Leeford Village episode 100: Monkeying around
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: Reverend John Peterson implements his plan to ensure that Zack is both working and studying, while allowing him time to see Clare in Manchester. Sherry is still unable to tell Linda about Carlos.
Zack and Simon are wandering among the wares being offered at Banfield Car Boot Sale, the sellers a mix of householders offloading items having fallen victim to decluttering and traders who have purchased job lots of bric-a-brac at auction.
‘So, let me get this straight,’ says Simon as they walk away from a trader selling comics and figures, tempting to both boys but not within their current remit, which is to purchase items for sale on their market stall. ‘You’re assisting Gomez at the market, studying, and still seeing Clare in your spare time, as well as working in our business? Aren’t you spreading yourself a little thin?’
Zack ponders this for a moment.
‘S’pose. But I need to do all of them. I’ll just have to be efficient in all areas.’
Simon laughs. ‘Clare’s going to love that you are being efficient with her.’
‘Well, maybe I’ll be more relaxed with Clare.’ Zack pauses at a table stacked with boxes of vinyl records, arranged by musical genre, then alphabetically.
Simon pulls him away. ‘Records are a minefield, mate. You really have to know your stuff.’
Zack defers to Simon’s wisdom. Simon points to a trader at the end of the field, slightly away from the others. In front of him is a trestle table replete with ornaments and trinkets, some displayed in glass cases. Zack and Simon wander nonchalantly to the pitch.
‘Orright, lads,’ says the trader, ‘after anything in particular?’
Zack and Simon look at each other. While they have agreed to look disinterested whenever they approach a stall, they have not discussed what they would do when they were confronted by the seller.
Simon shrugs. ‘Just looking.’
‘Presents for the girlfriends, is it?’ asks the trader.
‘No,’ says Simon, ‘we have a business.’
‘Oh?’ says the trader, his facial expression changing from a chummy smile to the look of someone who is about to seize an opportunity.
Zack takes a step back and lets Simon continue to do the talking.
‘We buy and sell. On the market.’
Zack is about to say that they haven’t yet set up the business when the trader leans over the table.
‘In that case, I have some bits and pieces in my van you might be interested in.’
‘He won’t come to the phone, Frank. In fact, he says, “tell Frank Watson he can…” No, I won’t say. It’s not very lady-like.’
Frank imagines for a few seconds what Ken might have said then clears the thought from his mind.
‘Oh, Violet. I’m only trying to help him. And you. I don’t want to see all you have both worked for being brought to nought over a planning issue.’
‘I know you don’t,’ sighs Violet. ‘But you know Ken, Frank. He can be very stubborn.’
‘Yes. And proud. He’s a good egg, Violet, and I feel somewhat responsible for the predicament you are in, though I have to say in my defence that I had no idea it would come to this.’
‘I’m not blaming you, Frank. However, Ken definitely is. I think it’s best if you don’t contact us. Just while we sort things out. If they can be sorted out, that is.’
Frank drops wearily into his armchair.
‘Well, if Ken comes round, do let me know and I’ll do anything I can.’
‘I know you will, Frank. You’re a good egg too.’
This compliment from Violet immediately brings a lump to the throat of the man who is more used to facing insults.
‘Thank you, Violet. Goodbye.’
Zack and Simon are led to the back of the trader’s Ford Transit van. He opens the doors. Zack peers in, but it looks empty. The trader jumps in and shuffles to the cab end, where he opens a built-in box seat. He takes out a carrier bag and shuffles back to Zack and Simon. He opens the carrier bag and lays out a collection of gold jewellery: a lady’s and a gent’s watch, a gold belcher chain, a couple of rings and a tie pin inlaid with an enamel golfer motif.
‘Belonged to my mother, God rest her soul,’ says the trader, crossing his chest.
‘Wow,’ says Zack forgetting he was supposed to look disinterested. Simon kicks his shin.
‘A grand for the lot,’ says the trader.
Simon shakes his head. ‘Not interested, mate. Come on Zack, let’s move on.’
Zack looks puzzled at first, then says, ‘You’re right Si. Not our bag at all.’
They walk away and are almost back on the field when the trader calls, ‘Orright. A monkey. I’ll take a monkey.’
The boys stop.
‘A monkey?’ whispers Zack.
‘It’s a slang term for money,’ replies Simon.
‘How much is it?’
‘Dunno. But less than a grand, obviously.’
They turn and walk back to the trader. ‘A monkey, eh?’ says Simon with an authority that impresses Zack. Way too much. We have our costs to consider.’
