Thursday 20 June 2024

The Park Avenue Deal by Penny Rogers, rum punch

Toby should have taken more notice of Amy’s chance remark. ‘Isn’t it about time you bought some new underwear?’

            At the time he’d just grunted ‘OK’ and forgot all about it. There were more interesting things to do than buy boxers and socks, and he was busy at work finalising a tricky sale.

            So he was taken aback when Amy returned to the subject. ‘I told you weeks ago to get some new pants and socks. These are a disgrace.’ Amy was folding the laundry as if she was handling toxic waste. ‘What do you call this?’ She held up a pair of once crisp white boxers. Even Toby had to admit they’d seen better days.

            ‘They’d be OK with some new elastic, wouldn’t they?’

 

Then Len came round for Sunday lunch. Toby’s dad was not one to pull his punches. ‘How do those trousers stay up son? Looks like it’s just your reputation keeping you decent. The least you could do is wear a belt.’

            Toby hoicked up his old chinos. ‘Must’ve lost a bit of weight. They’re OK for the garden,’

            ‘No they aren’t. You don’t see Amy wearing old clothes that don’t fit. Come to that you won’t see me looking like a bag of cast-offs from a charity shop. Smarten yourself up lad!’

 

The final straw came at work. Toby worked for an estate agent, he was one of their top negotiators.

            ‘Can we have a word please?’ It clearly wasn’t a request.

            ‘Sure, is it about Park Avenue?’ He followed Caroline into her office.

            She gestured to Toby to sit down; she perched opposite him. ‘No, sorry Toby it isn’t. I’ll come straight to the point. I’ve had client feedback that’s critical of your appearance. Several people have said that you know your stuff, but that your scruffy clothes give completely the wrong impression.’ Toby winced at the word ‘scruffy’ but Caroline hadn’t finished. ‘You need to smarten up. You’re dealing with discerning clients and a well-worn chain store suit and shirts that turn up at the collar just aren’t good enough.  Do I make myself clear?’

            Toby was embarrassed. What a fool he’d been not to listen to Amy and his dad. ‘Point taken Caroline. I’ll go shopping at the weekend.’

            ‘No need to wait until then. Take the rest of the day off, go and sort yourself out. Well done for completing on Park Avenue, you’re very good. Don’t let your appearance let you down.’

 

A quick text to Amy explaining why he might be a bit late home was followed by the reply ‘Great, just what you need. Don’t spend so much we can’t have that week in Barbados lol.’ Her words buzzed in his ears as he went into a smart tailor’s shop.

So when Toby was measured for a bespoke suit, he chose a grey pinstripe with cerulean blue lining, the colour of the Caribbean Sea. He knew that he was about to spend a lot of money but he had a plan that took shape as he went on to select three pairs of trousers, two jackets and assorted shirts. It became even clearer when he popped into M&S for a bagful of underwear, and by the time he stopped in the High Street to get jeans and tee shirts for the garden he knew exactly what he was going to do.

 

Amy peered at the credit card statement.  ‘Hmm. I know we agreed that you needed new clothes but this is a lot of money. Looks like we’ll have to give up on the idea of Christmas in the Caribbean.’ He tried to reassure her but she clearly wasn’t convinced.

            ‘I know your old trousers were too big, but you don’t need Tommy Hilfiger or whatever his name is to cut the grass.’ Len was flabbergasted to see his son looking like the models on glossy magazines. The boy didn’t seem able to find the middle road between untidy and designer chic.

 

At work it was a different story. Everyone in the office commented on the new look Toby. One or two people asked him if he was going for a new job, and Tamsin in accounts spread the word that he might be having an affair. It was time see if he could pull off the biggest deal of his career.

Caroline wasn’t too surprised when he knocked on her door. ‘I’d like to talk to you about re-negotiating my basic salary and commission rates. I’ve had a look at what I’ll get for the Park Avenue deal, and frankly it’s disappointing considering the time and effort that went into securing it.’ Caroline started to respond, but Toby kept going ‘I’ve had a look round and our competitors are, frankly, more generous.’

‘Well Toby. You’re paid according to your contract. If that’s not enough then you might want to work elsewhere.’

This was not the response he was expecting. ‘Can you at least consider raising my commission?’

They spent the next hour discussing, negotiating, compromising, sticking and calculating. Finally Toby walked out of the office. He was exhausted and not sure how Amy would react to his news.

‘Can we make changes to the holiday?’

Amy’s face fell. ‘You said you’d sort it out. I was so looking forward to getting away into the sunshine: swimming, scuba diving and cocktails by the pool. Instead you go shopping and …’

‘Hey hey. I didn’t say cancel it did I? No change it. From one to two weeks, and upgrade to a suite.’

About the author  

Penny Rogers lives in Dorset in the south of England. She writes mostly short stories, flash fiction and poems and facilitates an informal writing group. She is a regular contributor to CaféLit. When she’s not writing Penny makes jams, pickles and preserves from home grown or foraged produce.

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