The View from Above



I can always tell when Archie Goodwin is annoying Mr. Wolfe. Most of the time, Mr. Wolfe is pleasant company in the plant rooms. He doesn’t really say much, but he works well with the plants and seems contented. Its only when Archie is acting up that Mr. Wolfe gets distracted and maybe a bit short tempered, although, heaven knows, I don’t do anything to deserve his temper. He should just snap at Archie, not me. Archie would probably deserve it.

When Mr. Wolfe first hired Archie, I was sure it wouldn’t last. You see, Archie has a big mouth. I’ve never met anyway so disrespectful of his employer. If you want my opinion, he should just be quiet and do what Mr. Wolfe wants. That’s what I do. That’s what Fritz usually does. But not Archie. Since he joined the household it’s been one thing after another. Never a moment’s peace.

A few months ago I tried complaining about Archie to Fritz. That didn’t work at all. Fritz got upset with me and pretty much told me that I should just work with the orchids and stay out of the business of the rest of the house. Well, excuse me, but shouldn’t that be a two way street? I have never barged into the office to talk to Mr. Wolfe about orchids, but does Archie reciprocate? Oh no, he has frequently come up to the plant rooms to talk to Mr. Wolfe about downstairs business. He’s done this even though Mr. Wolfe has repeatedly told him that he is not to disturb him in the plant rooms. I don’t know why Mr. Wolfe doesn’t fire him.

Now you take today. Mr. Wolfe and I needed to repot some of the miltonias. I had it all set up. It should have been a relaxing day. But like I say, I could tell that Archie had been annoying Mr. Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe was already upset when he got here. It had to be Archie. No one else gets under his skin like that.

“The miltonias are ready, sir.”

“I see that Theodore.” He was snapping at me. And I didn’t do anything wrong. It was going to be a long afternoon.

We worked a bit on the miltonias. We both said very little. It’s usually best not to talk to him when he’s like this. I don’t want to provoke him. Some people don’t seem to mind provoking him but I think that it’s best to lie low. Mr. Wolfe was quite upset. He nearly tore a root on one of the plants.

“Confound it.” Mr. Wolfe took his gloves off and went over to the house phone. I wondered if he was going to talk to Fritz. Mr. Wolfe loves two things, orchids and food. If he was having trouble with orchids then maybe food would help. I eavesdropped a little. I felt I had the right after  what I had been through with him.

“So, you are still  here… Bah, I still insist that this entire operation is unnecessarily hazardous...You know that I can not…Very well, I submit…Come up here before you leave.”

So it was Archie he was calling. Not only that, he had asked Archie to come up to the plant rooms. I looked around a bit nervously. Archie has never actually knocked anything over, but he doesn’t give the plants the respect they deserve. I really don’t think Archie respects anything.

Mr. Wolfe went back to the miltonias and in a few minutes Archie burst in.  Mr. Hewitt once insinuated to me that Mr. Wolfe kept Archie around for more than professional reasons. I really don’t know, but if you ask me the only reason Mr. Hewitt said that is because that’s what he would do. Archie is good looking. He would be attractive if he never opened his mouth. Of course that’s the first thing he did. No greeting to me, just right away arguing with Mr. Wolfe.

“I’m aware that you disapprove. I should be aware since you’ve been disapproving all morning. You know my position. Do you have an alternative?”

“No, confound it. I told you I submit to the necessity. You will take Saul with you.”

Archie nodded. “Sure. Contrary to what you might think, I’m really not trying to get my head blown off. Of course I’ll take all necessary precautions.”

“Very well. Go. Phone.”

Archie nodded again and then for the first time acknowledged my presence. “Hello Theodore. Please don’t shake hands with me.”

That was supposed to be funny. My hands were covered in soil. We never shake hands anyway. I just nodded at him and he left. Mr. Wolfe and I returned to the plants.  Mr. Wolfe was still upset, but he didn’t seem angry anymore. We worked quietly for awhile and he relaxed a bit. I don’t know why I always have to soothe Mr. Wolfe after he’s had an encounter with Archie. It just isn’t fair. Well, if Archie can say his piece, then so can I.

“If he upsets you, then perhaps you should just order him to do what you want.”

Mr. Wolfe stopped working and looked at me in some surprise. “That would not work. He does as he wishes.”

He does as he wishes? Isn’t he an employee just like me and Fritz? “Well then if he doesn’t listen maybe you should hire someone else.”

That was a big mistake. Mr. Wolfe’s whole face went rigid. He straightened up and his lips went into a tight line. “Theodore, you are here because you are a good orchid nurse. That is all. You will confine your interests to the plant rooms. You know nothing of Archie. He is--never mind, we won’t speak of this again.”

Then Mr. Wolfe went back to the miltonias. I stayed on the other side of the room. I said nothing else for the rest of the afternoon.

I had always assumed that Mr. Wolfe was only passionate about two things, orchids and food. But now I don’t know. Perhaps there is a third thing.

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