Are You Free, Captain Peacock?

Part 1, An Introduction

I am Stephen Peacock. I work at Grace Brothers Department Store, in the Ladies' and Gents' Ready-made clothing department as a floorwalker. What that

means is when a customer comes into the department; I greet them and ask them if they are being served. I then direct them to one of our capable

salespersons for assistance. I have worked at Grace Brothers for 20 years, working my way up from a sweeper in the stockroom, to a clerk in the Toy

Department, and finally promoted to floorwalker. My job allows me freedom to walk about the two departments, supervising the activities of those

subordinate to me. Since I have been here 20 years, I have been awarded the key to the Executive Washroom and the Executive Dining Room.

We are very formal here at Grace Brothers, addressing each other by Mr., Mrs., or Miss and our last names. I served in the Army during World War II,

achieving the rank of captain and therefore insist on being addressed by my military rank: Captain Peacock. This also separates me by class, from my

subordinates.

I have been married to my wife Vivienne for 15 years. I married rather late in life, at the age of 35. A friend of a friend, whom I connected with at a

regimental reunion banquet, introduced us. I did not love her at first, but convinced myself that in time I would grow to love her. It was the expected thing

to do: settle down; get married and be miserable. I lived that role perfectly. I suppose I had a fantasy about marriage: I would be head over heels in love

with my wife; I would enjoy her company; I would want to grow old with her. We courted for about 6 months and were married. My wife inherited her family

home and I moved in after the wedding. My wife didn't much care for sex, but me, I craved it. I learned to accept relations on the rare occasion that my wife

conceded. Vivienne always acted like it was such a chore. She didn't want her hair mussed; she didn't like the messiness of sex, she didn't seem to enjoy it

at all. I would sense her displeasure and fake a climax just to get it over with. This added to my frustration.

We entertained a bridge playing club. Mostly Vivienne entertained the women and I was relegated to serving drinks to their husbands in the study. The

men all seemed to be miserable in their marriages. I confided my marital concerns to a man named Wesley, who suggested I apply for a membership to the

Blue Cinema Club: a dirty movie theatre on the East End. I felt guilty going there at first, watching people copulating up on the big screen while pleasuring

myself beneath my raincoat. After awhile, it became like therapy. The only difference was I felt worse after leaving the theatre.

It was accepted that men of my age went there, whether they were married or not. I became frustrated and it affected my interactions with my co-workers.

was grouchy and sometimes made their workday pure hell. I found myself flirting with the female customers, only to be rejected, adding to my frustration. I

have a reputation for being a "randy old floorwalker". I would thrust myself at my boss' secretaries as well. None of my advances were welcomed or

reciprocated. I rarely objected when my boss, Mr. Rumbold, would hold after-hours meetings. I didn't mind early morning report times, as this was reason to

escape my suffocating marriage. Sometimes I would call Vivienne, tell her I had a meeting, and go to the Blue Cinema. I think she knew I was lying, but

never let on. Maybe she figured if I went there I wouldn't be trying to get at her. God, I hate my life!

I worked with a colorful cast of characters. The senior salesman in the Gents' Department was Mr. Grainger. He has been at Grace Brothers 37 years. He

knows menswear better than anyone who has ever worked for Grace Brothers. He's a bit stodgy and cantankerous, but he works hard and is very

knowledgeable. Funny, he doesn't seem miserable in his marriage. Maybe when I'm his age, I'll be what they call "happily married". Maybe by the time one

gets to Mr. Grainger's age, they don't care anymore.

There's Mr. Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries, a carefree sort of fellow. He lives a very eclectic lifestyle, living at home with his mother. He is charming,

caring, and meticulous in his appearance and has an impeccable work ethic. He has been with Grace Brothers for about 10 years. His sense of style is

perfect for this line of work, cutting edge of fashion and an array of friends and acquaintances in all areas of entertainment and social status. He is polite,

sensitive, and friendly; I can't think of anyone who doesn't respect him. He doesn't reveal much in the way of his romantic interests, which adds to the

mystique of him and also maintains the professionalism our store demands.

Mr. James Dick Lucas is somewhat of a lad. He's only been here at Grace Brothers for about a year. His work ethic leaves something to be desired. I

reprimand him several times a week for being insubordinate, late for work, and goofing off. He can skirt the line of disrespect at times. He is the youngest

male member of my staff and his sophomoric antics are the one thing I envy about him. He wants a romantic interest so bad he can't see straight, which

often causes him to not think straight! He tries to be helpful, which is sometimes his downfall. He usually talks out the side of his mouth or off the top of his

head or out the back of his arse. He can usually liven up the workplace with his daily riling up of Mrs. Slocombe. He lives with his mother in High Gate. He

will fabricate the most elaborate excuse for being late for work, using his mother and their bizarre living arrangements as fodder.

