Leeford Village episode 97: The job, the church and the farm shop
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: A furious Vera takes it out on Ted after the market traders refuse to strike. Allen wants to punish the lads for turning up late at the market. Ken Taylor blames Frank Watson for putting his farm business at risk. Zack and Simon consider going into business together, possibly in competition with Vera. Ted gives Frank the heads-up about Ken, and Frank promises to sort it out.
‘So, Allen,’ says Arjun Bandra, ‘who’s it to be then?’
Allen wipes the sweat from his palms onto his trousers. He fidgets in his chair and takes a deep breath. This is his first significant management decision.
‘Well, Mr Bandra, it—’
‘No, Allen, please call me Arjun – now we’re working together.’
‘Mr - er - Arjun, it comes down to a choice of two - Sherry Cross—’
‘Hang on, Allen, isn’t she your - sort of - sister-in-law?’
‘Well, my girlfriend’s sister. Yes.’
Arjun lowers his chin and the skin around his mouth appears to tighten.
‘Okay… And the other?’
‘You won’t know this name - Zack Peterson. A bright lad, 19. Vicar’s son.’
‘Aah. Blessed shall be the fruit of your loins and the fruit of your land, and the fruit of your cattle, the droves of your herds, and the folds of your sheep. Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verse 4.’
‘Crikey, Mr – Arjun, you know a lot about the Bible. That was unexpected.’
‘My parents sent me to Colchester Royal Grammar School. Compulsory Bible classes every morning after assembly. Picked up a lot. I was very happy there…’
Allen Gomez has never seen Arjun Bandra like this. As Arjun wipes away a tear, Allen looks away.
‘Anyway Allen. Sherry or Zack, you say? What’s your decision?’
‘Zack Peterson. I’ve got his application form, and he’s very keen.’
‘Get him to start on Monday. I’ll inform the payroll clerk. All we need now is a completed P46 and his bank details. Oh, and Allen - don’t let me down.’
As Allen arrives back from Arjun Bandra’s Birmingham office, Linda has only one question on her mind, and Allen knows what it is. She takes one look at his face and guesses correctly.
‘Allen, how could you?’
‘I know you wanted me to pick Sherry, but I’d virtually promised Zack the job before you told me what you wanted. You put me in a very awkward position, Linda.’
‘I put you in an awkward position? You do talk some rot sometimes, Allen!’
‘That’s unfair, love.’
‘Is it? Really? We’re supposed to be a family, and family support each other!’
As Allen slumps onto the sofa, he hears the front door latch.
‘Only me!’ shouts Sherry, and Linda joins her in the hall.
‘Allen’s got something to tell you.’
‘About the job?’
Sherry smiles as she sits opposite Allen in her favourite armchair. Linda joins Allen on the sofa, refusing the hand he offers.
‘Listen, Sherry, it’s like this—’
‘You’ve picked someone else, haven’t you?’
‘I didn’t think you’d want to work for me anyway.’
‘Everything’s changed since I went to the States. I’ve even accepted that you’re with Linda now. I wanted to give you a chance, and Linda said you would help me.’
Allen stares at Linda, his eyes saying why the hell did you promise her the job?
‘I’m sorry, Sherry, but it’s too late now.’
She stands up, glaring at Allen.
‘Well you can just get stuffed, Gomez, can’t you?’
Linda turns to Allen.
‘Haven’t you got to go to work – to give the good news to your new assistant?’
He grabs his coat and trudges into the hall.
‘See you later, girls.’
Ethel puts extra butter on the toast, just how Edward likes it, before passing it to him with strong, heavily sugared coffee in his favourite Gromit mug.
‘I could make breakfast, love,’ says Edward. ‘Must be like a busman’s holiday for you. In half an hour you’ll be doing the same for your customers.’
‘Not the same, Edward. This coffee and toast is for my fiancé. It’s a pleasure. Talking of which, are you seeing John Peterson today?’
‘Straight after I finish this lovely toast and coffee.’
‘Edward, you will challenge John about what he said, won’t you? The Church of England form says the local parish priest can make the decision, but he told us it is down to the bishop. I’ll leave you to it. Good luck!’
She kisses him lightly on the forehead and leaves for another shift at the café.