‘Costs?’ says the trader. ‘You’ve got a market stall.’
‘Actually, we haven’t set up…ouch.’ The kick Simon gives Zack is more powerful and more intended than the previous one.
‘This lot is worth four monkeys at least,’ says the trader, holding out one of the watches.
Simon takes the watch and looks turns it over, inspecting the markings etched into the strap.
‘Four monkeys. Tell you what. Half a monkey and we have a deal.’
‘Two-fifty? You’re robbing me!’
‘Ah, so a monkey is…’ Another kick from Simon.
The trader rubs his hands together. ‘Three-fifty and they’re yours.’
Simon is about to speak when Zack says, ‘fair enough. That’s about the amount we have, isn’t it Simon?’
Simon rolls his eyes. ‘Okay, we’ll take them.’ He opens his wallet and hands over £350. The trader bundles the items into the carrier bag, counts the money quickly and stuffs it into his back pocket.
‘Thanks lads. Good luck with the business,’ he says, closing the doors on the van.
Simon, Zack and the trader shake hands.
When they are well away from the van, Simon thumps Zack on the shoulder. ‘You idiot. I could have got him down further than that!’
Zack rubs his shoulder.
‘Sorry, mate. I got confused by all those monkeys.’
Simon laughs. ‘Well, we did okay. I don’t know much about gold, but this is all hallmarked and stuff. We could sell it on eBay for loads.’
‘Not on the stall?’
‘No, It’ll get nicked. We’ll sell it on eBay then we’ll have more money to set up the stall.’
‘How much will we get?’
Simon stands and counts on his fingers.
‘At least two monkeys, a gorilla and a parakeet, if we’re lucky.’
Sherry answers the door and is surprised to see Pippa Philpotts in front of her, holding a letter. She passes it to Sherry.
‘What’s this?’ asks Sherry, looking at the letter, addressed to Sherry Cross, Leeford Village, England. ‘It came to the post office. I thought I’d drive over to deliver it, personally.’
Sherry looks again at the letter.
‘It’s from abroad. Look. The stamps are from Brazil,’ says Pippa.
Sherry puts her hand to her mouth. ‘Oh, no!’ she gasps.
Pippa, sensing some gossip coming her way lets out a slight cough.
‘Is it bad news, Sherry? If it is, perhaps you’d like me to stay with you for a while in case…in case you faint, or something.’
‘Thanks, Pippa. Thanks for bringing it to me,’ says Sherry, stepping back inside the house and closing the door. She holds the letter in both hands. A voice comes through the letterbox. ‘I’ll stay here for a while, just in case,’ says Pippa.
Sherry walks into the lounge. She stares at the letter, then tears the envelope open and pulls out a yellow sheet of paper, which she reads through teary eyes.
My darling Sherry,
I am missing you so much, I can hardly bear to breathe. You and me so good together. I not want any other women, just you. You so beautiful and clever and sing so lovely. I want be with you forever and ever. I hope I find you with this letter. I not know your address only that you talked a lot about this little village called Leeford'.
Good news for you (I hope!!!). I coming to England soon. Please call me. You have my number. Or send a message and I will come straight away. I want be with YOU, forever. I love you. I give you kisses. Carlos xxxxxxxxxxxxx
‘No, no, no!’ wails Sherry. The letter drops to the floor.
Behind her, Linda has returned unnoticed from work.
‘Oh, sis, what’s up? she asks, sitting down next to Sherry and putting her arm around her.
Sherry cries uncontrollably for a while, then sobs ‘Lin. I’ve got to tell you something.’
‘We’ve got to go back,’ says Simon, putting down his plastic cup of coffee.
‘Where?’ asks Zack, taking a bite out of a very greasy burger.
‘That guy. We need a receipt, otherwise we can’t put it against tax.’
‘You go back, then. I’m enjoying this,’ says Zack wiping his chin with the back of his hand.
Simon pushes back his chair and runs across to the other end of the field. There’s no sign of the trader. Thinking he is on the wrong side, he sprints across to the other side of the field. No trader. He looks back towards where he has come from, to get his bearings again. After fifteen minutes of running from one end of the field to the other, he goes back to Zack, who is on his second burger.
Simon, out of breath, leans on the table.
‘Can’t find him.’
Zack finishes a mouthful of burger.
‘You won’t mate. I’ve just seen him drive past here on his way out. Must have wanted to get home early. He waved. Nice guy.’