Cue Balls

By George All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 17

As Will was making his way up that long hill to the top of Palos Verdes he kept thinking that he should have shopped for a new car; because his engine was laboring and he was slowing down all the new Mercedes and Cadillac’s and little sports cars that were impatiently following behind or passing in an opportune clear area of the little two lane road, leading to “Nirvana”. Will, per his usual routine, had pulled into the parking lot early after driving the only main road and intersection that existed “on the hill”.

He sat in his car, drinking a bottle of juice and trying to absorb all the diametric differences he was confronting. There was no trembling or anxiety, no need for suspicions or close observation. There was simply a very comfortable feeling that Will had not known before. He had purchased all new white shirts, slacks, ties and shoes; a pair of black loafers that were entirely a new and an unaccustomed sensation. When he walked into the store he was amazed at the cleanliness of the concourse and the Ice Cream Department and the long tobacco and liquor area, with brands that he didn’t even know Little Price carried.

Most of all, he was taken back by the fact there was a humidifier cabinet with open boxes of cigars for single sales. Everyone was cordial and smiling and the lead cashier was in long conversation with each customer and as soon as she had a third customer in line, without calling, a second cashier would appear and open her register to handle any overflow expeditiously. There was not a single box on the floor! Plastic price chips were in front of absolutely every item in the channels that ran on every shelf. There was a stock boy, vigorously cleaning all the metal framing around the interior ice cream cabinet that contained half gallons and novelty items. Every box of novelties in the cabinet was trimmed, not torn away and every box was full or near full. As he walked around, even with his jacket concealing his badge, each employee he passed by, would smile and greet him. They were on the verge of adding some comment; because they knew he was their new Assistant Manager. They would pause and then excuse themselves without further comment. When he walked toward the back and saw the open air, platform office area above the Pharmacy, he was absolutely dumbfounded. There were two Pharmacists on duty and two Pharmacy Techs. Three long sofa style benches across from the counter and a ceramic side table; but absolutely no-one waiting. The only call over the microphone was a casual, almost breathy call for a credit card authorization. Will was thinking to himself, what was that about and fought the urge to respond to the call. A fairly short, dark haired, slender man breezed by Will and went expeditiously to the check stand. On his return he walked up to Will and introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Ron Farrell, the Manager and you must be Will Morgan, my new Assistant Manager. Welcome to what awaits those that escape South Central and most of the other stores in this region. Your former District Manager had glowing things to say about you. I think you’ll fit just fine, when you get accustomed to the new surroundings.” Will thanked Mr. Farrell and was still in the process of trying to comprehend his new surroundings. “Come on back and we’ll get a cup of coffee and go up to the office for a chat. You have a lot to adjust to.” The first thing after arriving in the office was the traditional count in and signing off for his change fund and keys, which Mr. Farrell; conducted by cordially counting the fund out to Will and Will simply verifying the counts, which came to $1,000. “This is your credit verification card and I know you have never had reason to use one in the other stores; but we get usually two or three a day for more than $500 and we have to key in for an approval code.” “How much business do you do here?” “Oh a typical day is about eight to ten thousand and the weekends can get to fifteen or twenty five. We do a lot of bulk purchases for some of our better clients. You’ll have to get used to referring to customers as clients and it’s always Mr. or Mrs. followed by their surname.” We have two stock boys on days, one for deliveries and the other for maintenance.
We also have two Third men and usually a Trainee! At night we have two or three primary cashiers, two stocks, a Security service guard that escorts clients out to their cars and helps with their bags. You must never leave the front of the store at night, when you are the only Manager and you’ll have to get used to learning a lot of people’s names. The stocks and Third and Trainee, when you have one, do all the deliveries, fetching and stocking. Your job at night is to oversee expedient customer service and cleanliness.” Will did not contain the question any longer. “This is Little Price, right? I’m in the right place?”
Mr. Farrell responded with a smirk and slight nod. “You’re in the right place and the place that can provide your future, if you learn to go with the flow! By the way, this is your Security card and on the back side is the main office call in number, in case you come up with something that you need help responding to, such as customer inquiries or job lot pricing. There are only four stores that have that access number. “I thought job lot sales were illegal?” “Well it’s not illegal; just a practice Little Price doesn’t encourage other than here and Beverly Hills and a couple of the Orange County and San Diego stores. There are no further discounts beyond our advertised prices; but agreements can be concluded by the Buying Department and a given client and on those deals the client usually has a tax exempt card and those sales are not handled in the store, it would ruin our charts and annual sales projections. Those orders are typically delivered directly to the client.” “I have a meeting this afternoon at the Main Office, so I’m going to turn you over to my Senior Third. He’ll introduce you around, show you where everything is and give you an overview.” “Mr. Cubbinson, would you come to the office please, at your convenience.”
