Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chapter 1, Johnny's first day

Although he’d had many jobs before, John was nervous that first Wednesday when he started working at Wellington Flowers. He’d never done anything like this before, and he certainly never worked in such an upscale atmosphere, where all the clients drove Range Rovers and the bouquets started at $75.

James had told John to report at 10 a.m. that first morning. Wednesday was flower market day, so Stewart wouldn’t be til around noon, but Kona would be there to help him get started on some things at the shop. Kona was the floral designer Stewart had hired just that year, his third in Southampton, and she was the third floral designer to work for him. She’s an interesting mix of Shinnecock Indian and either English or Australian descent, John couldn’t tell which from her accent. She lived in an apartment right above the shop.

Eager to get started, John arrived fifteen minutes early. The shop was dark inside and the door was locked. There was no sign of any sort of life inside, so he waited….and waited…and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, around ten thirty, he heard someone come bounding down the staircase outside the entrance to the shop. It was Kona.

“Um, hi, I’m John, the new delivery guy.”

Kona said nothing, giving John the once over as she fumbled through her purse for the keys to open the shop. Unlocking the door, and without a word, she flew around the shop turning on the lights as she went. John followed her in, not quite knowing how to react to her. He stood there as Kona flitted about, appearing to keep busy so she could continue to ignore him.

The phone rang. It was Stewart. Kona’s demeanor suddenly changed as she chatted with the boss, making jokes and talking nonsense. He asked about John.

“Oh, yeah, he’s here,” she answered him, glancing over at the new driver for the first time since she walked into the store. “What shall I have him do til you get here?” There was a pause. “Yeah…yeah, yeah, well alright.”

Finally, Kona spoke. It had only been about an hour after John arrived at the shop, but apparently Stewart was on his way in and since she was in charge, she figured she should keep him busy. She spent almost five full minutes reciting a list of things for John to do: wash all the vases in the basement, sweep the floor, take all the empty boxes out to the garage, etc., etc., etc. All of it was fine with John, who simply wanted to get started. Besides, he was glad that he’d get to keep away from her for awhile, at least until Stewart got there.

John and Kona worked in silence for at least another hour until Stewart arrived with the week’s flowers. The work was physical, but John didn’t mind it at all. Once the owner arrived, it was time to unload the van with flowers and plant life of all kinds, some John had never seen before. That day he learned more than he ever thought he’d learn about flowers.

Wednesday, flower market day, was all about preparing the week’s purchases for all the upcoming orders that the socialites would need for their weekend parties in the Hamptons. Though prepping the flowers was interesting, it wasn’t what John had expected. He had been wondering all day when he’d get to make some deliveries, and some tips.

Finally, a little after midday the calls started coming in. Mrs. North was having a birthday party and needed a centerpiece for her dinner table, something ‘low and lush’. An ‘earthy’ gift bouquet was ordered for an anniversary. Another “thanks for the wonderful time this weekend” gift order was placed. Finally, John would get out there start making some real cash!

Just as he had gotten the van loaded with his first round of deliveries and was ready to head out, the suddenly busy phone rang once more. It was Mrs. North. She was running a little behind preparing for her dinner party and wanted to know if the delivery driver would pick up the birthday cake she’d ordered at the local bake shop and deliver it with the centerpiece. Stewart charged her $50 for the service, and John suddenly had an extra stop to make.

The first round of deliveries had gone well, that is, until John had to make his delivery to the North’s. Most of the houses in the Hamptons all have the same address marker, a little, round, white sign in the ground with a number (and sometimes a name, like Garden of Eden or Tara or Monkey See, Monkey Do!), but there are a great many houses without any markings whatsoever, and the North house was one of these.

John went up and down Meeting Horse Pike for what seemed like a million times, searching for number 109. He’d had an idea of which one it was, but it was a corner house and it was hard to tell which street the address belonged to. Finally, he decided to knock on the door, cake and flowers in hand.

There was no doorbell, only a glass door. He put the bouquet down and knocked, but glass doesn’t really make much of a sound. There was no answer. He tried knocking on a window, but with the same result. Exasperated, he decided to walk around the corner of the property to where the backyard was.

As he approached the driveway that was on the other street, he heard voices and some splashing from behind the tall bamboo hedges. “No wonder nobody answered, they’re out by the pool,” John concluded to himself as he got closer to the gate. He walked up the gravel driveway, beside a six-foot fence, careful not to drop his precious cargo. As there was no place to knock, he got up on his tippy toes to peer over the fence.

“Excuse me, is this 109…”

“Ahhhh!” There was the sound of about fifteen little girls screaming. John had startled them. He immediately crouched down behind the fence, almost dropping the cake as he realized that the girls were all naked!

“Um,” he called out again, this time in a nervous voice. “Is this 109 Meeting Horse Pike?” He was shocked by what he had seen and wasn’t sure what to do.

“Don’t know, really,” a twenty-something, presumably the chaperone, answered in a cockney accent. “We’re just ere for the weekend visitin.”

John read the name off the cake. “Is there a Gwendolyn who’s having a birthday?”

“Oh, Gwennie! Yeah, this is it.” She clapped her hands a couple of times. “Girls, cover up now!” She called John into the backyard, cake, flowers and all as some of the girls jumped into the pool and others covered themselves up with their towels. John kept his head down the whole time as he entered the backyard to put the delivery down on the closest table.

“Thanks” he said and without waiting for acknowledgement, he got out of there as fast as his feet would take him. Five minutes later he was back at Wellington’s, looking flushed.

“How’d it go?” Stewart asked.

John told him and Kona the story as both of them smiled at each other knowingly. “He he,” Stewart laughed. Oh that’s nothing Johnny Driver. Just wait! Did they give you a tip?”

By the end of that first day, Johnny was tired. He hadn’t made one tip, and he was a little surprised at that, but it was only the first day. “These people are weird!” he thought as he got back into his car to go home. At least he got Stewart and Kona to laugh with his story of the prepubescent naked girls, and he earned himself a new nickname: Johnny Driver. He liked it. Maybe things will turn out alright after all. “Can’t wait til tomorrow,” he said aloud as he drove out of the parking lot.

To be continued…

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