Will had slept about nine solid hours; blanked out to the world. His eyes popped open and he just stared at the ceiling for a couple minutes, reordering the prior day in his mind. He started laughing to himself about his brother’s comment about finding a chocolate mamma and imagined coming up to Jerry’s house with Cindy on his arm.
That got him really going for a couple minutes, imagining the look on Jerry’s face. He wondered to himself, what Jerry’s wife and kids would do? That purchased a couple more minutes of laughter.
“Oh, you God damn fool! You know better and you know what that was all about!” He was making comment in a low mutter to himself.
When he had been in the fleet, he had received a proper introduction to the way of the world, dealing with Cindy’s kind of gal. It might last a couple weeks and he would be the loser when it was over. There was no novelty in it for him. He had talked to a few of the typical young civilian types and it was at the core of their imagination to get some rack time with a real prostitute, so they could brag to their pals. Will had long ago gotten over scoring a shot of grip that way. No novelty and nothing good ever came out of that type of setup.
Still, Cindy was on his mind as he got ready for another day shift in Hell. As he walked to his car, he realized he had left his personality on the night stand and had to dash back in, shove it in his boot and hustle on to work.
As he rolled into the parking lot the thought hit Will that this was truck day and that he would be receiving the weekly order the whole damn afternoon and an odd lunch time.
That and the fact, he hadn’t eaten since the prior lunch kind of irritated him. “You G. D.
fool! How’s Cindy lookin’ to you now?”
In his own mind he had already nicknamed the Manager and stock boy. Fat man and boy blunder; and that was exactly how he evaluated them. He had listened to Farley’s reasoning and the few comments Roger had made and knew exactly what he was dealing with as far as how their own minds were tilted.
As he stepped through the door there was a huge, cut, young white guy standing by the podium. This guy was about six, three and really well built.
“Hi, I’m John Platt, I’m the new Trainee and I don’t know how; but I got assigned to this store, they told me I was going to Long Beach. You must be Morgan, the newly assigned Third to this store?”
“Well, I’ll be damned, another John! That should really get confusing! My first name’s Will and yes, I’ve been here a couple weeks.” Will held out his hand and John took it into his huge, rough hand and shook it soundly.
“Well, you’re gonna have to be “Big John” in my book, that okay?” “That’s not the first time.” Platt was giving a half grin combined with a bewildered look of nothing short of, what the hell is going on?
“Where you from?”
“I just got out of the Marine Corp a couple months ago.”
“I’m ex Navy; but don’t hold it against me! Where were you stationed?” “Nam.” Big John was looking down almost apologetic as he confessed his sin.
“Damn tough duty; and I got no problem with it. I was in North Africa and Spain and did a couple T.A.D’s on a couple carriers.”
John smiled in recognition and with a twinge of acknowledgement and relief at Will’s comments.
“You’re getting broken in on the right day, we’ve got our truck coming in, in about a half hour or so, so I imagine they’ll have you with me and the stock boy, pulling cages.” Little Price had a real efficient system for delivering to stores, everything was set up in rolling, collapsible cages that were about eight feet tall and held a ton of merchandise.
The cages were steel bars on three sides with a folding base and a chain across the front to hold the goods in place. They had to be offloaded one at a time at a lift gate from the side of the trailer and then the receivers could just roll them in and stage them where they belonged.
It was fairly easy and really quick, so the driver could get back on the road and deliver his second trailer, usually to a sister store in the same vicinity.
The job wasn’t particularly difficult as long as there was clear room from the lift gate to the assigned destination for staging, before the cages were moved on to the various departments by the Department Managers. It was an all hands day. Nobody skated on truck day. The cages had to be unloaded and folded back up and after the driver had dropped his second load, he would swing back to his first drop and pick up the empty rolling stock. So, the whole process had to go fast and smooth to keep the driver on schedule. The idea being the store should be restocked in about four to five hours; reality was, it usually took most of the day. The department people would simply throw the boxes out of the carts into the aisles and then re-stock unhindered, to insure the drivers weren’t held on the second pass by the store.
Fat man and boy blunder were in the office when Will had walked back. Will was escorting John and giving him a bit of a training session on the way.
“It’s not tough, you’ll do fine and after you’ve been through it once, you’ll have the hang of it.”
“They told me at my hiring interview that Mr. Stenz would be in to talk with me Today; but that was suppose to be at Long Beach. What’s he like?” “Ah, he’s okay. Ex pro football player, black and a bit bigger than you; not the kind of guy you wanna cross.”
Platt was looking around and obviously sizing up what he had gotten himself in to and gave it that “Gung Ho” kind of intent stare.
