EPISODE 36 - SCHRODINGER'S CUCUMBER
by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes
I am so sorry, George. Can you forgive me?’
George sighs, takes a deep breath, and Jason waits.
‘Just tell me you’re OK.’
There will be no reply today. Doctor Sahid moves to Jason’s right side and gently touches his shoulder.
‘He’s stable, and this could take some time. His vital signs are good, and if he can come out of this in the next few weeks, there’s no reason why he can’t make a full recovery.’
‘I feel so helpless. Is there nothing I can do?’
‘Talk to him. Just talk to him.’
‘Nice walk in the park, love?’
Mel flinches as Steve’s eyes seem fixed in a gaze, tracking her line of sight so he misses nothing.
‘How did you know I’d been in the park?’
‘You said you might this morning. Y’know, just after breakfast.’
‘No, just clearing my head. Heh, any news about the book stall? You’ve got Frank on board haven’t you?’
‘Everyone else is rooting for Cody and Agnes.’
‘No, not so much that. Word is, they think we are the selfish business tycoons. Mr and Mrs Cod are doing it all for charity.’
‘We’re offering 50% of our profits, Steve!’
‘You don’t have to tell me that.’
Mel takes refuge in the kitchen, making their evening cocoa.
‘Does he suspect?’ she mutters under her breath.
‘It’s like Schrödinger's cat,’ says Jack.
‘He’s off again.’
‘I might be off, Ken, but I know a thing or two about marrows.’
‘Excuse me for breathing, but have you noticed what I do for a living?’
‘You might be a farmer - doesn’t make you a specialist.’
Roy Cohen collects the used glasses, taking a keen interest in the proceedings.
‘What do you mean, Schrödinger’s...’
‘Cat, Roy. Schrödinger's cat,’ snaps Jack.
‘Come on then, Jack, never mind Dad’s lack of marrow expertise...’ says Doug.
‘Do you mind, Doug!’
‘You know what I mean. Anyway, please explain about this flippin’ cat.’
‘It was a thought experiment. In the 1930s, he developed a theory, following on from an idea by Albert...’
‘Tatlock!’ shouts out Roy, laughing at his own joke.
‘Einstein, thank you very much,’ sneers Jack.
Roy hovers by the table a little too long and is ordered back to work by Ted, who can’t help but get involved himself. Sally tilts her chin slightly and tuts; the look she gives her husband says ‘typical.’
‘So what does this cat do?’
‘Schrödinger puts him in a box, seals it, and does something, say, blasts it with radiation. Something that may or may not kill whatever’s inside the box. You’ve got no way of knowing whether or not the cat will survive. You won’t know till you open the box, so at that point the cat could be dead or alive - it could be thought to be dead and alive.’
‘Bloody rubbish,’ shouts Ken.
‘What’s this got to do with marrows anyway?’ asks Doug.
‘My point is...’
‘You’re nuts, that’s what your point is,’ interrupts Ken.
‘My point is, last year’s marrow growing competition was a farce. No one had any idea what they were doing. Did you see the state of some of the exhibits?’
‘Mine wasn’t too bad,’ shouts Roy from a table at the far end of the lounge.
‘Too bad? You’ve proved my point, Roy. It could have been dead or alive. Probably dead and alive. It was pathetic.’
‘It came second.’
Frank Watson has been standing by the bar catching the back end of the lads’ intellectual debate.
They all spin round as one. Doug is the first to respond.
‘That’s what we’re doing at the fête. This year, we want you to grow prize cucumbers. Easier than marrows.’
‘You’ll be OK, Dad,’ says Doug. ‘You’ve already got loads growing. They look smashing - it’ll be a shoe-in.’
‘Commercial entries not allowed. Sorry, Ken.’
‘Good grief, Frank, why do you have to spoil everything?’ replies Ken.
‘I’m in,’ states Ted.
‘And me,’ jumps in Roy.
The others all stake their claims - Ken allowed a private entry on condition that the cucumber is grown in his garden and not on the farm.
‘Well,’ says Jack, ‘let’s hope some of your cucumbers survive the treatment you lot give out.’
Frank steps forward again.
