pardon?

CM:               Rissoles. Who gets the rissoles?

Humphries:    Oh, they're mine.

Lucas:            (to Humphries) Cor, you're not half brave.

Humphries:     My horoscope said I had nothing to lose today.

Slocombe:       We'll check with you later.

CM:                Right, who's the stuffed bird?

Peacock:         Here, please.

Humphries:     Don't say it, Mr. Lucas.

CM:               (setting down plates roughly) Let's see, spaghetti for the cheeky
                      junior, Bubble and Squeak for Mr. Grainger, best of luck,
                      and Shepherd's Pie for the young lady in Underwear.

Slocombe:      And where's my Toad in the Hole?

CM:               When it pops out, dear, you'll be the first to know. (Exits)

Slocombe:      Really!!

Peacock:        I'm sure it will be out in a moment, Mrs. Slocombe.

Brahms:         (inspecting her food) You know, I've always wondered why
                     they call it "Shepherd's Pie."

Lucas:           That's easy.  Because no one knows what the flock is in it!

Slocombe:     Oh!  How sick-making!

Grainger:       (looking across the canteen) Isn't that Mr. Hobbes from
                     Bathroom Fittings?

Humphries:    (looking) That's him, Mr. Grainger.

Grainger:        He won Employee of the Year last year, you know.  He
                     made that special elevating loo seat for Young Mr. Grace!

Lucas:             Fancy that getting him the award.

Grainger:        As you get older, my boy, you find the little things become
                     rather more important.

Humphries:     (wistfully) True.

Peacock:         Ideally, of course, the award is a special recognition of
                      loyalty, hard work and dependability. The embodiment of
                      those virtues is, of course, the floorwalker, and I  shouldn't
                      be surprised if recognition were finally given here today.

Slocombe:      Dream on, Mr. Chips.

Grainger:       In all modesty, if loyalty and hard work are the criteria,
                    I should hope that I be recognized for my many years of
                    service to Grace Brothers.  After all, I'm not getting any

Lucas:           You're not working any harder, either.

Peacock:        I daresay you're not in the running this year, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:           Oh, I don't know, Captain. Didn't I bring my sales up this
                    past year?

Peacock:        I believe it takes more than merely raising your sales above
                     your refunds.

Slocombe:     Well, if sales decide it, one need only to look at my figures.

Lucas:           (pained) Need one, Mrs. Slocombe?

Slocombe:     I shouldn't talk if I were you, Mr. Lucas.  Even my junior
                    has rung up more sales than you in the last year.

Brahms:        Still, that doesn't mean I'll get the award.

Lucas:           Don't feel bad, Miss Brahms. At least you get a discount on
                     your unmentionables, and all the cotton wool you can stuff
                     in them!

Brahms:        Of all the cheek!

Peacock:       We've not heard from you, Mr. Humphries.  Don't you
                    covet the award?

Humphries:    Not really.  I've always felt that good service is its own reward.

Peacock:        Ah, yes.  Like virtue.

Humphries:    Let's not get carried away, Capt. Peacock!

Scene 3

The Sales Floor

The lift door opens, and out comes Young Mr. Grace with his nurse and Mr. Rumbold.

YMG:           Good afternoon, everybody!

All:               Good afternoon, Mr. Grace.

Nurse and Rumbold help him downstairs.

YMG:          Well, I suppose you're wondering why I asked you all here.
                    (to Rumbold) Why did I ask them all here?

Rumbold:     To announce the employee of the year, sir.  I assume the
                    winner is one of the staff assembled here today.

YMG:          Oh yes.  Well, actually, no. I'm giving the award to
                    Mr. Hobbes of Bathroom Fittings.

Rumbold:     But Mr. Grace, surely you remember you gave Mr. Hobbes
                   the award last year.

Peacock:      Yes, sir, for the, er, clever seat he devised for you.

YMG:           Yes, I know. But he's made a new one this year that heats up
                    and plays "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton" when you sit on it.
                    It's a great comfort to me.

Rumbold:      Er, a very wise choice, sir.

Peacock:       Begging your pardon, Mr. Grace, but if none of us here has
                    won the award, why have you assembled us?

YMG:          Oh, I've decided to award second place to Mr. Humphries,
                    whose sales figures have been excellent again this year.

Humphries:   Always a bridesmaid.  Thank you, Mr. Grace.

Peacock:       And what shall Mr. Humphries' prize be, Mr. Grace?

YMG:           Well, I've thought about it, and I've decided he can just
                    have anything he wants in the store.

General exclamations and chatter

Humphries:   That is most generous of you, Mr. Grace, but just to be
                    honored is reward enough.

YMG:           Oh, come now, Mr. Humphries. Surely there's something in
                    the store you've had your eye on.

Humphries:    I don't suppose that junior in Sporting Goods--

Peacock:      Merchandise, Mr. Humphries!

Humphries:  Well then, I could use a new pillow.  Oh, and I'll just take
                   some of the edible underwear!

YMG:           Whatever you like, Mr. Humphries. Well, thank you,
                     everybody.  You've all done very well!

He staggers; the nurse catches him and helps him back up to the lift.

Slocombe:     (to Brahms) Well, go to the foot of our stairs!

Lucas:           (to Humphries) Criminy, you could have had anything
                     in the store!

Peacock:      Mr. Humphries is to be commended for his restraint.
                   You would be wise to follow his example, Mr. Lucas.  I'll see
                   that Bedding sends up their finest pillow.  And Mr. Grainger,
                   please make sure Mr. Humphries gets the rest of his award.

Grainger:    Certainly, Capt. Peacock. (Moves behind counter and pulls out
                   box of Naughty Nibbles) One pair of size medium, Mr.

Humphries:  Actually, I'll take two dozen assorted, Mr. Grainger.

Grainger:     Two dozen assorted?

Humphries:  (looks around at puzzled colleagues) Well, I do make friends


(c)1999 John F. Crowley

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