Community Spirit – Episode 39

DURING the course of the week, Nate continued to brighten up the pub – not a weed dared to poke its head above soil level for fear of being ripped from the ground, and the windows were washed inside and out, and buffed for good measure.

Arthur’s concern was ever present and Nate did his best to pace himself, but the renovations, together with running the pub, doing the books, looking after Cally and preparing for the fête ensured he fell into bed each night exhausted.

As he worked, he thought about what more he could do to save the pub, and each time the same answer came back to him – food.

He’d submitted a proposal to the brewery which they had rejected, but he was confident enough that his ideas had been sound. What more could he do to convince them?

While the Neighbourhood Watch discussed a spate of bin raids, Nate sat at his laptop one evening and resubmitted his proposal to his boss with an impassioned e-mail and the use of every powerful plea he could muster.

The next day he checked his incoming mail every 20 minutes, but there was no reply from his boss, and no phone call, either.

By the time the knitting circle arrived for their afternoon meeting, Nate was feeling wrung out from the wait.

“You look tired, Nate. Are you OK?” Miss Grace peered at him from the other side of the bar. “I hope you’re taking Reverend Jarvis’s words seriously and are not wearing yourself out.”

“I’m trying,” he said, “but I so want the Mucklebury Arms to succeed.”

Miss Grace took the last of the juices she had requested and handed over some coins.

“But why?” she asked kindly. “Why do you want the Mucklebury Arms to succeed so much?”

A wave of emotions assailed Nate. For starters, it would be the only pub he’d failed to turn around if he didn’t succeed. And he’d promised Cally they’d settle down after this job so she could stay in one place for her GCSE year.

But the Mucklebury Arms brought back memories of the pub they’d shared as a family, before his wife left them, which brought him full circle from his failed marriage to his failure to save the Mucklebury Arms.

“I don’t know,” Nate stammered, unable to put his feelings into words.

“Well, don’t save the pub at the expense of your health,” Miss Grace told him. “I nursed my sister last year and became ill myself in the process. It’s not selfish to look after yourself first, before you can look after others.”

With a small nod she turned away to her knitting circle, leaving Nate to ponder her words.

Jeannie had swapped shifts at the Goose and Gander so that Tuesday was her day off. She’d arranged the swap with another waitress rather than go through Debbie or Fergus, as they had only just let her keep her job after the argument with her ex-husband on the night of the murder mystery evening.

Swapping shifts was quite common, but when she told Debbie what she’d done, she received only a hard stare in acknowledgement.

Jeannie left the house before Tasha woke and spent a couple of hours wandering around the market in the nearest town, followed by the butcher’s, baker’s and greengrocer’s, buying what she needed to cater for Pamela’s dinner party that evening.

She struggled from the bus stop to the house laden with shopping bags before dropping them in the hall.

From upstairs, the sound of a teenager stomping around indicated Tasha was up.

Ever since her dad had cancelled their holiday in favour of taking his new family away for the weekend, Tasha had been in an unpredictable mood.

Alison Cook