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“Are you in or out?”
James Grey had barely set foot into the work premises before his employer, Bob Grant,
asked this question. Bob‟s office was humbleness itself, a sharp contrast to his large
home, though he spent so little time there that the size was immaterial. Bob ran a
gardening business, built up from scratch and originally a one man operation before the
years took their toll and now he had three employees who did most of the physical work.
Unfortunately times were hard and with the war three years old and still going strong he
found that customers were in short supply. Initially work had picked up as they obtained
several short term jobs mowing lawns and basic gardening as housewives called on their
services when their menfolk went away, but that didn‟t last long (even though they
charged peanuts for this, with money at a premium most learnt to do the job themselves).
He was still able to rely on regular state assignments but it looked increasingly likely that
he was going to have to let one of the boys go and as the youngest and most recent
employee, Dick Pike would be the sacrificial lamb, depending entirely on what answer
James Grey gave him. Grey was less than a year older than Pike, and had just turned 18
and had attended his physical examination for entry into the army yesterday. The
Marines had rejected his application a year earlier so, despite Grey‟s eagerness to serve
his country, his army career was not assured.
“Both. In the army and out of the business,” Grey said, beaming with pride. “I‟ll work
today as agreed, „til ten at night if I have to to get the work finished.”
Bob shook his hand and patted his shoulder, pleased for him as Grey had made it plain
how much he wanted this. “Get yourself off home. Make the most of your time off. You‟ll
be paid for the week.”
Grey shook his head. “I‟ve got two weeks yet before basic training. Besides, I want to
see this project through. I can‟t expect Dick to do it all himself.”
“I was planning on working with him. It‟s up to you. You can go home with a full week‟s
pay or if you want you can finish off today.”
“I‟ll finish today, boss. I‟d better load up the pickup and call on Dick and get started,
unless you‟re not going to be around tonight…”
“Not if you finish at 10 I won‟t be. Sit down, I‟ll make a brew. Dick can wait half an hour
for his lift – he‟ll be grateful his job‟s safe,” Bob said, filling the kettle as Grey sat down.
“I‟ll have to come back another day anyway, to see Greg. Are you going to pair them up
again?” Grey said, referring to Bob‟s oldest employee, in age and length of service. Greg
had trained Grey when he started exactly a year ago, and as Grey had proven himself a
fast learner with a maturity beyond his years he was quickly trusted to complete