The Fair Maid and Falcon is one of the busiest pubs in the south of England, and quite enough for one woman to run without the complication of a husband who finds it impossible to say no…
It was all the vicar’s fault. She went on a pilgrimage to Oberammergau and came back fired with almost missionary zeal. The parish should, she declared, put on a walking Nativity play. I regarded the whole idea with mild scepticism and tactfully removed my susceptible spouse from her orbit so he shouldn’t be infected with enthusiasm for this madcap scheme.
But I was too late, he had already caught the bug. He came home from a meeting that was ostensibly to discuss maintenance of the churchyard with the sort of spring in his step that I knew had nothing to do with mowing between gravestones.
As soon as lunch service was over, I beckoned him into my office.
“Okay Benny, what you got the wind up your tail about?”
He shuffled his feet a bit and looked shamefaced. It was all I could do not to laugh, but I kept my own face straight and waited.
“I’m waiting, Ben.”
He came and sat on the corner of the desk.
“How come I can never get anything past you?”
I laughed up at him. “Could it not be just because I love you?”
“No. It’s witchery. And where are the gruesome twosome.”
“Your daughters are at nursery as you know perfectly well. Now stop trying to distract me and fess up.”
“It’s the walking Nativity thing. I might have said that they can finish the story in the barn here.”
“Might have said?” By now I was having extreme difficulty not giggling out loud, but I was determined not to let him off the hook quite yet.
He spread his hands. “It’s your own fault, you never came and protected me. And the vicar and the W.I. ladies ganged up on me.”
That tore it and I laughed until I was breathless. I calmed down to find Ben watching me with the kind of exaggerated patience I normally only get from our German Shepherds.
“Sorry Benny, it’s just that crafty old theologian having the nous to set Mrs Partridge on you.”
He sighed. “Why am I so scared of the chair of the W.I.?”
“I dunno, babe. Maybe it’s the blue hair.”
He thought about that for a moment then shook his head. “No. I reckon it’s the half glasses, and buttressed bosom, and the cardigans. My infant teacher was like that and we were all scared shitless of Miss Weeks.”
I patted him consolingly. “Never mind. Just tell me what you agreed to.”
He actually hung his head. “I ain’t agreed to anything. Except… A meeting here Thursday morning at eleven. Jack Ellis is of the opinion you are going to kill me.”
I sighed. “Tempting though it is to put period to your miserable existence, I couldn’t do without you. But why, specifically am I about to wring your handsome neck for you right now?”
“Because the whole fucking thing is a shambles, and if somebody with superior organisational skills don’t take it in hand…”
He took one look at my face and fled.
When I had stopped swearing and kicking furniture I had a bit of a think. The idea, when it occurred to me was so beautiful in its simplicity that I could feel a smile replacing my frown.
To be continued tomorrow…