Connections Jan 2015 - Page 31

boys. Even though the old man claimed to want to hire college students for these jobs, “to hep ‘em out,” most of the other drivers were pathetically poor, inner-city blacks. The reason, Neal had soon discovered, was that Snell refused to pay anyone with a last name different from his own a salary above minimum wage. Most college students just weren’t that desperate. As a result, most of the drivers were the type who stopped between deliveries to smoke dope, have “quickies” with their girlfriends, and god only knew what else. The entire clan, particularly Grammy, was amazed by Neal’s speed and efficiency. In fact, the first few days his promptness in returning to the shop made Grammy so suspicious that she called a few people on his list to make sure that Neal had actually made the deliveries. Ordinarily, this would have irritated Neal, but it only amused him. He was glad the other delivery boys had a good time while they worked and were taking full advantage of the obnoxious—and oddly naïve— Snell family. Neal followed old man Snell into the center of the shop, the sickly-sweet aroma of flowers at once making him nauseous. He approached Grammy and started to say good morning, but hesitated when he saw the sour look on her face. Grammy glanced at Mildred, Snell’s aging wife, and looked back at Neal. “Where’d you go yesterday when you were supposed to be deliverin’ the bouquet to Miz Foster?” Neal looked from one Snell face to the other. “Why? Is something wrong?” Grammy glanced at her daughter-in-law again, giving her an I-told-you-so look. “You might say that. She never got ‘em.” “Well, I delivered them,” Neal said defensively. “I left them on the porch, by the front door.” “Why’d you go and do that fool thing?” Grammy snapped. “Because that’s what the order slip said to do.” “No, sir, it did not. Mr. Foster never wants his wife’s flowers left outside his house—he’s real particular about that.” “I don’t mean to contradict you,” Neal said carefully, “but I’m almost sure the delivery slip said to leave them on the porch.” “We’ll just see about that,” Grammy said. She began to shuffle through the mountain of delivery slips from the day before. “You can’t just deliver ‘em any way you please, sonny—you got to look at the slip.” Mildred gave Neal a doubtful glance and resumed work on a bouquet. “What’s the problem?” old man Snell said, stepping up behind Neal. Wonderful, Neal thought, glancing over her shoulder. Not only had the screw-up come to the attention of the old man, but all the other Snells in the shop seemed to be listening. “Arggh,” Grammy groaned, waving a wiry arm at Neal as if he was a troublesome schoolboy. “Miz Foster called up in a tizzy this morning ‘cause her flowers didn’t get delivered.” Neal started to say something in his own defense, but then thought the better of it. He would wait until Grammy located the evidence. He was almost certain that the box on the slip that said IF NOT HOME, LEAVE OUTSIDE DOOR was checked with one of Grammy’s precise little X’s, but after what had happened earlier with his baby daughter that morning, Neal wasn’t completely sure of anything. “The Fosters are one of our best customers, son,” the old man said. “I know,” Neal said. “I went to school with Dan Foster—he was one of my fraternity brothers. He’s one of the most successful lawyers in town.” Neal only nodded. He had heard this at least three times the day before. The whole family seemed to pride themselves on how many people—important people—they knew in the Atlanta area. Neal found this a bit ironic, because he had a hard time imagining anyone in high society having much respect for the Snells, especially the old man. Neal rated himself at least twenty rungs above Buford Snell in terms of intelligence, integrity, and overall class. Regardless of Neal’s current dilemma, he was certain that he would be in charge of something a lot more significant than a flower shop when he was sixty years old. “Here it is!” Grammy said victoriously, holding the delivery slip in the air. But when the old woman squinted at the yellow piece of paper through her glasses, her expression went flat. “Well...I’ll be. I could have sworn I...” The old woman glanced at Mildred, miffed, and then a broad, toothy grin broke across her leathery face.