Right in the heart of the city, where the streets are narrow and the buildings seem to reach for the sky, there was a textile wholesale business on the third floor of such an older style business centre and it was run by a managing director, a foreigner, who spent most of the day in his sumptuous office. In an adjacent room were two ladies working away on large ledger sheets and making constantly telephone calls. The whole room looked definitely busy, with office files strewn everywhere, stacks of printouts placed precariously everywhere, mainly over the edge of shelves, seemingly losing balance any moment.
There is in the centre of the room an intercom, apparently the most important part of the whole display. And out of it is constantly coming the managing directors barked words: ‘Where is such-and-such?’ and ‘When is Mr. Smith coming?’ So much so, that he is being referred to by the ladies as ‘Mr. Whereis-Whenis’.
Outside the two offices are the store rooms with rolls and rolls of fabric stored in tall shelves and long cutting tables with wrapping material, strings and enormous large scissors hanging by a string from the wall, looking almost as if requiring a weapon licence!
One side of the offices and store rooms has a row of large windows, reaching from floor to ceiling, like any of the windows of the other buildings in that street. The only difference is that they can be actually opened and by swivelling on a centre pivot, their outside can be turned to face inside, facilitating better cleaning from the inside only. But that was only theoretically as nobody has ever done that. Besides, in front of the windows in the store rooms were long tables placed with displays of ties, handkerchiefs and scarves, putting the actual windows practically out of reach.
And whilst downstairs the busy traffic of the street ebbed and flowed, with pedestrians rushing about and cars tooting their horns, there is always a tranquil atmosphere at this third floor, carefully nursed by three lazy apprentices. They have been employed by the managing director, Mr. Goldberger, because they were cheaper than hiring adults and with a bit of luck and coercion, adult performances may be gained from them. However, this has been only his theory so far.
The three apprentices, Jackie, Peter and Nigel, knew that, work-performance-wise they were expected to function as adults, but were also aware that, as apprentices, they cannot be legally responsible for any mistakes they may make.
And whenever they could, between cutting fabric and wrapping up orders, they thought up many a mischief to while away their time.
Peter, for example turned out to be puberty-wise somewhat confused and tended to stand at the office door, listening to the two women’s idle chatter. And sometimes he picks up a real gem: Minnie said to Elly: ‘ My husband says I have the body of a seventeen year old…..’, giving him the instant illusion of Minnie without clothes!
It was lunchtime right now, when Jackie produced a large plastic bag, placing it with triumph on one of the long cutting tables. ‘Here’, he said in with the voice of a winner, ‘this is for all of us. I got it from my grandfather who makes a strong brandy from this!’
Nigel’s greedy hand dived into the large sack and pulled out an enormous pear. ‘Eeh,’ he sounded disgusted, ‘it is dripping wet – and sticky!’
‘They are supposed to be’ Jackie explained. ‘In fact they are so over-ripe that the fruit juice just runs off them by their own weight! It’s a special kind of pear, like I said, very watery and with a high sugar content, for brandy-making. Of course, we can eat them as well but they dribble a lot.’
Now, Peter, too, was holding something mushy in his hand ‘Look, it’s practically cascading like a water fall – the rest is just puree…’ He suddenly had a piece of cloth in the other hand, wiping the counter top off its sticky wetness.
‘It’s like a water bomb….Jackie mused. ‘I bet, if you drop it on somebody, it’d burst like one – plus it leaves that sugary mush as an added bonus!’
‘Why don’t we try one out?’ Nigel sounded like a scientist, his chin motioning to one of the large windows.
‘We can‘t’ Peter was more timid and, yet, equally eager. ‘The window has never been opened and we’d need a special handle to stick into its frame to unlock its mechanism.’
‘I think I know where it is’, Jackie’s brain produces results. Going to the table in front of the window, he pulled open a draw and reached inside. He seems to fumble around inside the collection of scarves and handkerchiefs for quite a while, indicating his strenuous effort with his tongue firmly wedged between his teeth.
