- A Short Story by John Del Rio -
Teague heard the little bell above the shoppe door tinkle as the door was opened and glanced to the front of the flower shoppe.
The sign above the door read simply “FLOWRY’s”. This was actually just truth in advertising as the shoppe which had been run by his Mamm since before he went off to war was a florist boutique.
The door opened and three individuals entered the cozy, pleasantly scented establishment. The first two who entered were large men. The second of the two was even larger than himself. This man was two meters tall and very heavily built. This man had hair as black as pitch and a very calm, serious face.
But the two big men were of little consequence. The third man drew his attention right away. This man was slight in stature; probably 15 centimeters shorter than Teague and probably weighed a good 3 to 4 stone less. But he had an air of authority about him that demanded you pay notice. Despite his shorter stature, the man was very solid and his hands and forearms were larger than you would expect on a man his size.
The three men made their way through the colorful scented maze of greenery that dominated the floor of the shoppe. Flowrys was larger than you would expect from viewing the store front.
His mamm had done well for herself with her flowers. She supplied various greenery and flowers to multiple businesses and even the large church where most of the neighborhood worshipped, had flowers from her shoppe.
Once the trio reached the counter near the back, they were greeted by Nellie. She was a sweet pretty girl with the voice of an angel, who was his mamm’s helper and his own distant cousin.
“May I help you Sir?”, Nellie asked the shorter man.
Teague was almost amused that she had instinctively spoken to the man who was clearly in charge of her visitors.
Based on conversations with his Mother; who was visiting a sick friend from church this morning, and from what he had seen and heard around the neighborhood, Teague had a good notion as to the identity of the three men.
“No lass”, he told the young girl. “I’m here to speak to the young man sweeping back there”. The man in charge looked to the very rear of the shoppe where Teague was using an old push broom to clean up, and made eye contact with Teague.
He leaned the broom against the wall and walked towards the counter.
“Nellie”, Teague spoke to the girl. “Be a dear and go fetch us some of the hen stew with lemon grass that you aunt has upstairs”. Nellie looked around at the four men for a moment before dismissing herself to go and gather lunch. “Nellie dear”, Teague called out to her as she was heading upstairs through a colorful side door in the shoppe; “I’d love it if you could chop up an onion to add to me stew”.
“Sure thing Teague”, the girl said as she departed on her culinary chore.
“Do you know who I am Jowan? Penrose asked of him.
Teague’s response after a moment of wondering how the gentleman knew his given name was “yes sir, I do.”
The shorter man said, “Mr. Penrose. That's how I prefer to be addressed.”
“Yes sir Mr. Penrose, Teague offered, I do know who you are.”
“Good, Penrose told the younger man, that will save us some time.”
“It’s my understanding, Penrose continued, that you had an encounter with an employee of mine yesterday.”
“Yes, Teague agreed, I met your man yesterday.”
Penrose asked, “did your mother not tell you about her business arrangement with my enterprise?”
Teague answered; “she did not”. He continued with “your man came in yesterday afternoon and demanded –the Weekly- is what he called it”. Teague waited a moment and then added, “he was a bit rude about it to be honest.”
When Teague spoke about the man’s discourtesy, he noticed that Penrose furrowed his brow in annoyance. So he continued with “now I can handle a bit of impertinence, it normally doesn’t bother me, but your man said a few unkind words about me Mamm. And that I will not abide.”
When Teague mentioned the discourtesy towards his mother, he could see that Penrose seemed to become even more upset.
“Rest assured, Penrose offered, I will have a few choice words with my employee about his behavior.”
Teague was a bit startled to see the larger of Penrose’s two men visibly wince when his boss mentioned having choice words with the rude fellow from yesterday.
He had been back from the Great War not too long ago and had heard some disquieting things about the Enterprise and the man from the old country who ran it. The reaction of the large henchman made Teague think that some of the things he had heard about Mr. Penrose were possibly, probably true.
“As I was saying Mr Penrose, Teague continued, your man was a bit rude, but when he said things about me Mamm, I had to um, chastise him.”
The larger of the two men with Penrose spoke for the first time since entering the shoppe; “you chastised the Hell out of him.” Penrose scowled slightly at the language his man used. The bigger man saw the look and quickly spoke; “begging your pardon Mr. Penrose, but I’ve not seen Gerald get a beating like that but once; and it was me that done it.”
Penrose stood thoughtfully for nearly a minute before speaking again. “Be that as it may. Usually when there is a transgression like this, the shopkeeper needs to pay a price.”
Teague was silent, but both of his fists clenched so much so that his hands became white. Very quietly Teague spoke “Mr. Penrose, that would not be a very good idea.”