Will was overwhelmed with what he was trying to absorb. He suddenly felt terribly inadequate and terribly ignorant and most of all, terribly out of place. A young man came to the half door of the office, unlocked it and stepped in with a huge smile and benevolent, warm acknowledgment of Will. “You must be Mr. Morgan, our new Assistant! I’m Jack Cubbinson; but everybody calls me Cubby or Jackie. Which ever you prefer; welcome to Palos Verdes! I’ve been here 18 months, so I’m pretty accustomed to all the nuances and convolutions that occur, so I can be of assistance to you, if you have questions.”
Cubby was wearing pleated slacks and a custom white shirt with embroidered initials on the cuff and a pair of shoes that were obviously, exorbitantly expensive and a hand painted, silk tie. Will was feeling the role of an urchin from the bowels of 19th century London. “Mr. Cubbinson, I would like you to take Mr. Morgan around and introduce him to everyone and give him the grand tour.” “Absolutely Mr. Ferrell, I would be most happy to!” “You can put your change fund back in the safe for the time being and by the way, we do not day lock the safe here. That is absolutely against policy and we follow policy to the letter! I’m perfectly aware of what element you have come from and I as a matter of fact had to endure that for almost two months, before my transfer was arranged to Palos Verdes. Mr. Cubbinson will now give you your first exposure to your new world.” “Mr. Cubbinson, I won’t be back after my meeting, I’m sure it will go on for quite awhile, so put me out on the board for the day; if you would be so kind?” “Most happily!” “Since we’re already back here, we’ll go down to the break area and see who is there. I understand you did time in Inglewood, I would believe that would be atrocious!”
“Ah, well, yeh, er yes, it was an education!” “You’re catching on already.” Jackie was obviously bemused at Will’s stuttering, fumbling attempts at self improvement in language and rising to the occasion. As they entered the break area two of the employees were sitting at the table, chatting and smiling. “Ladies, this is Mr. William Morgan, our new Assistant Manager. Mr. Morgan, this is Patty our lead cashier and Yvonne, our Cosmetician. They are two of our prime assets in this store and very knowledgeable.” The thing that was distracting Will to some degree was the array of coffees and teas and the large refrigerator along with paper placemats and matching napkins. Jackie caught the absorbing gaze that Will was displaying. “You’ll find things are quite different throughout the store than you are used to. Let’s proceed back and give you a view of our single stockroom. I think you’ll be impressed with that as well.” As they were excusing themselves and Jackie was showing Will the magnetic board with all the employees names and spaces for on duty, off duty and assigned.
Will managed to form his first literate question. “You only have one stock room! It must be huge?” “Well, not really. Oh, we do have a coded key pad and I’ll show you the code.” When the doors were opened by Jackie an expansive, ordered stockroom came into view. There was a conveyor belt leading from a locked small steel door on the exterior wall that lead to a wire mesh cage that was obviously the liquor storage area. A Valuable Sundries lock up with a heavy metal door and ordered shelving throughout that delineated the various departments by category. There were a set of metal doors that opened upon a graded ramp from the alleyway.
The alleyway itself could easily accommodate two large cars with a line painted in the middle to designate the separation and an area where the trailer rig was to be parked. “A bit different than you are accustomed to, I would imagine?” “I’ll say and then some!” “Let’s get this all locked up and I’ll get you out to the floor, several of the regulars are on today and they are just dying to meet you! I see you came prepared by wearing your working clothes. It’s a bit different here! Assistant Managers don’t stock or pull loads. I’m sure all of the employees will understand, not to worry, after all, you are just in your first throws of stepping up!” “I’ve heard ghastly stories of what takes place in those stores and I’m sure they are true; but I would love to chat at a length, at your convenience about experiences you have had.” “Well, I’ll be happy to answer questions and possibly get into some details; but not today. I don’t think you have any idea of what that world is like.” Mr. Cubbinson was almost tittering at Will’s comment. “Well, no, you see my Father and Dale, Dale Stroud, the Head of Personnel arranged this position for me and they golf together regularly and came to the conclusion that this experience would be beneficial to my future. I’ve only been in this store as Trainee and now Third Man. I really don’t have any intent of enduring this much longer. I have my degree in Art and I fully intend to open my own studio, very soon! Mr. Farrell is aware of that and he has really encouraged me in that direction. He’s a wonderful man!” “Where did you attend?” “College, oh no, I was