‘That’s settled then. I’ll let the committee know that another stall is organised. I’ll judge it.’
Ted mutters ‘democracy in action, then,’ a comment heard, but ignored, by Frank.
A groan finds its way from the lounge towards the bar as Frank slams his glass down for Ted to re-fill. ‘Watson in charge yet again.’
‘Another pint of your best, young Ted.’
‘He sounds cheerful enough, doesn’t he,’ whispers Jack.
‘Never mind him,’ says Roy. ‘I’m off to the allotment when I’ve finished my shift.’
‘Are you ready to chair the meeting, Stephen?’
‘I’ve done one before, Frank.’
‘Yes, but not one at this level. The first fête - remember that.’
‘I’m quite aware of the historic significance.’
Frank, ready to bite at the barely disguised sarcasm emanating from the lips of the local police sergeant / deputy Chair of Leeford Parish Council, is distracted by the dulcet tones of Pink Floyd. His new ring tone.
There is a pause as he takes in information that, to Stephen, appears to animate Frank to a level higher than his usual demeanour.
‘Thank you, I’m so grateful. 1734 you say?’
Trust Frank to have found a friend who gives such precise times, Stephen thinks. Why can’t they say ‘twenty-five to six’ or, ‘just turned half-past five’?
He enters the shop as the solitary customer collecting their Sunday joint is preparing to leave. Doug Taylor and Percy Lloyd spot him simultaneously, catching each other’s knowing look. The door closes, swinging towards the frame powered by the hydraulic door closer that Nigel Cleeve had fitted two weeks before. No longer the almost permanently open door, the winter draught and the characteristic bang as it is periodically slammed shut by a diligent customer.
‘Is he in?’ enquires Greg Withall.
Doug’s left eye twitches. It does that at short notice if its owner finds himself in a stressful situation.
‘Cat got your tongue, Doug?’
‘In the back. Wait here. I’ll fetch him.’
‘Take your little pal with you and send Mr Cleeve out to me. If you don’t mind.’
Having witnessed the exchange between his Dad and Greg in the Cross, Doug has no appetite for further antagonism between himself and the new arrival.
‘Ah, Nigel Cleeve, as I live and breathe. No, before you say it, I didn’t do poetry in the Nick, although I did make one or two inmates sing, if you get my drift.’
‘What do you want, Greg?’
‘Not much. Just half of the investment my dear wife sank into your business. I would say my share is now worth forty grand. I’ll settle for the original thirty, if it’s ok with you.’
‘That was always Mandy’s money. You know that, Greg.’
As he moves closer to the counter, close enough that he could reach Nigel if necessary, he snaps back:
‘No Nigel, you’re not listening. She took my share when we divorced - without my permission. Have I made myself clear? You’ve got two weeks.’
‘You heard. If you value your business, and the state of your face, you’ll be a sensible boy.’
‘Are you threatening me?’
‘You might call it that. I would say we’ve had a frank and fair exchange of views, and I’ve put you right on a few matters. Two weeks. Got it?’
As Doug and Percy peer round the curtain at the rear of the shop, Greg opens the door, giving Ethel, who is keen to collect her weekly treat of a lamb chop and a couple of Nigel’s delicious pork pies, a polite smile as she enters with her Spendfields bag-for-life. He waves a hand in a sarcastic, majestic fashion to usher her towards the counter.
‘See you in two weeks, Nigel. Nice talking to you.’
‘Where the hell are you, Gary? You said you’d be back at the station today.’
‘Sorry, Sarge, I hope you’ll understand. I’ve spoken to Gail overnight. I know I’ve done wrong and I want to fix it.’
‘How, for God’s sake?’
‘You might say I’ve had a tip-off.’
‘Yes, and she doesn’t realise.’
‘What do you mean? Where are you?’
‘She’s meeting Martin Frobisher, and thinks I’ll help him as well.’
‘Leave it, Gary. I’ll call the local station.’
‘No Sarge, please. Let me do this. I’ll bring them both in. You’ll see.’
‘I don’t like this, Gary.’
‘One chance, Stephen. Just give me this one chance. Twenty-four hours.’
‘Ok, but you’d better not foul up. My head’s on the block as well.’