May The Best Team Win – Episode 03

Gerard Fay © Four members of the Smarty Pints pub quiz team Illustration: Gerard Fay

Neil had taken his usual seat at a table near the bar. He sipped his pint and sighed with contentment.

Neil liked to pop into the Flying Duck after work a couple of evenings a week.

You were always sure of a warm welcome and some pleasant company.

Since his retriever, Apollo, was welcome, too, the pair were regular visitors.

It had been a long day at work. Neil currently had quite a job on his hands sorting out the accounts of one of his business clients.

Now, he’d enjoyed a steak pie supper, been on a long walk with Apollo and was unwinding in the pub’s cosy interior.

The dog was also relaxed. He’d lapped up most of the water that Brad had put out and was curled up at Neil’s feet, snoring gently.

“Evening, Neil, love. How are you today?” Maeve bustled through from the back, a warm smile on her pleasant face.

“Apollo and I are fine, Maeve, thank you. How about you and the family?”

“Fine, love, fine. Can’t complain.” Maeve nodded to him and went to serve a customer, while Kirsten, the barmaid, was busy clearing tables.

Neil smiled. He was fond of Maeve and Brad. They were a lovely couple.

Their two boys were nice lads, too.

The elder one, Ollie, had got himself in a spot of bother a few months back, but Neil liked him.

He was an intelligent boy and Neil thought he could go far.

Suddenly there was a flash of fur and a small shape raced past and settled on the far side of the bar.

Neil sighed. He loved cats, but with Apollo in tow, this new addition to the pub created some problems.

“What on earth was that?”

He looked up to see that Priscilla had entered the room.

She was standing, in a beige wool coat and fur-lined boots, hands on hips, staring at the small animal.

“Good heavens, a cat!”

“Evening, Priscilla.” Neil watched with amusement.

Priscilla nodded to him, then turned her gaze back to the animal.

“Maeve, Brad, where are you?” she boomed.

There was no response.

“Maeve! Maeve, come out here at once.” Priscilla banged on the counter with her fist and a harassed Maeve appeared.

“Oh, it’s you, Priscilla. Can I help you?”

Priscilla raised herself to her full height, sneezed violently and pointed at the cat.

“You can start by telling me what that thing is doing in here.”

Maeve stared at her.

“What thing?”

Then her eyes followed Priscilla’s outstretched finger and she burst out laughing.

“Oh, you mean the cat. It’s adorable, isn’t it?”

Priscilla stared at her.

“That’s not the word I would use.”

Priscilla sneezed again, removed a small embroidered hanky from her bag, and blew her nose.

“It will have to go,” she announced.

Maeve bit her lip.

“Whatever for?”

“What for?” Priscilla’s voice shook. “Because I am allergic to cats!” she declared, sneezing twice more.

“Because it will import fleas! Because it will cause all kinds of trouble!”

She pointed to Apollo.

There was silence, then Priscilla sneezed more violently still and her eyes began to stream.

“Make sure you get rid of it before tomorrow night,” she commanded.

Then she turned on her heel and beat a hasty retreat. Neil and Maeve stared at each other, then burst out laughing.

“Trust Priscilla!” Maeve exclaimed. “Well, I never knew she had a cat allergy.

“I suppose we will have to do something about that kitten now.”

“I guess you will.” Neil looked at the sweet little creature. It seemed a shame.

“Hello, Mrs Foster. Is Ollie around? He asked for some help with a project he’s doing.”

Neil turned to see that Sophie had entered the pub. She was a lovely girl, intelligent and pretty.

She reminded him very much of her mother at the same age.

He and Rachel had been at school together. She’d moved in a different group when they were younger, but he’d always felt comfortable around her.

He’d been delighted when she’d joined his quiz team.

It was Rachel who had come up with the name Smarty Pints.

“Hey, Felix, what are you doing here?”

Sophie moved across the room to stroke the cat, who arched its back and purred loudly.

“Oh, do you know him?” Maeve asked, her face brightening. “Who does he belong to?”

“It’s a new family, the Verdons. They just moved into our road.”

“Hi, Sophie.”

Ollie had appeared. His hair was freshly gelled and his face was flushed.

Neil raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, hi.” Sophie looked up. “Do you have a cardboard box or something? We need to get Felix back to his owners.”

Ollie looked surprised, but he nodded.

“I’ll find one.”

Neil watched with interest as the two set about finding a suitable receptacle, lining it with an old towel and making plenty of holes in the lid.

Sophie was relaxed, fussing over the kitten and passing the odd comment to Ollie as they worked.

The young man seemed tense and his attention was taken up by his companion rather than the creature.

Neil smiled to himself. If he wasn’t much mistaken, Ollie had a major crush.

Well, he couldn’t blame him. Sophie was very like her mother.

And what would she make of this?

Rachel was protective of her daughter. Was she aware of Ollie’s run-in with the police?

To be continued…