A faceful of firmness

by James

Mr Lewis tried to concentrate on the set of plans for the conversion of a grotty dark passage into a wonderful grotto, but it was a useless hope. Scroggs was off on the spout again, in full on rant mode, railing against the plasterers and the electricians and the carpenters, the whole dirty lot of them.

‘Firmness! That’s the ticket,’ Mr Scroggs said. ‘Give these young fellas an inch and they’ll take a mile, and like as not help themselves to the bloody signpost as well while they’re at it.’

The issue – the non-issue – was a couple of young plasterers up high on the scaffolding who had come up with a novel solution to avoid the long climb to the bottom to use the toilets, namely a big bucket.

‘One of them was a Catholic man,’ Mrs Boothroyd said, ‘and one of them was most clearly Jewish.’ She realised that both Mr Lewis and Mr Scroggs were staring at her, so she quickly added, ‘So Wendy said.’

‘She should get their phone number,’ Mr Lewis said. ‘Three storeys up, weren’t they, and she can make out their religious affiliation from that distance? Either that or she has some damn fine zoom on her camera phone.’

Both Mr Scroggs and Mrs Boothroyd considered this for a few moments, and then Mrs Boothroyd begin to tinge slowly pink. Mr Scroggs opened his mouth but couldn’t think of anything to say. Mrs Boothroyd began to fan herself with both hands, pink of her cheeks giving way to raging scarlet. Mr Lewis smiled pleasantly as he fought the urge to grin. From the colour of her, clearly it had not been Wendy who’d been so offended by the antics of a couple of plasterers high on the scaffolding.

‘Right! I’ll not stand for it,’ Mr Scroggs said. ‘Don’t we provide facilities for the workforce? I can’t abide the thought of it, such lewdness from our workers, out in public like that.’

‘Three ladders down,’ Mr Lewis said, ‘just to take a-’ He caught the eye of Mrs Boothroyd and smoothly said, ‘just to use the facilities?’

‘No, no, no!’ Mr Scroggs said. ‘A bucket of….a bucket full of…effluence! And what happens to that? It gets left on the scaffolding for some bugger to trip over. No, no, no! Animals, they are, and I’ll not stand for it. Firmness, that’s the ticket!’

With that, he leapt from his chair and seized his hi-vis jacket with a flourish as though it were a fine cape and dashed from the portacabin.

Mr Lewis smiled at Mrs Boothroyd. ‘Jewish, huh?’

Mrs Boothroyd gathered herself up stiffly. ‘So the young lady opined. Mr Scroggs though, he really shouldn’t. I’m just doing the envelopes for those two plasterers, it’s their last day on the job today.’

‘Last day, really?’ Mr Lewis said. He rose from his chair and languidly plucked his own hi-vis jacket from its hook. ‘Poor Mr Scroggs, he really overly worries himself needlessly. And as to his latest worry, about that bucket full of…effluence being left up on the scaffolding. Well…he really needn’t worry himself about that at all, no, no, no.’