Community Spirit – Episode 13

THE apron tied over her skirt was making Jeannie increasingly hot, but there was no chance of a break. Her fourth shift at the Goose and Gander was a busy Friday lunchtime.

She ran between the bar and the restaurant, fetching drinks and keying orders into the till, where she had to work her way around Debbie and Fergus who were standing in the way.

“Can I get to the pump?” Jeannie asked several times to reach the soft drinks dispenser.

They would shuffle along to stand in front of the wine coolers or the fridge with the orange juice, which Jeannie would need next.

Each time they seemed caught up in a conversation which stopped when she got near, until finally she felt their eyes turn on her.

She shuffled behind them and began filling her drinks order, but they hemmed her in.

“You know the manager at the Mucklebury Arms, don’t you?” Debbie asked.

Jeannie and Debbie knew each other from the WI, but weren’t close.

“Not really.” Jeannie smiled, trying to reach the lime cordial behind Fergus.

“You were chatting to him here last Sunday,” Fergus reminded her, moving the bottle towards her.

“I think he thought I was you,” Jeannie admitted to Debbie.

“Did he say what he was planning?” Debbie asked.

“No,” Jeannie replied, her lager and lime complete with just a spritzer to go.

She bent down to get a bottle of white wine from the refrigerator behind Fergus.

“Has anyone here been talking about him?” he asked.

“Not that I’ve heard,” she said.

“Has anyone mentioned going over there?”

“Like I say, not that I’ve heard.” Her tray was loaded; she just needed to make her escape.

Fergus and Debbie moved closer.

“What did he seem like to you?” Debbie pressed.

Jeannie thought of Nate’s dimple and his brown eyes.

“Nice enough.”

“Keep your ears open,” Debbie told her. “Listen at the tables; see what people are saying about him.”

“Find out if anyone’s been over there and if there are changes planned, that sort of thing,” Fergus added.

“And if you bump into him, see what you can find out,” Debbie said. “None of us wants to see the Mucklebury Arms up and running again. We all need to look after what we’ve got.”

“I’m not happy about that,” Jeannie replied. “I won’t spy on customers, and I won’t question the manager of the Mucklebury Arms about his plans.”

She made to leave. Fergus had to move or risk having the tray of drinks spilled down his legs.

He jumped back and Jeannie ran for the restaurant. Shaking, she handed over the drinks and then clutched the tray with both hands to keep them still as Pamela Cartwright was being shown to a table.

“Jeannie, are you OK?” Pamela asked, waving away the waitress. “You look like you’ve had a fright.”

Alison Cook