Community Spirit – Episode 11

NATE was sitting in the bar when Cally found him. Her hair was messy and she was in her pyjamas. She sat opposite him and rubbed her eyes.

“Did you sleep OK?” he asked.

“Fine, thanks.”

“We didn’t keep you up?”

“It was nice to hear the sound of voices,” she said. “What time did everyone leave?”

Nate smiled.

“Quarter to eleven. I think it must have been the best night the Mucklebury Arms has had in a long time.”

“That’s good,” Cally said.

“We’ll need a lot more if it’s to become viable. Besides, I’m not sure how much they’ll remember of what we agreed last night. They were very merry by the time they left.”

“You can’t have it both ways!” Cally laughed.

“True,” Nate agreed. He picked up a pen and made a note in the book which lay open on the table.

“What’s this?” Cally asked.

She lifted the notebook to see the front cover. It was a picture of a young girl walking through a field of long grass. Cally had bought it for him for Father’s Day years ago because she thought the picture looked like her.

Nate had loved it. He had used it when they had the old pub – the one Cally had grown up in – to plan events. The first half contained details of darts tournaments, beer tastings and other events to bring the pub alive for his locals.

They had loved him for it, and been loyal, but the planning in the book ended abruptly two years ago when Cally’s mother left and Nate had given up the pub for the nomadic life as a brewery troubleshooter.

“I thought you’d thrown that away,” Cally said.

Nate looked hurt.

“I’d never get rid of this. There’s a lot of useful stuff in it that might come in handy. This place reminds me of our old home in many ways. Not the look of it, or the village. More the people and how devoted they are to it. What do you think?”

“It’s hard to think when I’m so hungry,” Cally hinted with a grin.

“Come on. I’ll make you breakfast,” he said.

After they’d eaten, Nate began a stock-take of the bar, checking off reality against a brewery-supplied inventory.

The whisky was down to the last bottle on the optic, the remaining stock presumably inside the previous manager.

Nate went into the cellar and found barrels of beer for one of the three that were off sale. He made a quick list and called the brewery. He opened the door on the dot of eleven.

At one minute past, Miss Grace came in with her knitting circle. The women settled themselves in and Miss Grace approached the bar and ordered drinks whilst the ladies rummaged in their bags.

“Action plan, part one.” She smiled as Nate fetched the drinks.

The soft drinks were no problem, but Nate spent a frustrating ten minutes working out the old coffee machine in the kitchen. He apologised as he delivered their drinks, but the ladies were unperturbed.

Nate retreated behind the bar and listened to the clackety-clack of needles accompanied by the swell of conversation. The pub seemed to buzz with its cheerful guests and the smell of coffee.

Nate spent his time cleaning the pumps and replenishing drinks for the group. As the knitting circle left, the philatelists arrived, which kept him busy.

Monday evening looked quiet over at the Goose and Gander as Nate searched through the weeds at the front of the pub for the lost “E” of the sign. Nate hated leaving things unfinished and the missing letter offended his eye for detail.

The major arrived, followed by four other men and two women. Drinks ordered, they sat in the window and held their monthly Neighbourhood Watch meeting.

Nate listened carefully to their conversations, making occasional notes in his planning book.

Alison Cook