‘Take a seat, both of you,’ said the foreman, leading the way into a small portakabin by the roadside. ‘You'll have to sign some papers before you can start on the job.’
Lennie pulled up a stool to the table and climbed onto it. Creamy propped himself up against the wall and yawned.
‘How much could you pay us, sir?’ asked Lennie.
‘Well,’ said the foreman, scratching his chin thoughtfully, ‘the pay is good - though not that good. I can offer you three eurodollars each per hour; or if you prefer, I can pay you in kind – food, somewhere to sleep at night, that sort of thing.’
‘Food! What food?’ broke in Creamy eagerly. Lennie gave him a look; it was enough. Creamy smiled feebly and went back to propping up the wall, leaving Lennie to talk.
‘We would prefer the money, sir, if you don't mind. And if you could possibly make it three and a half eurodollars per hour, we would not take any tea breaks at all,’ said Lennie.
A wailing kind of growl came from behind him, followed by a shocked whisper: ‘No tea?! We've got to have tea! All workmen have tea!’
Lennie ignored the frantic whispers. Smiling, he took the extended hand of the foreman, who was saying: ‘It's a deal, Mr Lennie. Three and a half eurodollars it is.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Lennie. ‘We'll start at once,’ and he turned to go. ‘Come along, Creamy.’
‘Hold on!’ cried the foreman after them, ‘I've got to give you some ear muffs. Regulations, you know, about noise damping and all that,’ he added, and reached into a large box on the shelf by his side. After rummaging round a little, he produced two pairs of yellow muffs.
‘There you are,’ he said handing the ear muffs out, ‘one pair for you, and one for your friend. Be sure you fix them well on your ears and wear them all the time while you work.’
‘Right, sir,’ said Lennie and giving Creamy a nudge, he turned round and trotted briskly off, calling out to Creamy: ‘Come on, Creamy, chop chop!’
‘Creamy stared at him. ‘What? Where? Can't see any chops! I wish you wouldn't talk about chops just now; it only makes me more hungry to hear food mentioned.’
Lennie laughed. ‘Talk of one track mind! I wasn't talking of food. I was only using the words people sometimes use when they mean hurry up!’
‘Eh? Why do people talk of chops when they mean hurry up?’
Lennie patted him on the back. ‘No, Creamy! They don't talk of food, they just use the word “chop” to mean something else from what it means to you.’
Creamy opened his mouth, but before he could say anything more, Lennie put up a paw and was pointing to the top of the heap. ‘Look at that, Creamy! Can you see it?’