Both of the large men who accompanied Penrose instinctively braced themselves; with the larger of the two almost imperceptibly putting himself slightly forward to stop Teague from reaching for his boss.
Before things could escalate more, Penrose spoke, “don’t worry Lad. Your mother is a grand lady and I wouldn’t think of inconveniencing her. However! A lesson needs to be taught here, and it seems that you are the one that needs to learn it.”
At this, the shorter of the two men accompanying Penrose put a slight smirk on his face. And even though he was the shorter of the two employees, he was still of a size with Teague, who was no small man.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it Lad, Penrose said, my boys are going to take you out front and rough you up a bit” Teague nodded slightly in understanding.
After a moment of silence, Teague spoke up. “Begging your pardon Mr. Penrose, but it might be better if we take this out back behind the shoppe.”
Penrose seemed confused for a moment but then asked “and why would that be Lad?”
Teague offered his thoughts; “well Sir, it seems as though you didn’t care for how I handled your man yesterday. And I don’t think it would be good if I did the same today with these two out front for the whole neighborhood to see.”
Penrose offered a slight smile that did an amazing job of making him look like a pleasant, benevolent Uncle, and asked “are you that sure of yourself Lad?”
Teague looked both of the large henchmen up and down and answered “I’m sure of them Mr. Penrose.”
“Have it your way then Lad. Penrose continued with, make your way out back and my men will join you directly.”
Teague turned and started to exit the shoppe with the smaller of the two large men following closely.
The larger of the large men held back a moment and asked his boss. “How far do you want this to go Mr. Penrose?”
His boss thought for a moment and then said “Don’t do any permanent harm; he’s actually a good lad, based on the way his mother speaks of him. You know he’s back from the Great War not too long ago. But he does need to learn a lesson; so I will leave it to your judgement on that.”
The bigger man said “As you say Mr Penrose. We’ll be back shortly” Then he turned and joined the other two men out back behind the shoppe.
Penrose took the opportunity of isolation to wander slowly about the flower shoppe enjoying the sights and scents of the establishment. He stopped at a section of the shoppe that had a large offering of Cornish Heath. The pale purple flowers and scents they offered always reminded him of home. He breathed deeply and thought about what needed to be done for the rest of his day.
It was a few minutes later that the door at the back of the shoppe opened and Penrose turned to see Teague walk in from the back alley. Teague may have been just slightly unsteady as he entered the shoppe and there were a few marks on his face and one of his sleeves was torn, but otherwise he looked like maybe he had been sweeping up in the back.
Penrose tilted his head quizzically to one side and then spoke. “Now this I did not expect”.
Teague took a breath; not too deep because the bigger of the two men had landed several powerful blows to his ribs, and he told the shorter man. “I told you this was business better handled out back.”
Penrose looked at the younger man and a slight smile appeared on his face. “You know Lad, there was a time when I might have relished taking you back out there myself, so that you could learn the lesson that my two employees were supposed to teach you.”
Teague took a moment to study the shorter man, who was solidly built with wrists and arms larger than you would expect on someone his height and asked “are you that sure of yourself Mr Penrose?”
Penrose answered; “I’m sure of you Lad. But I’m a proper businessman these days, and that’s why I delegate certain duties after all, even if those duties don’t always get performed as they should.”
“Well Mr. Penrose, Teague offered, if you like I can collect your motor coach from out front and go round back to help with your two men. I could deliver you all to your hotel”
Penrose considered that and said “so you know where my offices are located?”
Teague said”I did say that I know who you are Mr. Penrose.”
Penrose waited a few moments before a thought came to him.
“Lad, he said to Teague. How would you like to work for me?”
Teague was genuinely surprised; so it took a moment for him to respond. “Well Mr. Penrose, that is not a job I would have ever thought to apply for.”
Penrose admitted: “well it is not something I was thinking about at the beginning of my day Lad”
Teague considered the unexpected offer for almost a minute before he spoke again.
“if I were to work for you Mr. Penrose, there are a couple of things. Teague continued with “first, if I work for you then my Mamm doesn’t pay any more.”
Penrose looked at him for several seconds before asking Teague “and what else? You said there were a couple of things.”
Teague’s response was “I’ll not kill for you.”
Penrose spoke: “you mean to say that you did no killing in the War lad?”
Teague’s face darkened at mention of the War. “No sir, he said to Penrose. That was War, and I did what I did. But truth be told, it haunts me to this day. Teague continued with “so those are my thoughts on working for you Mr. Penrose.”
Penrose thought for several moments and then “Welcome to my Enterprise Lad.
Copyright © 2021 John Del Rio | All Rights Reserved. Using content without author's written permission is prohibited!
A Reedsy Prompts Story, submitted for Contest #72 in response to: "Write about someone getting a job offer they never would have thought to apply for."