Leeford Village episode 98: Justin from Porlock
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: Allen Gomez decides to employ Zack Peterson as his assistant, much to the annoyance of Sherry and Linda. Edward discovers that the information he has regarding authorisation for his and Ethel’s marriage is out of date. Frank Watson tries to speak to Ken Taylor about his rejected planning application and the potential loss of his outbuildings.
Ken Taylor goes back inside the house, slamming the door behind him.
‘He’s a bit angry, isn’t he Violet?’ says Frank, nervously, expecting Ken to re-emerge from the house with his weapon of choice. Violet leads Frank back towards his car.
‘He’s very worried, Frank. He could lose all his outbuildings and that would be the end of the business. We’d have to give the farm up and, well, who knows what we’d do? Farming is all Ken has known.’
Frank is silent until they are alongside his car. He leans against the bonnet.
‘Would it be fair to say that Ken has not been known to be violent in the past?’
Violet smiles. ‘Don’t worry Frank. His bark has always been worse than his bite. Though there is a first time for everything.’
Frank gulps. ‘I don’t think I could handle myself against Ken. I mean he’s all…’ Frank pulls a Charles Atlas pose which makes Violet laugh.
‘Looking at you, I don’t think you’d stand a chance. But it won’t come to that, love. Ken will calm down, eventually. You did oppose plans for the new building, where those trees are now, didn’t you?’
Frank looks behind him to a small, wooded area a couple of hundred meters away from the farmhouse.
‘I did. And I’d do it again. We need to preserve the very little woodland we have left in the area. Some of those trees were here before Leeford was even a dot on the map. But I didn’t have anything to do with the council looking at planning for the farm as a whole. It was probably some jumped-up clerk wanting to make a name for himself.’
Violet nods her agreement.
‘They’ve given Ken twenty-eight days to appeal against the ruling. If he loses the appeal, he has to take the buildings down. It’ll destroy him.’
Sherry rises slowly from the sofa, on which she has been asleep for most of the afternoon, when she hears Linda closing the front door.
‘I’m home!’ shouts her sister as she walks down the hallway.
‘Hi, sis,’ says Sherry, wearily.
Linda drops the bag of shopping she has collected on the way from the launderette. She throws her arms around Sherry.
‘Come on, love. There’ll be other jobs. Anyway, I’m not sure how Allen giving you the job would have gone down with the stallholders.’
Sherry pulls herself away and flops back down on the sofa.
‘Well, they might accuse Allen of Neptunism.’
‘When you give someone a job just because they are in your family. Like politicians do.’
‘That’s what I said.’
‘And the only reason I would have been given the job was because I am family? Not because I could actually do it?’
Linda sits beside her sister. ‘No, I don’t mean that at all. Course you could…’
Sherry grabs Linda’s hand. ‘I know, Lin. I’m joking with you.’
‘I don’t think I’d want the job anyway. All those early mornings.’
Linda pats Sherry’s hand.
‘Sher. While we’re here…’
‘And Allen isn’t?’
‘Well, yeah. Do you want to tell me what happened in America? You seemed so happy there.’
‘If you don’t want to, that’s ok,’ says Linda, quickly.
‘I will tell you, sis. When I’m ready. There’s a lot to it and I need to get my head around some things first.’
Linda kisses Sherry on the cheek.
‘Okay. I can wait. No pressure. But just tell me that nothing happened to you, you know, like you weren’t…’
Sherry shakes her head.
‘Oh no. Nothing like that, honestly. Everyone was so good to me. It’s just that…no, I’m not ready to talk about it yet. But I will. I promise.
John Peterson answers the knock on the door and is surprised to find Allen Gomez standing in front of him.
‘Allen. What can I do for you?’
‘Hello Rev. Actually, it’s not you I want to see. It’s Zack. Is he in?’
John signals for Allen to come into the house.
‘Yes. He’s with his friend, Simon. They’re in the basement. Take a seat in the lounge and I’ll call him up.’
Allen enters the lounge and makes himself comfortable on a plush sofa in the centre of the room. He looks around at the finely decorated room, adorned with ornaments collected by John and Hilda Peterson on their travels around the world when they were younger. After a couple of minutes, Zack enters the room.
‘Hi Allen. What brings you?’
Allen stands. ‘Good news. You’ve got the job!’ He extends his hand towards Zack who shakes it, tentatively.
‘Ah, the job.’
