Got in to work this morning and there was a person in the shop already. Already there. Before it even opened. And it wasn’t Enrique. That’s unheard of, so, in my deeply concerned state, I ignored them, hoping that they would just go away. It was one of those people who want you to talk to them but haven’t got the wontons to come out and say it. They want you to make the first move. They try to meet your eyes. I never look into anybody’s eyes so fuckhead was wasting his time. I pretended to be busy but it was tough because there was nothing to do, the shop wasn’t even open! I should have been drinking coffee. I pretended to count things but the person wasn’t going away. It was horrible. I’d ignored the person for so long it was weird. I’d ignored them for so long I couldn’t ask them what they were doing even if I’d wanted to, that window was closed. I’d fucked it. Time was standing still. I would have to ignore the person until one of us died. The person looked around the shop then went into Enrique’s office. I didn’t look up but I did breathe.
I was super happy when Paula and Marcel arrived.
“There’s a person here,” I warned them in a small voice with big mouth movements.
“Where? What kind of person?” Asked Paula.
“I don’t know.” I told her honestly. “He’s go an iPad.”
Then the person came out.
“Can I have a word?” Asked the person. I looked at Paula and Marcel and saw they were like dead rabbits caught in headlights. I would have to take charge and so I pressed the panic button that’s under the counter and waited for Enrique to come out. He didn’t come out. “Quick word?” The person repeated in case we were deaf and then the person went into the office, the very office Enrique should have been bursting out of but wasn’t. The person clearly expected us to follow.
We had a huddle and decided in what order we would walk to the door and then go in. Marcel first, because he was small and powerful. Then Paula because the man might not hit a woman and then me. It made sense as I was the fastest runner so if I had to make a dash for it, to get help, I’d have a clear path. So we went in and the person is sitting in Enrique’s chair and Enrique wasn’t in there!
“Enrique is actually the manager, you should speak to him.” I told the person, my voice wavering despite my best efforts to appear calm. “And that’s his chair.”
“It’s about Enrique, actually,” said the person. “And he doesn’t own the chair.”
“Is he okay?” Asked Paula.
“Enrique Escobar Marta Pacino Valderrama Dos Reis… fuck, that’s a mouthful. He’s suspended, I’m afraid.” The person looked to us for reactions and he got one from Paula who gasped before covering her mouth. Marcel was nodding. I was trying to stay calm. “The awards?” The person added although they didn’t need to. “Can’t be facing off with the Waitrose guys, they’re connected.” The person then tipped some Minstrels into his gob. He’d stolen them when I wasn’t looking at him, I supposed.
We felt something bad was going to come from the awards night because we’d been dicks. Total fucking dicks. Enrique had been fretting ever since. I’d told him not to worry about a few squares and that it had been brilliant. Seems I was wrong. Well, not about it being brilliant because it was. But we were dicks and I’d have been surprised if there were no repercussions from some squares, so I wasn’t surprised.
“Just a week,” the person said.
“Those Waitrose guys are dicks,” I said.
“True dat,” the man agreed. “But still…”
My mind was spinning. It’s long been my dream to work somewhere Enrique wasn’t, but this was out of the blue and my mind wasn’t set. “So, are you up here for the week then?” I asked. I didn’t like this person. I fear change. I preferred Enrique. I felt ill.
The person laughed pretty hard at my question. “Good Lord, no!”
“Oh, sorry,” I replied and laughed at I don’t know what.
“Stan, from head office?”
“Oh!” I lied, I didn’t know we had a head office.
“Is this like Undercover Boss?” Asked Paula.
I stared at Paula. “He just told us he’s the boss,” I said staring at her more.
“So, you’re not…” I asked Stan, to be sure. Hey, I’m Irish all of a sudden. To be sure.
“Nah, mate, I don’t work in a shop, no offence,” said Stan, his voice thick with chocolate.
“None taken,” I replied. I wasn’t offended. Why would I be offended? I don’t work in a… an airport, no offence.
“Now, who wants to run the shop?” The person asked pointing at us. I put my hand up instantly and then regretted it. Kids put their hands up.
“You’ll be in charge for the week.”
“No fucking way!” I didn’t regret putting my hand up any more!
“Just for a week.”
Paula gasped and covered her mouth with her hand again. Marcel nodded.
“Sweet!” I said, laughing at Paula.
“That’s it really.” Said Stan.
“Cool!” I said.
“Yeah, any problems and you can call us but, well, don’t. The keys are there and you know the routine.”
“Awesome!” I said, nodding and looking at the all the keys. So many keys. Stan put his iPad in its expensive looking leather case. He hadn’t used it.
“Actually, one more thing,” said Stan. He started rummaging in his trousers. First at the front then leaning to the side he rummaged around the back before finding a piece of paper which he handed me. I unfolded it expecting it to say something along the lines of – THIS IS ALL A PRACTICAL JOKE – so I was relieved to find it was a small shopping list. I got Stan’s shopping and then I followed Stan to his car. He looked in the bag and closed his eyes. “Do you know the difference between Primula and Philadelphia?”
“Oh, damn, sorry,” I stammered. I stammered because normally I’d swear there. Stan shook his head and then opened his eyes.
“I hope I haven’t picked the wrong guy.”
Stan sighed and got in his car, I thought about asking him about the protocol for getting a Slush Puppie machine but didn’t. Not after my soft cheese disaster. I’d have to prove myself first. As he drove off I waved and then regretted it. Kids wave. When he was out of sight I started to smile. Left me running the shop. For a week. Holy fuck, and that’s just the start! When they see the great job I do they’re not going to want Enrique back.
I am now the boss.