EPISODE 76 - A PROBLEM SHARED IS STILL A PROBLEM
by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes
David Ward shuffles in his chair, before coughing to gain the attention of the gathering in the snug.
‘Now that Frank’s back and we are all feeling suitably ashamed of ourselves, does that mean I am no longer the Chair?’ All eyes turn to Frank Watson, then to David, before finally resting on Cody, who shrugs.
‘No, no, David. You remain the Chair of this sub-committee. Of course, any final decision on action to be taken will need to be approved by the Parish Council, which I continue to lead.’
‘Of course,’ says David, ‘we wouldn’t have it any other way.’
Cody is unsure whether David is being sarcastic but, given Frank’s recent and wholly out-of-character vulnerability, he decides to accept the comment as genuine.
‘First, we have to decide what action we should take,’ says David, looking around the room.
Ken Taylor begins to speak, but Frank raises a hand to stop him. Ken grunts.
‘You have an idea, Ken?’ asks David.
‘Not really. Carry on,’ says Ken, his voice weakened by disappointment.
A few seconds of silence follow while everyone wonders what Ken’s idea might have been.
It is Cody who makes the next suggestion.
‘What about if we do what those protesters in London do?’
‘Say more,’ urges David.
‘We sit in the road, peacefully of course, until the police drag us off.’
‘Then we sit in the road again. The police will get fed up of moving us.’
‘Won’t we get arrested?’ asks Sally.
‘I don’t think so, if we are peaceful.’
David sucks in his cheeks.
‘I’m not so sure about that Cody. If we are causing an obstruction…’
‘That’s the point,’ exclaims Cody enthusiastically. ‘We are there to cause an obstruction!’
‘But not to get arrested,’ says David, calmly. ‘Does anyone know the law relating to this? Frank?’
Frank shakes his head.
‘Anyone?’ David looks to everyone in the room in turn, but is met with blank faces.
Then, Ken Taylor slowly raises his hand.
‘Ken, you have some knowledge in this area?’ says David, more in hope than expectation.
‘No, I’m afraid I don’t. But I do want to say that if you are planning on sitting down on the road for a long stretch of time, then count me out.’
David raises his eyebrows.
‘Do you have a moral objection to peaceful obstruction, Ken?’
‘Then why don’t you want to sit on the road with us?’
Ken’s face reddens.
Agnes is drinking tea in Jasmine’s lounge.
‘It’s a lovely place you have here, Jasmine. You’ve done well for yourself.’
‘I suppose we have. We’ve both had good careers. Well, Derek still has his. I left work when I had Kim and never went back.’
‘Do you miss it?’
Jasmine looks at Kim, sitting at her newly found grandmother’s feet.
‘Not at all. I decided to stay at home and spend as much time with Kim as I could.’
Agnes looks down into her teacup.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ says Jasmine, putting her hand to her face, ‘I didn’t mean…’
Agnes nods. ‘It’s alright, love. I know what you mean. There are many times I wish…anyway, there’s plenty of time to go over that, later.’
‘So, tell us about Cody,’ says Derek.
Agnes puts her cup down on the coffee table. She tells Derek, Jasmine and Kim all about Cody and her son, Adam, the chippy and a little about Leeford Village. Derek and Jasmine have many questions and Agnes is delighted that they are taking such an interest.
‘Are you old?’ asks Kim, at one point, which makes them all laugh.
Several more cups of tea are drunk and Derek leaves for the kitchen, returning with plates of sandwiches and cake. After tea, Kim takes herself off to bed, not before planting a quick kiss on Agnes’ cheek.
‘What a lovely girl,’ says Agnes, once Kim has reached the top of the stairs.
Jasmine smiles. ‘She has her moments, but we love her to bits.’
Derek nods in agreement.
The room falls silent while the three of them gather their thoughts. It is Jasmine who breaks the silence.
‘Have you told Cody about me, yet?’
Agnes bites her top lip. ‘He’s only just found out about me being a Kiss-O-Gram in a past life.’ She laughs, nervously.
Derek frowns. ‘This is no time for levity, Agnes. Why haven’t you told him about Jasmine?’
Agnes, sensing a change in atmosphere, wrestles with her thoughts.
‘I just don’t know how to, Derek. It’s not easy.’