“They usually put the Trainees on days the first week or two, so you’ll be working with Mr. Farley, most likely. I get the pleasure of nights, alternating with the Assistant Manager. His name’s Clairemont Jonas and he’s a little different; but you’ll have to get a feel for him on your own. Nothin’ you can’t handle though.” Just as Will and John and Roger were finishing up, pulling the cages in, Mr. Stenz appeared behind them at the stock room door.
“How’s everything going for you Mr. Morgan?”
“Oh, okay, I guess.” Will was just glancing back as he was pulling in the last cage.
“Good, good, good to hear it.”
“Mr. Platt, I’m your District Manager, welcome to Inglewood and Little Price!” Platt was reserved and nodded acknowledgement and thanked Mr. Stenz and let it go at that. He was awkwardly trying to convey a “stick to the job” air.
“I’ll be talking with both of you later.”
Will and John both simply acknowledged the comment and went about doing their work.
Mr. Stenz knocked on the office door and waited for Farley to open up.
When he had gone inside, both Will and John heard his briefcase hit the desk, kind of hard and thought this was a cue to stay back in the stockroom and lock up and then get out in to the departments to help put away the orders.
As they walked by the office on their way up front, they couldn’t tell what was being said; but they could tell, it wasn’t a pleasant conversation.
Will just looked at John and shrugged and nodded toward the front of the store.
“I’ll put you up front, working with the cashier, putting away the candy order and that way you’ll be busy and get a chance to break in a little more. Oh! There’s a gal that works here, Giselle and she’s due in later. You’ll get your own opinion; but I would steer clear of her, if I were you. She’s a looker; but bad news, all the way!” Platt just gave a confused glance at Will: “I’m married man and we have a little girl.
I don’t need anything from any other woman; I got all I can handle.” “Well, that’s not exactly what I meant. She’s just odd, so don’t be surprised when she shows up. She could be dressed kinda funny; that’s not unusual for her. She has quite a following in the early evening and you don’t want to deal with any of those guys.” Platt just nodded with an understanding half smirk.
“I did a few R and R’s in Saigon, so I think I get your drift.” Will just nodded in a silent, wisdom filled gaze. He went about his usual duties with An eye on just about everything, as usual; but with a bit more of a positive attitude up To this point, since arriving in Inglewood.
“ Mr. Morgan, would you come to the office please.” Farley was actually speeking clearly and obviously had received an attitude adjustment from Mr. Stenz.
Will was kind of chuckling to himself as he headed back to the office. When he got inside Mr. Stenz asked Farley to leave.
“Well! Mr. Farley doesn’t think much of you! That’s good! Exactly what I was hoping for! Mr. Stenz was grinning at Will and poking a rolled up piece of paper that he was holding in his hand, at Will.
“Are you getting the lay of the land around here?”
“Oh yeh! It’s ugly.”
“But you can handle it though; right?
“Yeh, I guess so.” Will was holding in as much as possible, thinking about blurting out some of the discoveries he had made and then thought better of it. Other than coming off as unhappy and upset, to say the least, it simply wasn’t enough stuff to go into. He almost started to mention Clairemont when Mr. Stenz went into a soliloquy of his own.
“I want you to really get a feel for Mr. Jonas, I think he’s my alternative to Mr. Farley.
He’s been doing good work and I want to see him get somewhere in the Company.” Those comments rocked Will’s world; but he didn’t give away anything and was damn glad he hadn’t said anything before Mr. Stenz had made his proclamation.
“Well, I’m still trying to figure him out, he’s tough.”
“Yeh, he’s had a pretty tough life and his wife left him a couple year’s ago and I thought I was going to lose him, while he was still in Compton. That Manager was a real walking nightmare! Clairemont kept me well informed on what was going on. I know he comes off rough and has that thing about the Panthers; but he’s a good guy I think and I think I can bring him along.”
Will remained absolutely stony while Mr. Stenz was going on.
“I would like to bring back Mr. Platt for a couple minutes and I won’t give anything away; but I want to get a feel for him. You know, I put him here, intentionally? I thought you could use the support.”
“Well, that I can! He strikes me as pretty level headed, from what little time I’ve had with him. He should be okay. The Marines have landed!” Will chuckled at the phrase.
Platt was requested to come to the office and knocked on the door like he was still in Marine Boot Camp; a real loud, hard knock. Mr. Stenz was taken back by it and Will just kind of snickered as he was opening the door. Will fully expected to see him standing straight as an arrow and was surprised at the passive slouch that Platt was in.
As Platt walked in, he started off with a question; “Who’s that Manager think he is?” Mr. Stenz and Will were both a bit taken back by the question.
“He was popping off at me out there, just now, like I was a dumb shit!” Mr. Stenz gave a stern look and simply said, “He’s the Manager!” “He started giving me hell for not being up at the ice cream counter, like I was supposed to know that was where I was supposed to be. He took me up there and started talking down to me and showing me what was supposed to be done.” “Ah, shit! That’s my fault!” Will was nodding in a bit of disbelief.
