Simon Parke  
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Housing matters

CHAPTER 28

In the last episode, the faithful enjoyed a short sermon, while Jane contemplated her burnt-out home. Inky went mad when Cadbury revealed their whereabouts to Jane, and what was happening in the High Street after church? Meanwhile David’s plans for a Sunday sherry were not gong well.

‘Hi!’

‘Who’s this?’ asked Lord Jo, unused to social phone calls.

‘Patricia! Why, who else might it be?’

‘Professor Fuck knows, but I don’t. Now what do you want?’

‘I hope you got my little something.’

‘What little something?’ asked Lord Jo.

‘You didn’t notice?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, woman!’

‘Things don’t just happen, you know; someone makes them happen. Like the basket of provisions, for instance.’

‘Tell me when you want to make sense, and I’ll start listening again.’

‘What – you’re saying there was no basket of provisions on your doorstep when you returned from hospital?!’

‘That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’ve got it in one, darling.’

‘I see.’

‘Good. I regard that as progress.’

‘Well, I did leave one there.’

‘Did you, now?’

‘Yes, I did.’

‘Well, thank you very much,’ said Lord Jo with feeling. ‘It’s nice someone noticed I’d been away. So good on you; I appreciate that. But it sure wasn’t there when my taxi dropped me off.’

‘There’s a thief about, then.’

‘I’ll tell you what, Patricia,’ said Lord Jo, warming to this lady. ‘You let me consult my video footage. I might learn a little from that. It might also explain why my cows are everywhere but in their field.’

‘Ah, you noticed. I saw one of them in Dr Hafiz’s garden last night.’

‘And there were ten more in the High Street this morning. Hard to miss!’

‘I’m very sorry.’

‘I’m not. It’ll be a good test for my new security cameras. This could be a very interesting afternoon’s viewing. And when I know more, I’ll get back to you.’

‘Okay, then! I look forward to hearing from you. I mean, it was nothing really. Just wanted make your homecoming a happy one.’

‘And you have done, my girl – you have.’

*

‘So where’s The Kid, then?’ asked Cadbury.

‘I don’t know,’ said Inky.

They had been in the abbey ruins for six hours now, awaiting her return.

‘Wherever she’s been this morning, she should be back by now.’

‘Perhaps she goes for a long walk on Sundays – I don’t know.’

‘Everything here is cold. This fire hasn’t burned since last night at the latest. Are you sure she still lives here?’

‘Well, where else could she live? She’s dumb.’

‘No need to be rude. You’re hardly a professor yourself!’

‘I mean, she can’t speak! And what’s happened to you? You’re like Miss Gobby all of a sudden!’

‘And your problem is?’

They both started laughing.

‘I don’t have a problem!’

‘Just as well.’

‘You just seem to be a bit – well, different.’

‘No fear. That’s the difference. I left it behind in the burning house. And I’m not going back.’

‘To the house?’

‘No – to the fear. And if I ever start going back – then you have my full permission to hit me!’

‘How could I hit you when I love you?’

Suddenly everything went quiet, apart from the crows, circling the Tilting Tower.

‘Inky! How could you say such a thing?’

‘And even if you love me never, I will love you good forever!’

‘Well, if you love me so much – let me give Jane another ring. I just wonder if she knows anything about the Kid.’

*

‘The thing is,’ said Mr Johnson, ‘nothing is the end of the story.’

‘How do you mean?’ asked David.

After unsuccessful attempts at a sherry at home, David had decided to make his way to The Dog and Whistle, for a drink and good company.

‘Nothing is the end of the story, because the story is you – and not what you do,’ continued Mr Johnson.

‘So you mean that my business going down the plug isn’t the end of the world.’

‘It’s the end of a world; but not the world. It’s the end of the world you used to live in – but not the end of anything else. Do you seriously think I’ve always been a coach driver?’

‘Well, I suppose I did, yes.’

‘You’re having a laugh!’

‘Not noticeably.’

‘I was a professional footballer, for a while, then a window cleaner, and then a stand-up comedian. Used to do the piers and hotels along the South coast. And I did some proper jobs as well.’

‘So you’ve survived.’

‘I’ve gone with the flow!’

‘So have I – like a turd down a sewer.’

‘Now, now! I mean, what would you like to do?’

‘My perfect job?’

‘That’s right.’

‘I’d like to run a bird sanctuary and tea rooms.’

‘Nice one! Could be very popular; and here’s a thing – I could bring my coach parties along, for a small consideration.’

