Community Spirit – Episode 06

JEANNIE let herself into her house. Tasha was sitting on the sofa, thumbs flying over the screen of her mobile phone.

“Oh, hello,” Jeannie greeted her daughter, hoping her eyes didn’t look too red. “You’re home early.”

Tasha barely slowed in her texting.

“Dad brought me back.”

Jeannie put her bag on the dining table.

“Any reason?” she asked, keeping her voice light.

Tasha rested the phone in her lap and scowled.

“We were all supposed to go out for an early dinner but then she said, ‘We may as well drop Tasha off on the way, then we can get Ava home to bed straight after’, so Dad agreed. So here I am, unfed and unloved.”

Jeannie sat down.

“You are not unloved,” she said. “I love you very much. And so does your dad. He’s just a bit distracted at the moment with a new baby and all.”

“What about his old baby?” Tasha said, picking at a loose thread on the cushion next to her.

Jeannie pulled her close and kissed her. Outwardly she remained neutral, but inside she was seething.

“Mum, what are we going to have for dinner?”

Jeannie thought about the meagre few notes she had left from the sale.

“Whatever you like, Tasha. You can choose.”

Next morning, with some old tools he found in an outside storeroom, Nate had the front door off its hinges. There was nothing to hold it still, so when Cally appeared he roped her into helping while he planed off the ridge that was sticking on the floor.

Cally, hungry and unhappy at being made to help, complained until Nate sent her off for breakfast and finished the job alone. He rehung the door and opened and closed it two or three times.

From behind the bar, he could see daylight underneath the door and thought he’d probably taken too much off. I’ll need a draught excluder come winter, he thought, before realising he’d be long gone by then, with the pub someone else’s concern – or more likely, after last night’s conversation, closed down.

As he put the tools away, he found the “L” and the “R” from the pub sign, but no amount of searching through crates of tools, old pots of paints and broken chairs unearthed the “E”.

Back in the bar, he removed the corn-stalk and thistle display from the fireplace and swept it out. Next, he removed the copper pots and pans hanging around it, as well as the nails they hung from. He cleaned the grate until it shone, before fetching logs from the wood pile in the garden and stacking them up in the grille.

He had no intention of lighting the fire – the weather was far too warm – but he liked the idea of the pub being cosy on a chill evening. Finally, he took up all the old beer towels from the bar and opened the front door on the dot of twelve.

There was no-one waiting to come in. He stepped out into the sunshine and looked around the green.

Over at the Goose, a few people were waiting outside, loitering around their beer garden, which was at the front of the pub.

Half a dozen cars, sporty and expensive, came along the road from the direction of the town.

“Cally!” he called, turning back into the Mucklebury Arms. “Just going for a little walk.”

A thump from upstairs told him she had heard.


Alison Cook