Mrs. Betty Slocombe is the senior sales representative in the Ladies' Department. She has been at Grace Brothers about as long as I have. She knows her

department and is very knowledgeable of the items she sells. She is independent and head strong. Every week she comes in with a new hair color. Not just

the typical brown or auburn, but outlandish colors! She will show up with flaming orange hair one week and blow-fly green the next. Her hair has been

every color of the rainbow and every color in between. She has a certain air of daintiness, femininity, and strength all at the same time. We are often at

words points; and she will not back down in an argument. Sometimes we fight like an old married couple because we are cut from the same cloth; we both l

survived through World War II. I served in the Army, Mrs. Slocombe was a land-girl and evacuated to work on a farm in Tiverton.

She is shorter than I am. She appears to be cobby-bodied, but has a pair of sexy legs, accentuated by her wearing high heels. She has beautiful eyes and

lips, and large knockers that fill her blouse more than adequately. She has a laugh that can light up a room. Her voice changes with her mood. She can go

from a cockney fishwife to a posh Chelsea to a Yorkshire, sometimes within the same sentence! She has a cat, Tiddles, which she refers to as her pussy.

This cat is the center of her life. Our after-hours meetings have to fit into Tiddles' schedule or else Mrs. Slocombe will protest loudly how it is unfair to her

pussy. On more than one occasion, she's called her neighbor to have him have a look at her pussy.

Mrs. Slocombe has helped me out of more than one mess, usually involving Vivienne's suspecting me of philandering. Back in 1964, Mrs. Slocombe and I had

a 'thing'. It was the first of what would be a series of infatuations I would have.

I didn't actually cheat on Vivienne, not in the physical sense. As I have said earlier, women didn't reciprocate my advances. Mrs. Slocombe did for awhile, but

I am somewhat of a big girl's blouse. I liked the idea of having it off, but I never actually completed the act. I would get a cuddle, a kiss, maybe even a feel,

but never sex. Is it any wonder I'm frustrated and scowl most of the time?

Miss Shirley Brahms is the junior assistant to Mrs. Slocombe. Miss Brahms is the youngest member of my staff. She is pretty and intelligent. She could

easily take over Mrs. Slocombe's position and perform her duties to perfection. She is from the East End and has a thick cockney accent. She has a cutting

sense of humor. Miss Brahms lives at home with her mother. Mr. Lucas has tried unsuccessfully to win the affections of Miss Brahms. If Mr. Lucas wasn't so

immature and didn't come off as desperate, he might have a chance.

I have an arch nemesis at Grace Brothers. He is Mr. Beverly Harman from Packing and Maintenance. He is foul-mouthed, crude, unkempt, and generally low

class. His clothes are usually dirty from working in the warehouse. He arrives on our sales floor after the starting bell rings to deliver something we are to

try to shift. He is the shop steward for the warehouse staff, which includes Packing and maintenance, Building and Grounds and the cleaning staff. He uses

his position as union representative to try to bully me. As the head of my department, I usually order him back down to his basement. This tête-à-tête goes

on every day.

My supervisor is Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold. How he achieved his position is beyond me! He must have incriminating photos of Mr. Grace. He was transferred

from Hardware; he knows nothing about the clothing business. Most of the time, he cloisters himself in his office. His secretaries are young, sexy,

gorgeous…and safe! He is oblivious to the amount of nookie he could be having. His secretaries wear the most skimpy, flattering, and revealing clothing. On

more than on occasion I've had to excuse myself from the sales floor and go for a toss.

The owner and CEO of the store is Young Mr. Grace. He looks to be 90 going on 101. We have the utmost respect for him as he built Grace Brothers from

nothing. He was a fishmonger back in the 1920s and took a chance on opening a department store during the Depression, with almost no collateral. He is

stingy, none of us has had a rise in the past 3 years despite sales being brisk. He walks through our department, waving his cane over his head and

announcing, "You've all done very well!" as if that's going to pay the mortgage. He has promised us a retirement pension.

His biggest contribution to his workers is a subsidized canteen lunch, somewhat reminiscent of a Dickensian gruel line. I'm waiting for someone to cower

back through the line and say to the canteen manageress, "Please, sir, I want some…more?"

He has hot, sexy secretaries and the word around the store is that he's having it off with every one of them. Fancy that! Older than dirt and humping

around! The consensus is they are gold diggers and only in it for his money. He has a trust fund set up for distressed call girls and strippers. Lovely.

Every year Mr. Grace hosts a Christmas party at the store, complete with open bar and catered food. I usually drink too much and act like a fool, resulting in

months of Christmas party anecdotes and stories of my misconduct involving a female staff member and a blow-tickler. My wife usually attends the parties

with me, but sits at the table glowering and not enjoying herself, which results in an all-the-way-home row.

There is Young Mr. Grace's older brother: Old Mr. Grace; but he doesn't get around much any more.