‘Here it is!’ in triumph he produced a wrought iron handle with a square, long shaft, black with age and slightly rusty. ‘That should do it’
Nobody has ever seen this instrument before and therefore a moment of staring at it was in order.
‘And where do you use it?’ Nigel said slowly.
‘’There, of course!’ two hands pointed at an unobtrusive round hole in the metal frame, with the square inlet, hardly visible.
The apparatus turned slowly and the window creaked a few times before pivoting on its axis and allowing three urchin’s heads poking out and observing the hectic traffic of pedestrians right below them.
‘Look how they rush about!’ Peter articulated ‘Some walk really funny…’ He pointed at a lady in particularly high stiletto heels, walking almost mechanically as if wound up. And that large poodle she’s leading – almost a designer dog - hey, what are you doing?’ The latter was a callout directed at Jackie.
‘Bombs awaaaay’ Jackie, seeing himself in a military position, aimed and let go of a pear.
They quickly observed an explosion on the poodle, a frightened yelping, followed by a shrill voice emanating from the fashion model. She did not recognise her price dog at all. Covered in pear puree and dripping wet and trembling, that creature was simply unrecognisable!
More could not be observed as the ‘three musketeers’ quickly pulled back and slammed the window shut. There was more noise welling up from the street and after a while it seemed to die down, obviously people got accustomed to the new situation.
That’s when the window was carefully opened again and the state of traffic was reconnoitred by the three.
Among the milling crowd was a business executive, walking busily in his tailor-made suit and carrying a grey attaché case, probably hand-stitched leather which he kept protectively close to his person. And that was his fault as the next pear plummeted down and, as it did so, its mushy body expanded into a pale watery cloud, nearly missing his main body but making contact with his hand, holding the satchel!
His surprised ‘Whaaat’ was heard up and down the busy street, with the stream of pedestrians coming momentarily to a standstill. Again, the window was quickly slammed shut and the many people now looking up the high building could not make out anything.
Three rascals sat on the floor hidden from the hostile world outside aided by the fact that the windows sheer continuous curtains closed out any view into their work place. Faces were red with excitement, apprehension and, yes, pride because this caper was really something!
The noise from downstairs receded to regular street level, with everybody continuing as normal. Everybody seems to be pre-occupied with one’s own self. What does it matter if there are two strange looking creatures standing in an office doorway – actually, they were three, counting the dog.
A middle aged lady, overweight and overdone, makeup-wise, was proudly and domineeringly stepping along. Her hair was carefully coiffured into a beehive style, but much more intricate – a work of art! Her fleshy face heavily powdered and enhanced with a red lipstick, indicating kissable lips where there were none, a bosom jutting far ahead of her with an extensive cleavage pointing out her goodies, a double chin like a concertina, a blue dress with lots and lots of lace edgings, obviously hand- knotted and sturdy legs to hold everything upright.
‘Her legs are like concrete crushers!’ Peter nastily observed.
‘Like Miss Piggy’s’ Nigel remembered.
‘Don’t be so vulgar! A bit more respect, please!’ Jackie reprimanded and let go of an especially watery, dripping and sticky pear. He looked like a fighter pilot from WW I, in his bi-plane, hand-dropping the bomb at a carefully selected enemy.
The falling pear bomb was somewhat cushioned by the high hairdo but not for long. A loud ‘Eeeeeeeeeeh ‘ was heard and the startled passers-by stared disapprovingly at the bedraggled figure, wet and dripping. She stood there motionless due to her unaccustomed wetness, hair sticking closely to her head and on her upper body. With her cleavage chastely covered in pear mush, she stood there brainless and with her stiletto shoes pointing inwards – a picture of disgust for most of the passing pedestrians.
She, too, eventually joined the others in the doorway in commiserating their loss of appearance!
Youthful exuberance prevailed and the three puberty-stricken adolescents forgot time and place in relishing their fun-filled moments. Forgotten were their normally hard work of handling heavy bails and their sometimes swollen wrists for which they wore leather straps like wrestlers.
