EPISODE 44 - AND A LARGE MUSHY PEAS, PLEASE

by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes

‘Let you in?’ Cody pauses with his hand on the doorknob.

‘Yes, Cody. Let me in.’ Amanda is, not surprisingly, nervous in anticipation of a stolen night, or at least late evening, with the object of her affection, if it could be called affection.

‘Why?’ Cody removes his hand.

‘Isn’t that obvious, Cody?’

Cody looks up and down the road. The last thing he needs right now is to be seen talking to yet another woman.

‘No, Amanda. Not obvious.’

Amanda takes hold of his arm.

‘I know the Stringers have gone out for the evening and I thought you and I could, well, you know.’ She winks at Cody. Cody frowns.

‘You mean, you want to…with me…here?’ Cody feels himself going red, but not with the flush of passion.

Amanda pouts. Amanda nods, seductively.

Cody, in a move that he could never repeat if he were to try a hundred times, manages to insert the key into the lock, twist the door knob, enter the house, say ‘not a chance’ to a stunned Amanda and close the door. He stands in the hallway, feeling a little faint. He ignores Amanda’s raps on the door and goes into the kitchen.

‘What just happened?’ he says to the Stringers’ cat, as he fills a kettle with water.

The cat declines to comment.

~

‘Come in, Ethel.’

Ethel steps into the Dennis’s hallway.

‘To what do I owe the pleasure?’ says Clara to her unexpected visitor.

Her husband appears at the end of the hallway.

‘Hello George,’ says Ethel.

George gives a faint nod of recognition and retreats into the lounge.

‘I’m afraid he’s…well, you know,’ says Clara with a sigh of resignation.

‘I understand, dear. But he looks well.’

‘Oh, he is. He has good and bad days.’

‘Like us all, Clara.’

‘Yes,’ laughs Clara, ‘like us all.’

She stands for a moment in thought.

‘Oh, Ethel! I’m sorry. Do come into the kitchen.’ Clara starts to walk down the hallway.

‘Actually, Clara, I’ve got to get home.’

Clara turns. ‘Oh, okay. I thought you’d come for a chat.’

‘Well, I’d like your advice, really.’

‘Go on.’ Clara sits on a seat next to the telephone table.

‘I’m thinking of selling the café,’ announces Ethel.

‘Yes, I know,’ says Clara, ‘you’ve mentioned it before.’

Ethel nods. ‘I know. It’s always been something I intended to do in the future. But, earlier today, Allen Gomez and Linda were talking to me and, after they left, I felt that the time is right to pack it in.’

‘I see,’ says Clara, pensively.

‘So, I have. Tonight.’

Clara sits upright. ‘Tonight? This very night?’

‘Yes. I’ve put a notice on the door thanking the villagers of Leeford for their custom over the years and signed it Ethel and Billy.’

Clara notices Ethel’s eyes filling with tears.

‘Oh, Ethel!  Are you sure you are doing the right thing?’ Clara stands and takes hold of Ethel’s hand.

‘Yes, Clara. If I don’t do it now, I never will.’

There is a moment of silence while both ladies get over the shock of Ethel’s decision.

Clara sits back on the seat.

‘So, if you have already made this decision, Ethel, what advice do you need from me?’

‘I need to sell the business. Billy always wanted to sell up, eventually and use the money to top up our pensions.’

‘Okay. So, where do I come in?’

Ethel is distracted momentarily by the sight of George standing at the top of the hallway.

She smiles at him. He goes to speak, then changes his mind and goes back into the lounge.

‘Clara. How well do you know Tricia and David Ward?

‘From the sandwich shop?’

‘Yes.’

‘Not that well. A nice couple though. And excellent sandwiches. Why do you ask?’

‘A few weeks ago, I was talking to Roland Wade, the chap from the music shop. He’d come in to collect some bacon baps he’d ordered for some promotional event he was having. I’m not sure how it came about, but he mentioned he was friends with David Ward.’

‘Go on.’

‘Well, David Ward is a great cook, by all accounts and has always wanted to have his own restaurant.’

‘And?’

‘And, I thought I might approach him and Tricia to see if they want to buy the café.’

Clara stands and brushes down the front of her dress.

‘Well, Ethel, it’s worth a try.’

‘Do you think I should?’

‘Nothing to lose, love. They’re young and I’m sure they’d do a great job.’

‘I think so, too.’