‘No one’s saying it’s “easy”, says Jasmine, ‘none of this is “easy”’.
Agnes closes her eyes. ‘I know, love. I do know. And I will tell him. But, right now, let’s enjoy tonight. It’s so good to meet you. All of you.’
Jasmine looks at Derek, then quickly leaves the room.
Agnes rises from her chair.
‘No, Agnes. Not now.’
Cody slips off his shoes and flops down in his chair. He is about to switch on the television when he sees Mel standing in the doorway.
‘Oh, hello. I thought you’d gone to bed. Come and sit down.’
Mel sits on the sofa and sighs.
‘Oh, dear. That’s someone with the world on their shoulders.’
‘Yeah. You could say that.’
Cody smiles. ‘A problem shared?’
Mel sighs again.
‘Nita’s the problem.’
‘Suptra’s niece. She’s been round here. Gave me a right mouthful. Understandable, I suppose.’
‘Dare I ask what she said?’
‘She said Suptra has taken to his bed. He hasn’t eaten for three days, apparently.’
‘Oh dear, sounds like he’s got lovesickness and he’s got it bad.’
Mel sinks back into the chair. ‘What do I do, Cody? I’ve been so stupid. I mean, it’s never going to amount to anything is it?’
‘Stranger things have happened, Mel. But, you’re probably right. Why did you…I mean, what made you…what was it about Suptra?’
Mel leans towards Cody, which unnerves him, given his past, relatively recent experiences with women.
‘I fall in love easily, Cody. Too easily. Someone only has to flatter me and I think they’re seeking a relationship. It’s always been a problem, ever since I was a teenager.’
‘I see,’ says Cody, wishing he’d gone straight to bed after returning from the meeting.
‘No, you don’t! You don’t see at all! I mean, you and Agnes, well, it’s a marriage made in heaven, isn’t it?
Cody purses his lips.
‘We’ve had our ups and downs, but our marriage is strong. I think we’ll last at least another week.’
The joke is lost on Mel.
‘I wish I could say the same about me and Steve. Poor Steve. First it was…oh, never mind. Enough of my love life. Anyway, where is Agnes? I haven’t seen her all day.’
Cody is wondering who the ‘first’ was, but is so relieved at the change of subject he decides not to ask.
‘I don’t know where she is, actually. She said she was going away for a couple of days to “recharge her batteries”, whatever that means.’
‘And you accepted that? You’re very trusting, Cody.’
‘Agnes has never given me cause not to trust her, Mel.’
‘That’s good Cody. Well, let’s hope she’s having a good time, “recharging her batteries”’.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Nothing. I’m sorry, I’m just being stupid. It’s this Suptra business, it’s really messing with my mind. I’m off to bed.’
When Mel has left the room, Cody switches on the TV. He starts to watch a film that has been playing for five minutes, but finds it difficult to concentrate. The meeting in the snug had ended in total disagreement about how to proceed with the protest, (not before Ken Taylor had shouted out ‘newts!’, glared at Frank Watson, then thumped his fist on the table on his way out of the room). He is still wondering who Mel’s ‘first’ was and feeling sorry for Suptra lying in his bed, pining. Is he being complicit in his and Mel’s affair by letting her stay in his house, he thinks? But it’s Agnes’ whereabouts that is topmost in his mind. He can trust her, can’t he? She’s Agnes, after all. But then his thoughts turn to the uniforms in the chest and a knot forms in his stomach. Is this Agnes’ payback for his dalliance with Meredith from the gift shop across the road, even though nothing happened? He ponders these questions before drifting into a fitful sleep.
Jason Owens sits at his desk. He takes a pencil from the drawer and taps it on the A4 narrow-lined pad in front of him. For the past few days, he has been formulating ideas about his book, based on Leeford and its characters, but set in a fictional Cornish village. There’s lots to write about, but he knows he has to be careful that the stories are not too close to the truth, in case he finds himself at the end of a libel suit. One thread, the part that will be the easiest to write, will be the feud with his brother, which is showing no sign of being resolved, despite a brief hiatus. But that’s not the place to start, he thinks. The place to start is the story he was told twenty-two years ago. The story which he has been unable to tell before now, now that George Dennis has left the village. The story no one else, not even his brother knows. The story that, when it comes out, will change the village forever.