More people joined the ranks of victims in the main entrance of the building without seeing the funny side of their respective situation.
Another big pear was trundling downwards when Peter noticed something:’Hey look! Following his pointed finger, they all noticed the bank on the opposite side of the street with their office staff crowding at the windows and faces distorted with hilarity. They, too, were enjoying the action of the three ‘stooges’ and their caper. With the added bonus that they could observe the crowd in the main entrance swelling in ranks – a clear sign of success.
They observed these desperate people looking around for clues whilst scraping this unknown substance from their bodies and belongings, sniffing their finger tips and looking around themselves with eyes that showed a wild light.
Now, they noticed the bank across the road, in fact they discovered each other at the same time. The faces of the bank employees resumed their usual sternness, however, strenuously achieved and now they are pointing upwards in a helpful way, obviously having changed side.
‘Hell’, Nigel exclaimed, ‘You cannot trust them!’ and dived away from the window.
‘Banks can never be trusted!’ added Jackie as he, too, hit the floor.
Peter slammed the window shut, locked it frenetically, hid the handle back where it was found, deep in a draw, far behind lots and lots of scarves and handkerchiefs.
Then all three pushed the long and heavy table with the counter display stands for ties, handkerchiefs and more fashion paraphernalia right back to the window. The bag with the remaining projectiles, er..pears, was stuffed into the cleaning lady’s vacuum cleaner and her little storeroom was firmly shut and two bails of heavy tweed, herring-boned and winter-weight, were placed before it like boulders.
The three half-grown prankster sat on the parquetry floor with bated breath and listened to any signs of activity from outside. Sure enough a low background noise quickly swelled to clearly recognisable tramping sound of many feet coming upstairs and closer.
The doorbell rang storm and just to stop its unpleasantness, Peter unwillingly rushed to the door and opened it. He was pushed aside by a large group of strange looking people with hate-contorted faces of crimson colour. Rushing past him they stormed to the window side of the warehouse and were stopped by the long tables before them. As if driven by some automatic force, they bent over the long tables with their counter display stands and their outstretched arms tried to reach towards the windows and for a handle to open them. Of course, there was none. One fellow, a doctor-type with a pureed wig and pads of pear mousse on his shoulders, like epaulets, span around and hissed at Peter:‘How do you open this window?’
As if in a dream, Peter slowly replied: ’They can’t be opened, they have never been opened.’ He was not believed but since there was no handle or anything like that visible, it seemed to be the truth.
The whole group of fuming characters looked at each other, and that included the four-legged ones. ‘Now what?’ Their revenge-contorted faces seem to say.
Since they cannot let themselves be seen in public, they decided to stay in the building a bit longer and find the culprit.
‘What’s upstairs?’ The ex-matron-like lady barked but with a pitch in her voice that betrayed desperation.
‘What is this about?’ Nigel had himself under firm control and like a tourist guide he proudly announced: ‘Here are the offices…’ and his outstretched arm encompassed the relevant doors. ‘..and this is a textile warehouse!’ he added with a helpless shrug.
Peter, ever helpful, pushed a rag across the wide counter to a mousse-creature but carefully avoided showing his hand which was still covered in pear puree’.
A growling emanated from the group and it sounded menacing and murderous.
‘What’s upstairs, one floor up?’ That hissing emanated from a broken-nose character, almost as broad as tall and in a tight suit, currently very soaked with liquid vitamin, repeating the question.
‘There is a dentist upstairs with lots of people in his waiting room. But you will have to make an appointment…..’
As if by command, the whole group turned towards the door and, growling threats, they stomped out the door and the trampling of their furious steps could be heard for a while.
As Peter firmly closed the door, he exhaled deeply and with relief. The other boys, too, had suddenly a darker colour as they became aware of the danger they have just escaped.
As Peter locked the front door firmly and switched-off the door bell for good measure, an office door opened and the managing director, Mr. Miklos Goldberger, poked his head out, enquiring with amazement: ‘What is happening here?’