It was a quiet Monday morning when the door bell jangled and I looked up from cleaning the lower glass shelving of the cake cabinet. It was Mr. Wilson, one of the managers from the Caledonian Railway Works across the road.
Dad and I exchanged a look. It was a rare event when Mr Wilson visited our shop.
“How’s life at the Caley?” Dad enquired.
“Fine Robert. Could I have twenty Capstan please?”
Dad walked towards the cigarettes and asked, “Is Andy off sick?
Andy was a thin, dark haired man in his forties. His job was to be the gofer for Mr Wilson and the management at the Caley, so he was a frequent visitor to our shop. We sometimes had difficulty understanding him as he had a speech impediment, but we had always found him to be very pleasant to deal with.
With annoyance in his voice Mr Wilson said, “Oh, don’t mention his name. I’m furious with him. I have just given him a rollicking for lying to me. I had to get out of the office for a while to cool off.”
Dad gave me a nod and I went through to the back shop and put on the kettle to make him a cup of tea, even though I was boiling with curiosity. Andy was reliable and trustworthy. He must must have done something really bad as I had never seen Mr. Wilson emanating so much anger before.
I delivered the mug to Mr Wilson and busied myself dealing with a couple of customers who arrived in the following minutes. Out the corner of my eye I noticed Mr. Wilson calming down thanks to the hot tea, a caramel wafer and my father’s cheery banter. To my astonishment he started to laugh, and the laughter turned into full throttle guffaws. I was glad when the shop was once again empty of customers because I had to know: What was going on?
Then it came out. I leaned on the counter beside my father as Mr. Wilson began to speak. “A couple of weeks ago Andy asked me for time off to go to a wedding. I checked my diary and said that the Friday he’d asked for would be fine. On Friday there I had to go into the British Rail head office at Buchanan Street. On passing by in my car I noticed a queue outside the Pavilion Theatre waiting for the matinee performance. And to my surprise, who did I see standing in the queue but the bold boy and his wife.”
We were interrupted at this startling revelation by another customer. Didn’t they have somewhere better to be? “Roberta, a Welma plain loaf and a pint of milk please.”
When we were alone again, Mr Wilson continued. “I was furious that he had made a fool of me.”
We were interrupted again. “Roberta, a half a stone of potatoes and some turnip.” I think it was the fastest I had ever weighed potatoes and served a customer.
Mr Wilson continued, “I couldn’t wait until this morning to speak to him. I called him in first thing and gave him a telling off. I was furious at the time, though now, looking back....”
Dad ventured, “What did he say? What was his excuse?”
Mr. Wilson carried on by saying that Andy was puzzled and insisted he had not lied.“Honest, Mr. Wilson I telt ye the truth. I wiz going tae a wadding. Honest, Mr. Wilson. A Wadding and his Wonderful WAMP!”
The next customer through the door was greeted by all three of us howling with laughter.