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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 119

Episode 119: 'An alternative to textbook-induced sleep'


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Adam gradually recovers from the shock of Meredith’s announcement, but still has to find a way to keep his other news secret from Cody. John Peterson tells Zack that Allen had the right to sack him.

Frank interrogates the vicar about Bordsley Village.

 

~

 

The anticipation that Zack feels as he changes lanes to switch from the M6 to the M62 turns to excitement. Driving through Salford on the M602 and spotting the sign for Chorlton-on-Medlock serves to heighten that excitement. He is meeting Clare at the Café Arts, part of the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama. Why she needs to study music theory is beyond me, he thinks. We’ll send the crowd into overdrive at the gig tonight with our new songs. Why can’t we just sing together, enjoy the music, and leave it at that? He finds a parking meter on Coupland Street, outside the Lenagan Library. Five pound coins deposited and the fifty pence change returned, he places the ticket on the dashboard and makes his way to the café.

 

‘Zack!’ Clare screams, running towards him, ignoring the looks of derision from students, who, like her, all have the obligatory coffee in one hand and a music textbook in the other.

 

He sweeps her up in his arms and kisses her, spilling the remains of her latte onto the floor.

 

‘I’ve missed you so much, Clare.’

 

She smiles, but her expression soon turns to a scowl.

 

‘What’s this I hear about you getting the sack, and why haven’t you been up in the last two weeks?’

‘Which question do I answer first?’ he replies.

‘Don’t try and wriggle out of this, Zack Peterson. Okay, why did Allen sack you?’

 

After initially blaming Allen’s personality defects for the decision, he admits that he has learnt a valuable lesson about reading the small print in contracts of employment.

 

‘So, as Dad says, Allen was within his rights. He’s still a prat, though.’

 

Clare giggles, then reaches over to ruffle his hair. Zack used to hate this, as his mom does exactly the same, but he does now find it somewhat comforting.

 

‘Anyway Zack, how’s your OU business course going?’

‘We’re studying tax and depreciation this week.’

‘Are you enjoying it?’

‘Well, at least the textbooks help to get me to sleep every night.’

 

Clare touches his knee.

 

‘No need to worry about that tonight.’

 

~

 

 

 

The Thorntons like their family conferences. This one, however, is different; Cody is not present. Agnes has taken the chance to call an extraordinary meeting while Cody is in Birmingham searching for the next Morse-like detective DVD box set, at the new VMH store in the Second City. The local store in Banfield closed down a few weeks ago, but Cody was relieved that Steve Smith, the manager and a friend of his, had been offered a transfer to the new branch. Agnes, feigning interest in her husband’s obsession, agreed with him that it was imperative that he find a replacement for his hero, now that he has watched all of the Morse episodes at least six times.

 

‘There’ll never be another Morse, Agnes,’ he said.

‘I know, dear. Sad day when it finished. What about a Columbo box set? It might save you a few bob as well.’

‘Thanks for that. Agnes, but I’m looking for a modern successor to the throne. Dougray Scott, maybe, although he only did two series of Crime. Mind you, “a few bob” sounds like you‘ve lapsed into the seventies alongside the scruffy lieutenant.’

 

Agnes starts the meeting, the attendees being herself, Adam and Jasmine. Adam can’t help injecting a Cody-like joke into the proceedings.

 

‘Have you printed an agenda, Mom?’

‘Don’t be silly, Adam, you know there’s only one thing on the agenda. We don’t need to write it down. Anyway, I don’t want your dad finding a file called Secrets we are keeping from Cody.’

 

Jasmine coughs, as if to remind them that she is a member of the family, albeit the newest entry.

 

You’re right, Mom, but there’s more than one thing to fix.’

‘Go on, love, you put your points first,’ says Agnes.

‘Okay. Main issue – we must keep this from Dad. Part of that is keeping Daniel Windrush quiet.’

‘Agreed,’ say Agnes and Adam in unison.

 

She continues.

 

‘I can’t see how Cody knowing about you and Daniel will help.’

 

Agnes winces at this, but nods her agreement.

 

‘Of course, love,’ she says.

‘Sorry, Mom, but this has to be said. You love Dad, and you’re not going to leave him for Daniel, are you?’