‘Yes. You were by far the best applicant, and I think me and you can work really well together. Of course, I’ll be your boss and whatever I say goes, but I think I’m fair. But firm. Fair but firm, yes.’
Zack puts his hands in his pockets and shuffles his feet on the parquet floor.
‘When can you start?’ asks Allen.
‘That’s the thing, Allen,’ says Zack, looking at the floor. ‘I won’t be starting. I don’t want the job.’
Allen takes a step back. Zack continues. ‘It’s not that I’m ungrateful, it’s just that I’ve changed my mind.’
Allen is open-mouthed. What will I tell Linda? he thinks.
‘To tell you the truth, I’ve decided to do something else and, while you’re here, I need to ask you something.’
Allen is still picturing himself returning home and Linda and Sherry both taking great joy in scoffing at him. His reverie is ended by Simon entering the room.
‘So, have you asked him?’ he says to Zack.
‘Asked me what,’ says Allen, meekly.
‘Zack and I want a stall on the market. If we could have it free for the first couple of months to try it out that would be great,’ says Simon, with a grin.
Zack’s eyes are fixed on the floor, which he wants to open up and swallow either him or Allen Gomez. Allen looks at Zack and then at Simon.
‘Timing, Simon,’ mutters Zack.
‘You what?’ asks Simon.
‘He said, “timing”, Simon,’ says Allen, angrily.
‘Whatever,’ says Simon, shrugging his shoulders. ‘So, Allen, can we have a stall or not?’
Allen stares at Simon for a few seconds before pushing past both him and Zack. In the hallway he encounters John Peterson taking a cup of tea from the kitchen to his study. Allen catches him as he walks past and the teacup falls to the stone-tiled floor, smashing into several pieces.
‘Allen! What on earth?’ shouts John.
Allen does not reply. Instead, he flings the front door open and hurries down the gravel path.
Back in the lounge Simon and Zack stand in silence before Simon asks, ‘what just happened?’
Cody is finishing the final paragraph of the short story he is writing for submission to Jessica Townley’s writing group when the doorbell rings. He growls, throws down his pen and stomps to the front door.
‘Yes? Oh, hello, Justin.’
‘Hello, Cody. Am I interrupting something?’
‘Well, I never imagined you as the Person from Porlock.’ Cody laughs, regretting opening the door so aggressively to the man responsible for deciding loan terms for his business. ‘Come in.’
Justin follows Cody into the kitchen.
‘Ah, you’re writing,’ says Justin. ‘“Person from Porlock”. Now I get it!’
‘Well, this is no Kubla Khan, and I think I’ll remember what it was I was going to write.’
‘It’s not you I want to see this time, Cody,’ says Justin peering at Cody’s work which is spread across the table.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ says Cody. ‘Agnes has gone to the wholesalers. She shouldn’t be long.’
‘It’s not Agnes, either. I was hoping Jasmine might be in.’
‘Jasmine? No, she’s taken Kim to a kid’s theatre thing in Birmingham. Is it about the mortgage? I thought the amount had already been agreed, in principle.’
Justin scratches his chin. ‘Er, yes. I wanted to see her about...what is it you’re writing Cody?’
‘Oh, it’s just a short story. I’m in Jessica’s writing group and we have to hand something in by Thursday this week.’
‘What’s it about?’
‘It’s nonsense really. It’s about a chap who thinks that one of the men that lives in his village is an SS officer. He thinks he’s seen a picture of the officer, who is wanted for war crimes that looks identical to the person in the village.’
Cody gathers the papers up into a pile.
‘Well, it’s not quite finished. Anyway, you were saying.’
‘Ah yes. Can you tell her I’ve called and ask her to pop in and see me at the office? Nothing to worry about, I just want to…well, if you can ask her.’
Justin turns to go then stops at the front door.
‘Cody, what’s Jasmine’s situation with, er, Dick, Duncan, whatshisname? Her husband?’
Cody purses his lips. ‘Well, let’s just say she couldn’t fill in the divorce application fast enough.’
‘Good. Good,’ says Justin quietly. Then more loudly, ‘good for her! Seems like he is a right piece of work.’
‘Derek’s not on my Christmas card list, let’s just say that.’ Cody opens the door. ‘I’ll give Jasmine the message as soon as she gets back.’
‘Thanks, Cody. I’ll be off then. You get back to your writing.’
Cody closes the door.
‘Justin Wilkins, you old dog,’ he says to himself. Jasmine could do worse, he thinks as he sits down to compose the final paragraph.