Community Spirit – Episode 44

BY Friday Nate had the pub looking better than it had in years. A storm with a strong downpour a couple of days ago had cleaned the render on the outside so the painted cracks didn’t show up so much. The sign was only missing one letter – the E – and the inside was decluttered and buffed to a shine.

He’d found some bunting which he’d run through the washing machine and it looked cheerful flapping across the front of the pub in the gentle breeze.

On the downside, Nate still hadn’t heard back from the brewery about the resubmitted proposal for food at the Mucklebury Arms, but he was too busy with his final preparations for the fête to call his boss.

Serving and clearing up kept him busy throughout the day, but by early evening there was only one couple in the pub savouring a half pint each.

Nate sat at the bar and pulled out his planner with all his notes for the next day.

He’d received the beer he’d requested from the brewery, and Arthur, Frank and the major had been in for a tasting session the night before. Pamela had organised the stall for him and all that was left to do was to set up in the morning.

He’d ordered signage for the stall and for the charity bowls match the pub was sponsoring.

Satisfied he had done all he could, he closed the book as the couple brought their empties up to the bar and said goodbye, leaving him with an empty pub and a long evening ahead.

He took their glasses to the dishwasher under the bar. When he looked up, Jeannie was standing in the doorway, looking unsure as to whether or not she should come in.

“Hi,” he said gently.

“Hello,” she replied, but didn’t move.

“Would you like a drink?”

“No, thank you.” This time she advanced a couple of steps into the pub. “I just came to say how grateful I was for the raffle tickets you bought me the night of the pub quiz.” She came two more steps in. “I won.”

“I know.” Nate smiled. “No thanks are necessary. It was the least I could do after you’d gone to all that effort with the food.”

“It was nothing.”

Silence descended. Nate didn’t move from behind the bar as she looked like she would bolt at the slightest movement.

“What are you going to do with your winnings? A trip to Barbados? A flashy car? A new tiara?”

Finally, Nate was relieved to see her smile.

“Actually, I’m using the money to fund a stall for myself tomorrow.” Jeanie took another step.

“That’s great,” Nate said. “What sort of stall? A coconut shy? I love those.”

Two more steps and she was at the bar, smiling broadly now.

“No, it’s not a coconut shy. I’m doing a pies and pastries stand.”

“Sounds good. Tell me more,” Nate urged, leaning on the bar.

“I’m going to make traditional pies: steak and ale, mince and onion, chicken and mushroom, that sort of thing, and a few with a twist, like turkey, cranberry and stuffing pies, lamb bhuna pies, and a few sweet pastries, cream horns, chocolate eclairs, apple puffs. Not too much,” Jeannie finished.

“I feel hungry just listening to that list,” Nate replied. “That reminds me – I haven’t eaten yet. Would you like to stay for dinner? I’m just throwing a couple of pizzas and some garlic bread into the oven for Cally and me, so it wouldn’t be any trouble.”

“Oh, I can’t,” Jeannie said, looking unsure again.

“That’s fine. I know you have to cook for Tasha, too.”

“Actually, she’s at her dad’s tonight.”

“She is? Then don’t eat alone; join us. Please?”

“OK, thank you. That would be nice.”

Alison Cook