‘Fine. £10 for each coach visit.’

‘£10?? I wouldn’t break wind for £10!’

‘Look, I don’t know why we’re haggling about money. It isn’t going to happen!’

‘How do you know?’

‘It just isn’t!’

It was at that very moment that David’s house and shop collapsed. They watched it together, as it slowly buckled into relative non-existence.

‘It falls nicely,’ said Mr Johnson.

‘What do you mean, ‘It falls nicely’? That’s my home!’

‘It used to be a saying in football. It describes a player who knew how to go down well, with the right amount of drama, evoking maximum sympathy.’

‘So you’re accusing my old home of ‘diving’?’

‘I’m just saying she knows how to fall. It’s a good show.’

‘Well I’m glad my home has at least entertained you in death.’

Though really, deep down, David’s heart was singing; and singing quite loud. His only concern was for the new bird table. It would be a shame if he’d lost that as well.

*

‘I think perhaps we got off on the wrong foot last night,’ said Mrs Post, as the vicar ushered her inside.

‘I think perhaps we did.’

‘Definitely’ said Mrs Post.

‘I can’t quite recall which particular wrong feet we got off on, but I certainly remember legs getting entangled; so to speak.’

‘After which you went and sat in the graveyard, according to your sermon this morning. Rather odd, I thought.’

‘The sermon or the graveyard?’

‘Well, both, really.’

‘But you were at least listening!’

‘Only in parts.’

‘Well, there weren’t that many parts.’

‘Enough for me to pick and choose which I listened to.’

He sat her down in one of the comfortable chairs, and sat himself in the other.

‘The thing is, Reverend, and I’ll get straight to the point – I’ve decided to sort out my father, once and for all.’

‘This is your dead father?’

‘The police have no need to be asking all these questions!’

‘No.’

‘I haven’t done anything wrong.’

‘I’m sure you haven’t, Mrs Post. You’re much too busy running an excellent Post Office to do anything wrong!’

‘No need for crawling, Vicar. Just hear my story. It’s time it was told.’

*

Jane had almost finished telling the doctor of her concerns, as they sat together in his front room:

‘And Inky says she hasn’t been back to the abbey ruins since – well, since last night, they reckon.’

‘They?’ asked the doctor.

‘He’s there with Cadbury.’

Dr Hafiz looked quizzical.

‘He did save her single-handedly from the blaze,’ said Jane.

‘What an impressive young man. But I quite understand this is rather worrying,’ said the newly bald Persian. ‘I am sure you are thinking what I am thinking.’

‘Trapped down below?’

‘It would appear so. So what to do?’

‘Well, I would have thought that was pretty obvious,’ said Jane. ‘We must get Lord Jo to reverse his decision.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes, really! It’s time for prompt action. Lord Jo must empty that hole, to give us access again. There’s no choice. If we don’t, The Kid will die.’

‘I can see the logic of what you say.’

‘Good.’

‘But I don’t feel the sense of it.’

‘Meaning?’

The light was beginning to fade on the day, as the doctor lit two candles and placed them on the table. They flickered, vulnerable and bright.

‘Some more cake?’ he asked.

‘Perhaps a small slice,’ said Jane, just beginning to feel hungry again after the shocks of the past 24 hours. He cut her some more and then continued:

‘Here is what I feel: there is beneath us all a gift that this village knows nothing about,’ said the doctor.

‘Agreed.’

‘An unopened gift.’

‘Agreed, again.’

Jane was finding the cake very good indeed. Did he make it himself? She suspected so.

‘But what if the hole was only a temporary entrance?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘I think it must have only temporary significance. The village cannot survive with a large hole in the High Street; not in the long term. So what if the hole has served its purpose – what now?’

‘What now indeed?’ asked Jane, a little frustrated. ‘The Kid starving is the only ‘now’ that comes to mind. Or the roof collapsing in on her. Do you remember how the Kid referred to it all as being very fragile?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you have seen what the subsidence did to David’s house, just across the way from there?’

‘Yes, again. Remarkable. Not a good day for homes in Misty Longings.’

‘No,’ said Jane.

‘So what is it a good day for? We must find out.’

*

‘Yes, supper tonight,’ said Lord Jo to Patricia over the phone. ‘And I promise you that this time, I will not come at you with a rolling pin.’

‘And I promise to come through the front door!’ replied Patricia.

‘I have some very interesting home movies to show you. Very revealing. I think you’ll enjoy them. See you at 7.00pm.’

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