“I should have probably just put you up there right off. I just figured you could learn more from Belinda than standing around inside the ice cream counter. I’ll explain that to him, right away.”
Mr. Stenz stood looking a little disappointed and disapproving of Platt; but chose not to comment any further.
“Why don’t you take him on up there now and explain to Mr. Farley?” “Yep! I’ll do that right now!”
As they walked up to Mr. Farley, Farley turned, smiled at both of them and was trying to be as charming as he could be, through a tight lip and clenched teeth.
“Mr. Farley, I was the problem. I told Mr. Platt to help Belinda in the Candy Department. It didn’t even occur to me to send him over to ice cream.” “Oh, that’s okay; I figured it was something like that. I’m sorry I was a little short with you Mr. Platt, it’s Stenz, that guy and I just don’t get along! That nigger is gonna piss me off one day! Farley wheeled and walked away without another word.
Will just looked at Farley as he waddled down the aisle and then gave a glance at Mr. Platt: “If he ever tries anything with Mr. Stenz, that fat fart will be damned sorry.” “You watch yourself around Hanfield, the stock boy, too! He and Farley are two of a kind! We’ll talk more; later. Farley’s just pissed off because he can’t sit on his ass in the office.”
John was biting his lip a bit and glowing at Will.
“You go on over and do whatever he told you to do and I’ll get you back with Belinda or Miss Mary at the Photo counter a little later. That fat little Hanfield is supposed to be up here; but I have no doubt he’s hiding in the beer box!”
John Platt was receiving a different introduction to reality than he had expected and looked a bit bewildered as he took up his assigned spot, paddling down the ice cream cartons.
Will turned and sternly gazed at John: “I’ll get you through this.” “I just need this job man; I’ve been out of work and our benefits ended and with my wife and little girl, I gotta keep this job!”
Will just nodded an understanding confirmation and wheeled and took up a position at the podium for a few minutes, trying to compose himself; before things really got out of hand.
“Boy, this is the shits!” Will was mumbling to himself as he crouched down at the podium and pretended to be sorting some papers. He could feel his face flushing and he knew he was on the verge of screwing up.
As Will stood up, Lucifer Brown was waltzing in.
“Mr. Morgan! How are you on this fine day?”
Will walked over and through the check stand and got directly in front of Brown.
“Try it, please! We have a surprise for you, if you do!”
Lucifer Brown’s eyes opened wide and he was visibly rattled at Will’s comment. He didn’t know if Will was giving him a break or threatening him. He turned and smiled nervously and went right back out of the door.
Will simply didn’t have the attitude to deal with Brown at this threshold in the events of the day. Brown had just managed to come along at the wrong moment and get Will’s gag reflex.
Mr. Stenz was walking up the aisle and saw Will and that little confrontation and had a quizzical look as he approached Will.
“You having troubles Mr. Morgan?” Mr. Stenz was bristling and flexing under his jacket, as though to assure Will, he would back his play.
“Oh, he’s just one of our bad boys. He doesn’t come around often; but when he does, it’s usually gonna get ugly. I just told him we had Security in the store. Confused the hell out of him!”
Stenz gave another questioning glance: “I’ve seen that guy before in Gardena and Compton! I’ll put in a notice to Security.”
Will just gazed at Mr. Stenz in a baffled stare.
“I want to take you and Mr. Platt out for a little while. Are you up for McDonalds?” “Sure.”
Mr. Stenz was gripping his briefcase a bit tighter as he walked up to Mr. Platt and told him he and Will were going out for a few minutes with him.
John just looked anxiously at Will and then back at Mr. Stenz.
“Oh, it’s okay Mr. Platt, you’re not in any trouble with me, yet! I just want to have a chance to talk with you for a few minutes, away from here.”
Mr. Stenz made a comment to Belinda and let her know he was leaving and taking Will and Mr. Platt with him; but that when he came back, it would be just long enough to drop them off and that he had a meeting to get on to. His whole demeanor had changed almost instantly, going out of his way to be pleasant and affable with Belinda and basically sending a message to the entire store crew.
Will was chagrinned at that display and tried to subdue himself as humbly as he could convey. He was trying to establish a visual message that he wasn’t Mr. Stenz’ pet; but as far as Will was concerned, the damage had already been done and this would throw a new dynamic into the late afternoon.
Will took a seat in the back and let Mr. Platt sit up front with Mr. Stenz.
“Well, Mr. Platt; I guess you’ve been initiated. I know you’re ex Marine and Will is ex Navy and I just want to have a couple minutes with the two of you.” Platt nodded affirmation and smiled a subdued smile; but didn’t say anything.
