Community Spirit – Episode 30

“BUT if you give my report another read, you’ll see an appendix –” Nate paused. “The sales are up week on week for drinks, but I really think food will . . .”

Once again, he paused, unsure of what to say next.

“What about a trial? A couple of weeks, say?” He made one last attempt.

Nate listened whilst his area manager listed the reasons why he didn’t think offering food at the Mucklebury Arms was a good idea. There were a lot of them, including being

unwilling to invest in updating the kitchen equipment.

“No, I understand. OK, speak to you soon.”

Nate put down the phone, only for it to ring immediately.

“Hi, Liv,” he said after she had introduced herself. “Did you have a chance to look over my figures for holding your birthday party here? What did you think?”

Again, he had to listen whilst his proposal was rejected. As Liv talked him through the offer from the Goose which had been too good to refuse, Nate thought about the hours he had spent on both ideas.

The pitch to the brewery had been done over three nights, with Nate staying up until the early hours.

Having seen the success of the curry and quiz night, and taking into account all the requests for food he had received, Nate was passionate about a traditional pub menu as a way to improve the fortunes of the pub. He felt a little hurt that the brewery hadn’t taken longer to consider the idea.

Liv was coming to the end of her discourse and concluded by saying she hoped Nate would attend her party. Nate wasn’t one to hold a grudge, but murmured something about having to work and wished her all the best for her birthday.

He was more philosophical about losing the party; Debbie from the Goose had quite an influence on Liv, he could tell. Nate had learned a lot about how his rivals operated over the last couple of weeks. He would know better next time.

“You OK?” Cally was standing in front of him.

“Fine,” he said. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“You were miles away.”

Nate looked down – the phone was clutched to his chest in both hands. He put it back on the base unit.

“The brewery said no to my proposal on food, and the Goose got the party booking.” He tried to give Cally a smile but it was more of a grimace.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” she said, stepping forward to hug him. “I know how hard you worked on them, especially the food proposal.”

Nate returned the hug.

“It’s not just that. I really believe it could work. I’ve had countless requests for food since we’ve been here and the Goose is catering for a different market.”

“Was it a maybe or a big fat no?”

Nate smiled.

“It was a ‘turn the place around first and then we’ll think about it’,” he replied.

“The classic fobbing-you-off. A parental favourite, I do believe,” Cally joked.

A busy few days later Nate popped over to the corner shop.

As he emerged he saw Jeannie going into the Goose. He waved but she didn’t see him and he walked away feeling flat.

He couldn’t shake the feeling he had failed the Mucklebury Arms by not convincing the brewery about offering food, and he felt disappointed that Jeannie had made the decision not to progress their friendship any further because of her concerns for Tasha.

He glanced back to see if Jeannie was still in sight when a sign at the Goose caught his eye. He retraced his steps and stood in front of a poster advertising a murder mystery evening at Much Mucklebury’s Premier Pub.

“I can’t argue with that,” he murmured, feeling how far behind its competitor the Mucklebury Arms was.

“Can’t argue with what?” a voice asked. Nate turned to find Fergus looking over his shoulder.

“You must mean the bit about us being the best pub in the village.”

Nate turned to face him, but stayed calm.

Alison Cook