never in college, I came directly from the Navy and was lucky enough to find this job and things have progressed in such a way I haven’t as yet been able to think about starting.” “Oh my! Well, perhaps you can enroll at St. Mary’s for some night courses?” “I might look into that, now that I’m seemingly going to have more time for focus.” “Oh my yes; you must!” The remainder of the afternoon was acclimation and introductions to the staff and a fairly easy explanation of Will’s duties. At the end of which; Mr. Cubbinson introduced Will to the other Third that would be on duty for the evening with Will. “Mr. Morgan, this is Gary Long. Gary, this is Mr. William Morgan, our new Assistant Manager. Gary is quite capable and has been here, what, almost a year now? He came to us from the Torrance store, where he was in training and has proven a most valuable asset.”
Gary nodded and Will returned the acknowledgment; but before he could even begin a conversation with Mr. Long, Jackie pulled Will away for just a moment. “Mr. Morgan, I’ve intentionally introduced you as William; because it is far more important, since you are the Assistant Manager, to maintain a more formal stature with the help. I’m going home now; but I’ll be in tomorrow for the day shift and I look forward to more chats.” After Mr. Cubbinson had dismissed himself Will stepped back up to the podium where Gary was busying himself with some paperwork. “Well, I would imagine this is really different than the ghettos, huh?” “Boy, I’ll say so! I’m feeling pretty uneasy and damned unsure of myself. Wondering if I’ll ever fit here?” “Oh, you’ll do fine, once you get past all the initial bullshit.” “I didn’t think cussing was allowed here, I thought maybe I missed the sign at the bottom of the hill?” “Well I was Army Signal Corp and no; I wasn’t in Viet Nam! I don’t know how I managed this billet, when I was in Torrance I fully expected to pull the ghetto myself, based on stories I had heard about single, ex military, white guys always being sent in that direction.” “Oh, we’re going to get along fine! I was Navy! There are a lot of us down there, serving with absolutely no distinction and just praying we didn’t get killed. Ah, is Jackie, uh?” “Queer? He is a fairy of some sort! Maybe he’s just privileged and effeminate; but I wouldn’t place a bet on either, exactly!” “I see you are in attire similar to mine. Does this mean I don’t have to go in debt for a new wardrobe?” “You’re fine! These people up here couldn’t care less! They think we are scum! They frequently have little protest marches with permits and signs. They want Little Price off this hill and out of their playground! We’re not nearly good enough for this rarified air! All the other stores in this Center are major upscale stores and we are the blot on the entire psyche’ of Palos Verdes. They absolutely won’t rest until we’re off this hill and Little Price absolutely won’t relent and give up this gravy train! They do so many under the table deals up here with various big wigs that they couldn’t hope to match just about any place else. You’ll marvel at what takes place up here as the usual day to day!” “Let me get you broken in on all the little intricacies of this store. What you’ll run into are several businessmen that feed off Little Price buying power and replenish their own stores with the goods or run the stuff out of the country for big profits.
We do, do quite a booming business in business gifts and specialty orders and home deliveries. Not unusual for someone to come in and buy out our entire stock of Cross pen sets or upscale cosmetics; which brings me to another issue. Yvonne, our Cosmetician. She is the personal property of Mr. Otten, the Division Manager. So, conduct yourself accordingly.” “Also, on the weekends we do a very brisk business in liquor and liquor deliveries.” “You know, I’ve only met that guy once, he almost ran through Gardena one early afternoon, just as I was coming on for the night shift; but I sure have heard a lot about him! “ “Oh, you’ll be seeing a lot of him here! He lives up here and haunts this store and you would think Patton himself would shrivel in Ottens’s presence! To hear Otten tell it, he won the war in the Pacific, nearly single handedly. He is an entirely different kind of animal!” “Oh brother, I heard he had been a Marine and that doesn’t bode well for my future!” “Nah, if he decides he likes you, he’ll be happy that you have military in your background and usually refer to you as one of his boys. If he decides he doesn’t like you, you won’t be around long. Unfortunately, he likes me, damn the luck!” “Oh, one other thing that will probably strike you funny; we have three High School students that work solely on the weekends and take care of the Ice Cream Department, exclusively. They’re not bad kids; but spoiled rotten and know just about everybody worth knowing on a first name basis. We are the only store carrying yogurt and they are considering testing Godiva chocolates on a test basis in here.” “Well, I have to admit, this is more than a bit different, I guess I’ll be basically starting over, from scratch and learning a whole bunch of new tricks?”

“You’ll do fine, just learn to know your place, hold your tongue, bow and curtsy on cue and always finish each suggestion with a question when addressing our clients. That’s in order to give them the opportunity to air their opinion from their superior vantage point and educations. That, and watch out for all the kept whores! They can make your life miserable on a whim; including Yvonne!” “Oh dear God, what have I stepped in now?”
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