“Well, you’re obviously another talker! Sometimes I think Will is a Sphinx! You are going to be the same way!”
“Well, I’m the new guy, so I’m just trying to figure things out. I’ll let you do all the talking and I’ll just listen.”
Mr. Stenz was pleased at that comment. “That’s a smart attitude to come in with. I guess you have figured out that Mr. Farley and I don’t see things the same way?” “Mr. Jonas and Mr. Morgan are the fellas I count on in Inglewood. I don’t think Mr. Farley is very happy at Little Price and you would do yourself some good by trying to get along; but I want you to take heed of Mr. Jonas and Mr. Morgan as much as possible.”
“I have it on good authority that Mr. Farley and Mr. Hanfield go to the Swap Meets every couple weeks. We’re looking into that and it would be best if the two of you kept clear of the both of them as much as possible. You are the new guy Mr. Platt; but I’m hoping you don’t mess up. You might get called upon to step up to Third a little earlier than usual, sometime in the future and I would like it, if you would really bare down and learn as much as you can, as fast as you can.”
Mr. Platt just nodded and looked as though he were considering every word in earnest.
Will was just sitting in the back, thinking that he had heard this story before.
“Will, you think Mr. Platt is going to be of some assistance to you? You think he can do the job?”
“I have no doubt, he can do the job! I’ll do my best to round him out as quickly as possible and keep him out of trouble.”
“Mr. Platt, you’ll have a chance to meet Mr. Jonas later. He’s rough; but I like him a lot. He and I have some history and I think I can depend on him. So, you get as much out of him as well. I’ll give him a call later today.” “Alright.” Mr. Platt was evaluating everything; but was obviously pleased at the chance of the job and the situation as he saw it.
Mr. Stenz wheeled up to the McDonalds take out window, placed his order and Mr.
Platt followed with an identical to Mr. Stenz; but Will just had a Mac and a shake.
“I guess you guys need a lot more than me?” Will was trying to lighten the air and mood without giving away anything.
“I’m just going to drop you guys back at the store, I have to get going. You don’t mind finishing up your burgers in the break room do you?”
They all were in agreement and Will followed Mr. Platt back into the store. He watched as Mr. Platt seemed a bit more confident and at ease in his step. He was thinking to himself, how he would go about couching things in just the right terms to Platt; without giving anything away to him either.
As they walked in, Clairemont was at the podium and looked a bit bewildered that Mr.
Stenz wasn’t following. He was wearing a sport coat which struck Will as awfully funny and phony.
Clairemont waited until both men had come through the turnstile and then made a broad gesture of welcome to Platt.
“You have to be our new Trainee, Mr. Platt, I believe? I’m Clairemont Jonas the Assistant Manager, for now.” Clairemont was giving a wink as he made his sweeping statement.
Mr. Platt gave Mr. Jonas a casual once over and juggled his bag of food and drink and shook his hand.
“You are both still at lunch and Mr. Farley, left a bit ago. I’ll stay up here and cover everything, enjoy your lunch!” Mr. Jonas was unusually charming and passed off a pleasant look of approval at Will. Will just silently took in the act and swallowed hard and went on back toward the break room.
Three of the employees were just finishing up their meals and fell silent when Will and John walked in. Will went through a short introduction; but realized they had all been on all afternoon and knew exactly who the new guy was. Will felt awkward; but he was trying so hard, not to let them start any comments or questions. It was more of a diversion than anything else. He had a pretty good idea of what they were all really thinking. A couple white guy enforcers to back Mr. Farley up!
The evening was going to be terribly awkward for Will and he was trying to recycle and absorb the realities of what was taking place. He was becoming really confused and re-evaluating exactly what situation he thought he was now in. He was feeling utterly estranged to just about every aspect of what had transpired over the day and Mr. Stenz’ obvious tilt and seeming plan.
After the evening crew had left the break room, Will just sat silent for some time.
He was trying to find the right combination of words and the proper way of warning John of what seemed obvious; but in reality was anything but obvious.
Platt had a much lighter, brighter air to his attitude. “Well, I guess I’m starting to understand a bit of what things are all about. Sure is a relief! Like I said, my wife and daughter are really hoping this turns into something for me. I’ve let ’em down pretty bad and I just want to make up to them both. I guess Little Price has a better attitude toward Vets? It’s sure a relief!”
Will was still attempting to hold everything in and his mind was reeling at so many aspects of so many issues all simultaneously.
“Ah, you’ll do okay John. Just don’t jump to too many conclusions too fast. Just keep your head down and pick stuff up as quickly as you can, for your own sake. I’ll be there if you do have questions; but I want to give you your head, especially for now.
You’re gonna have to be smart; but you’ll do okay. Just pace yourself a bit.” Will was solely glad that he had his other day off, tomorrow.