Edward finishes the last drops of coffee, swills out the mug and takes his hat and coat from the stand in the hall. He gazes at the photograph of Ethel next to the telephone on the hall table for a few moments, grabs his keys and sets off for the vicarage.
Frank takes the right turn off the Kidderminster Road into the driveway of Taylor’s Farm, passes the house and parks outside the farm shop.
He’ll be in the shop with Violet at this time of day, he thinks.
He doesn’t have to wait too long for the opportunity to meet Ken. He appears at the front of the shop, stacking crates of vegetables. As Frank clicks the key fob to lock the car, he hears the greeting he feared.
‘Watson, you’re not welcome here!’
‘Look, Ken, let’s talk about this. I don’t control the committee at Banfield Council. I just gave my honest opinion about the trees you want to cut down.’
‘That’s rubbish and you know it. I’ll give you thirty seconds to leave, otherwise… well, you’d better just leave!’
At that, Violet comes out of the shop.
‘Ken, stop it! Hear him out, won’t you?’
‘No, Violet, he’s destroying us!’
‘Ken, please give Frank ten minutes. Please.’
‘Edward! How nice to see you!’
‘And you, John.’
‘Please come in, take a seat. Coffee?’
‘No thanks. Just had breakfast – an Ethel special.’
‘Oh, yes, of course. What can I do for you?’
Edward reaches into his jacket pocket for the envelope containing the ‘divorcee’ forms. He taps it once, but doesn’t open it.
‘John, you remember saying that you would marry us in church, but it had to go through the bishop?’
The Revd Peterson shuffles nervously in his chair.
‘Yes. Not sure that’s exactly what I said, but that’s the general gist.’
‘What about the new directive from the bishop?’
‘What new directive?’
‘Come on, John, you said we would have to apply to the bishop for clearance.’
‘Get to the point, Edward. What are you getting at?’
Edward cannot help glaring at the vicar.
‘What I’m getting at is that you seem to have misled us. Maybe not intentionally, but the form we’ve downloaded contradicts what you said.’
‘Go on,’ says John.
‘Here it is,’ Edward continues, opening the envelope. ‘It states that the parish priest is allowed to make the decision, and that the parish priest may choose to share it with the diocesan bishop.’
‘Let me see that, Edward.’
Edward reaches over the desk with the form, passing it to John Peterson.
‘Aah, I think there has been a slight misunderstanding.’
‘It seems pretty clear to me, John.’
Edward is red in the face and sweating.
‘I’m so sorry, Edward, but the Church of England website is out of date. That form hasn’t been updated in three years.’
‘Hi Zack. Great day, isn’t it? You and me - the A Team - fighting to sort out the slackers and the—’
‘Stop there, Allen.’
‘Wa-what do you mean?’
‘You’ve offered me a fantastic opportunity, with advice on the OU degree and everything, but—’
‘But?’ says Allen, weakly.
‘I can’t take the job. I’m so sorry, mate.’
‘Mate? You think I’m your mate? Do you realise what you’ve done?’
‘I don’t know what else to say, Allen.’
Zack steps back, judging that Allen Gomez, newly appointed manager of Leeford Village Market, is about to explode. The explosion might not be heard in Central Banfield or North Banfield, or even at the vicarage, but Zack can almost feel the ground shaking under his feet.
‘Please calm down,’ Zack pleads.
‘Calm down? Don’t you tell me to calm down, young man!’
‘Perhaps I could help you out occasionally. Maybe on Saturday mornings, when the market’s busy.’
‘No!’ Allen has had enough. ‘You may not realise this Zack, but you’ve dropped me in it – right in it – with my boss, my girlfriend and her sister. Do you get that?’
‘Your girlfriend’s sister? Sherry? What’s she got to with it?’
‘It’s really none of your business, Zack, but Linda had offered Sherry the job on my behalf – virtually. Not my idea.’
‘Oh, so I’m second choice, am I?’ shouts Zack.
Now it’s Allen’s turn to attempt to soothe the situation, but he doesn’t get the chance as Zack storms off.
‘Hang on, Zack. Sorry I shouted. It’s just—’
‘You’re disappointed! I know, but thanks for putting me second to Sherry!’
At that, Zack throws his hands in the air and walks away, muttering to himself.
‘Zack! You weren’t second choice. We wanted you, and you haven’t told me why you can’t take the job!’
It’s too late. Zack has turned the corner and is on his way home