“Come in! Sit down there, son!” said Mr Brown. “You're bang on time. I like that – punctuality!”
Sean Devlin glanced at his watch and scratched his brown curly hair and did as he was told.
He was dressed in his finest clothes, his navy blue suit and a white shirt and red tie and brown shoes.
Usually they made him feel relaxed and comfortable but somehow, to-day seemed different.
Mr Brown was the owner of the Anchor Bar on the sea front.
“Well, will you have something to drink before we begin,” he asked, going to the drinks tray on a nearby table.
“No. Nothing for me, sir! I don't drink!” said Sean.
The bar owner smiled broadly.
He flopped into an armchair and sat back making himself comfortable.
Sean reckoned him to be about 45 years old.
His hair was as black as coal and although his had a rounded stomach he looked pretty fit. Since the death of his wife the previous Easter he had concentrated all his energy into running the pub and to caring for his only daughter, Emma. She was 19 years old.
“Right then! Let's get started,” said Mr Brown. “What school did you go to?”
He took a small pencil from his breast pocket and sharpened it before writing in a black diary.
“Two O Levels,” said Sean. “From St David's. But they were only in French and Geography. I'm ...”
“Well now. That might be okay. Yes! Not bad at all!”
“Why do you ask?” said Sean.
The bar owner looked at the young man with a curious expression. This boy is a bit of a puzzle alright, he thought.
“What age are ye son?”
“And... tell me this. Have you any experience?”
“Experience!” repeated Sean, “How do you mean, sir?”
“Work wise, I mean,” said Mr Brown. “Have you ever done any grafting!”
“Certainly,” replied Sean, indignantly. His face grew bright red and he took a hanky from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“I work in a newsagents in the town. Dawsons!”
“I know him well. He's one of me regulars. So you work for auld John – the old skinflint. Imagine that,” said Mr Brown, chuckling to himself. “But I was under the impression that you were unemployed!”
Mr Brown's daughter knocked and entered. Sean immediately sprang to his feet and smiled at her. She smiled back.
“There's someone here to see you, daddy,” she announced.
“Tell him I'm busy, dear! I'll be with him in a minute or two!”
“But... He … He's out in the bar there. He says he's late already!”
“Please, Emma. Do what I tell you. This here young man's future is more important at this moment!”
Emma smiled again at Sean and left the room.
He drank in the smell of her perfume as he sat down again, determined. “I've come to ...”
“I know. I'm sorry about that interruption. Now. Let's get on!”
Sean scratched his head. He looked around the room. It was well furnished, with leather seats, glass cabinet, flower vases, thick soft carpets and bright wallpaper.
“Are your mother and father still alive?” continued Mr Brown. “Do you live at home?”
“My mother's still alive,” said Sean. “But my dad's dead … heart attack last year!”
“Oh. I'm very sorry,” said Mr Brown. He stopped his questioning for a second before continuing. “Can you get references?”
Sean stared at him. “References?” he repeated.
“Yes! To prove that you are of good character. Your employer will no doubt give you a good reference. Maybe you know a clergyman who could do the same? Just a formality!”
“Yes, I can get references but why are they necessary. I thought the personal approach might ...”
“Well, no, not really! You see, I prefer to see it written down in black and white!”
Sean laughed. “Aw, come on,” he said. But realising that Mr Brown was serious he continued. “Okay. That's fine by me. I'll get them, if you insist!”
“Right then! When can you start?”
“It'll take me a while to get them. When do you want the references for. I came here to ask your permission for to ...”
“Time enough. Now. Give me a date when you can start?”
“I don't know what you mean – start. Start what?”
“Why work, of course. What else?”
“Work!” declared Sean. “Oh, my God. There's been a blunder!”
“No blunder,” said Mr Brown. “I'll pay you £100 per week to start. If you're a good timekeeper and a hard grafter, it'll go up!”
“Sorry. I... I! I came here to...”
Emma entered again.
This time she was accompanied by a rather brash and insistent red haired man.
He told her he could wait no longer.
“Sorry I'm late,” he announced. “Never mind, eh! Sure I'm here now. What about this here barman's job. When can I start. Here – by the way, any chance of a couple of free pints. On the house! My throat's choking me!”
Mr Brown looked hard at Sean and then at the other man.
“Are you Creighton – Johnny Creighton?” he asked. “You are late, much too late. And another thing, you've been drinking out there, haven't you. No job for you mate. On your way, there's a good man!”
When Creighton had gone Mr Brown went into the bar area.
He returned about ten minutes later to the sitting room where Emma and Sean sat chatting.
“I'm sorry Mr Brown,” said Sean, standing up again. “My apologies for misleading you, sir!”
“Don't be silly, son. Sit down there. Relax. My stupid fault entirely,” he said. “But you'll have to explain yourself!”
Sam looked at Emma.
“It's like this here, sir,” he said. “I want... I mean, I request permission to get engaged to your daughter here, Emma?”
“Certainly. I hope you two will be very happy together!” came the instant reply.
Emma rushed to her father and hugged and kissed him.
“I'm sorry, love!” he said. “I've been that busy running this darned pub. I never noticed you falling in love! Forgive me. I'm sure this is a fine young man. He'd better be, anyway, or he'll have me to answer to!”
Sean produced a beautiful glittering ring from his pocket and put it on Emma's finger.
He had been saving up to buy it.
She accepted his proposal and they kissed.
“Now, enough of that for the minute,” said her father. “Let's talk about this job!”
“What job? I'd like to work here, sir. But I don't want to let Mr Dawson down,” explained Sean. “He's treated me well!”
“Come with me, young man,” said Emma's father. “And stop calling me sir, will ye!”
Sean followed him into the bar.
There at the counter sat John Dawson.
He pretended to look cross for a while but could not keep up the pretence for long and smiled.
“Pull me a pint young bartender,” he shouted.
“You don't mind – really?” asked Sean.
“No, not at all,” he said.
“As a matter of fact I was going to have to lay you off for the next six weeks, anyhow. I came in here to get a pint inside me before I had the nerve to tell you!”
“All's well, that ends well!” said Emma. “Let's all have a drink to celebrate, shall we?”
“Make mine an orange,” declared Sean.
“Pour it yourself, son!” cried Mr Brown. “You're a barman now. Aren't you!”
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