‘So, go and ask them.’

‘There is one condition to the sale, though.’

‘Oh?’

‘They have to employ me in the restaurant.’

~

Leeford Plaice is less busy than usual, giving Agnes time to reflect on hers and Cody’s situation. To have an affair with Meredith Park is bad enough, but to have it while she is seeing your own son – well, that’s just obscene. She shudders at the thought. Adam has taken it rather well, she thinks, though he is refusing to even make eye contact with Cody. As soon as Cody arrived for his shift this afternoon, Adam went out, only returning after seven o’clock when he knew Cody would have left. Agnes knows she is in a difficult position, however, as she needs Cody to help her run the chip shop and the business is in his name, having never found a need to make it a partnership. He could close the business tomorrow and then where would she be? She is thinking these thoughts when Amanda Smythe walks through the door.

‘Usual, Amanda? Large cod, large chips and large mushy peas, with scraps?’

Amanda looks at the array of battered food glistening under the hot lamp.

‘Just some chips, please, Agnes.’

‘Oh, not feeling well?’

‘I’m okay. Just not hungry.’

Agnes shovels a pile of chips from the fryer, watched by Amanda.

‘A few more, Agnes.’

Agnes scoops up another shovel full.

‘Stick a few scraps in, will you?’

Agnes smiles to herself. She thinks, next she’ll ask for…

‘…and I’ll have a tub of mushy peas. Large one.’

Amanda points to a large, battered fish.

‘Is that a cod?’

‘It’s haddock.’

‘That’ll do. Put it in as well.’

Agnes wraps the meal in paper and hands it over to Amanda.

‘Four-fifty to you, Amanda.’

Amanda hands Agnes a five-pound note.

‘Keep the change,’ she says.

Agnes puts the fifty pence into the charity box.

‘Thanks, Mand.’

‘Your Cody staying at the Stringers then, is he?’

Agnes would like to say mind your business, but Amanda is responsible for putting a relatively large amount of money into the Thornton coffers. Instead, she says,

‘Yes. For the moment, at any rate.’

Amanda makes a hole in the paper and frees a loose chip.

‘Thought so,’ she says. The chip is hotter than she anticipated and burns the roof of her mouth.

‘Why do you say that?’

‘Oh, nothing.’

Amanda walks to the door.

‘Why, Amanda?’

Amanda pulls out another chip.

‘Because I saw Meredith Park going in there earlier.’

She leaves the chip shop and an open-mouthed Agnes.

 

~

‘Of course, she’ll sell it to us. No-one else is going to be interested. We should get it at a knock down price, too.’

Allen Gomez takes a swig of beer from the third can he has opened this evening.

‘I wouldn’t want to give Ethel less than it’s worth, Allen’, says Linda, dipping a large crisp into a tub of taramasalata.

‘That’s business, Linda. You should know that. You’ve been doing the course.’

‘There was nothing in the course to say we have to diddle an old lady.’

‘Diddle? Haha! Look, she wants to sell, we want to buy. She’s not going to sell it easily and we don’t have much money.’

‘But we would have if you applied for…’

‘Don’t mention the Banfield Business Committee again!’

‘Why? Why do you have a problem with them?’

Allen ignores Linda’s question.

‘As I was saying, there’s a price for everything and we need to make sure it’s a low one.’

Linda takes out another crisp, but she has lost her appetite.

‘I just want to pay her a fair price, that’s all, Allen.’

Allen takes another gulp of beer.

‘It will be a fair price. Fair to us. Now, let’s plan our strategy. Did you do that kind of thing on the course?’

~

Ethel trudges home from Clara’s, convincing herself that she has made the right decision. Billy would have liked to see the café become a nice restaurant and it is about time she retired. She knows her style of catering has become outdated and the business is failing, if only she dared admit it. Yes, she’ll speak to the Wards first thing in the morning. She might even try one of their strange coffees.

~

Agnes switches off the light and retreats to the upstairs flat. She has somehow managed to stop herself going round to the Stringers. How could he, she has asked herself many times. After he had sworn there was nothing going on with Meredith. And now, there they are, on the infamous ‘angler’s bed’ for all she knows. And the Stringers? What kind of people are they to let it go on in their house? And him an accountant! No, she won’t embarrass herself by going round there, tonight. She’ll wait until Cody arrives to work tomorrow. In a strange way, she’s almost looking forward to it!