 

Agnes has no need to answer the question, and Adam cuts in.

 

‘Crikey, Jas, I’d have you as my sergeant in the trenches any day. Keep going. I couldn’t have summarised this better myself.’

‘Thanks, Adam. Now we come to your inheritance. I don’t see why you should pass up the chance of a villa in Spain. The old lady has passed on, so there’s only Daniel left – apart from us – who could tell Cody the real reason why you’ve come into property.’

‘What are you getting at, love?’ asks Agnes.

‘Well, all we have to do is come up with a reason for Adam’s good fortune.’


 

 

Adam touches Jasmine’s arm.

 

‘But how do we do that? Daniel has already let slip that he’s going to be a grandfather. If he starts talking about the villa…’

 

‘How do you know that Daniel mentioned the baby?’ asks Agnes.

 

Adam pauses before speaking.

 

‘I went into the pharmacy yesterday to talk to Daniel.’

‘What!’ exclaims Agnes, as Jasmine puts her head in her hands.

‘He was just about to close up. There was no one else around. I tried to get him to keep the villa for himself, but he says it’s mine. I also told him he was going to be a grandfather.’

 

Agnes stands up and glares at Adam.

 

‘That was a stupid thing to do, Adam.’

‘Stupid? Why, Mom?’

‘Because we have to be careful and work together before we approach Daniel about anything.’

‘Ah. In that case, there’s something you need to know,’ says Adam.

 

Jasmine looks straight at Adam. ‘Now what?’

 

‘Cody came into Burry’s at the moment I gave Daniel the news. Before you ask, yes, he heard Daniel say, “I’m going to be a grandfather”.’

 

This time, Agnes and Jasmine both glare at Adam, and Agnes is the first to speak.

 

‘Oh, my God! What happened?’

‘Don’t worry, Mom., Daniel was actually quite good about it. He made some excuse and congratulated Cody.’

‘What was Cody doing in there?’

‘He only wanted a pack of plasters. He bought them and we left together.’

‘Did Cody suspect anything, do you think?’ asks Jasmine.

‘Don’t think so. Why would he?’ Anyway, Jasmine, let’s work on your idea. How and why do I acquire a villa in Spain?’

 

~

 

 

John Peterson is next in line to be served at the post office. As the old lady in front of him, who, inexplicably, is carrying five shopping bags, finally decides to buy three second-class stamps rather than two, Pippa Philpotts gestures to the vicar to step forward.

 

‘She was indecisive, Pippa, wasn’t she?’

‘No, not at all, vicar. She couldn’t make up her mind.’

 

John smiles, and nods his head. Pippa replies with a nod and a very strange shake of her left hand like an umpire inventing a new signal for four runs, making John think is she in the Masons or something? Pippa startles him back to reality by shouting ‘Oh!’, making the eight-strong queue step back one pace.


 

 

‘I nearly forgot! How’s the fundraising for the church roof going?’ she says, reaching into her purse for a 50p piece.

 

‘Not too bad, Pippa, but it could be better,’ he replies, thinking in a very un-vicarly way: well, £350 with a target of £6,000 is pretty crap really.

 

Pippa and John’s exchange (although he still hasn’t been served by Pippa), plus a minimum of five minutes for the momentous stamp purchase by the old lady, provokes some of the members of the queue – now swelled to ten in number – to elicit cries of ‘get on with it’ and ‘we haven’t got all day!’ At that, one voice – a deep, educated voice (if voices can be educated) – calls out:

 

‘Pippa! Get a move on. You weren’t always this slow!’

 

The look on Pippa’s face and her body language prompts everyone to go quiet, listen carefully and wait for a response. Human instinct is a strange thing, and the collective instinct of this band of stamp buyers, letter senders and pension collectors is to stand, wait and listen. Pippa, on any other day the judge, jury and executioner of characters and the morals of individual villagers, is now the victim. Or maybe the accused. She stands stock still, and with her face losing its usual ruddy colour, looks towards the door. He is at the end of the queue, almost out in the street. She says one word, and it is not the word that affects her audience – for it is her audience now – but the way she says it.

 

‘Harry…’

 

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