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Tea  and  Mrs. Caldecote


Peter Stockwell

All night there had been the sound of music from across the valley. There were moving lights, squeaks and squeals, a bonfire flickering in a field, the thump, thump of a base. John looked out, pulled the blankets over his head and failed to sleep. Downstairs Jem, his Labrador wuffed in her basket, disturbed by the noise carried on the wind. Dawn was a long time coming.

Tired but wide awake, John opened the curtains and breathed the early summer air. There was a new scent which reminded him of the south. Like when he was visiting vineyards in France. He looked out over Hundred Acre Field, the oilseed rape was just coming into bloom. Maybe it was that. He’d expected the usual acrid, eye watering, smell which made him unpopular in the village. Still, he’d become even less popular since he’d fixed up the signs, ‘GM EXPERIMENTAL FIELDS KEEP OUT’. A man had to make a living, specially with retirement round the corner.

He washed and went downstairs to get breakfast. Jem woke and vaguely thumped her tail. It was going to be a good day. Labradors always expected a good day.

“Morning, girl.” said John.  As he was eating there was a knock at the door.

“Come on in.” he shouted. Mrs Caldecote, his cleaner, clattered into the kitchen. She was a big, middle- aged woman with brown eyes and unlikely blond hair. Usually she would be wearing old work clothes but today she was in tight jeans with very little under her tee shirt.

“Going out, lass?” asked John through a mouthful of toast.

“No, thought I’d give you a treat,” she said, “it’s a nice day for it.”

The back door was open,  Jem got to her feet, stretched and wandered off purposefully.
“Where’s she going?” said John.

“Been shut up too long. Shall I start in the bedroom?”                                           

“Start where you like lass, make yourself a cup of tea.  I’m off to get a paper and  some milk.”

John jumped into his old mud splattered Land Rover and headed for the village. He passed Maisy Brown’s cottage. Her daughter Lucy was leaning over the gate, a loose top slipping off one shoulder. She waved as John slowed for the junction.

“Want to see my rabbits? Mum’s out for the morning.”

“No thanks, work to do.”

He parked outside the Post Office. Even in the village that scent was in the air. Somehow he was feeling younger and more alert. He heard women laughing inside. A teenage lad came out red faced.

“Don’t go in there,” he said, “they’ll eat you alive.”

John opened the white plastic door. There was a counter with a rack of papers and magazines on one side. The post office section was to the right,  a hand written sign said ‘Closed’. Other shelves held supermarket goods. Posters for village events and bus timetables were pinned on a wall. Three women stood at the counter giggling over a magazine. One looked up. “ Hullo, it’s John. We’re getting them all shapes and sizes today.”  The giggles increased.

John glanced over their shoulders and saw pictures of men in various stages of undress.

“You like  putting out an SOS ?”   He smiled at the Post Mistress, a woman of about forty with greying hair, “I’ll have a pint of milk and the Mail please.”

“Anything else you want ?” she asked.

“No, thanks.”

“Pity,” said one of the others, “any port in a storm.” More giggles.

John paid and left. Crossing the road he saw Jem the Labrador, followed attentively by a whippet. “Jem! Here Jem!” he called. She ignored him and vanished round a corner.

Driving past Pratt’s Farm he heard the chatter of a power mower beyond the hedge. Mrs Pratt was busily pushing it up the garden in a bikini. He looked away, but not before she had given him a wave. In his mirror he saw that she was still looking after the car waving and making tea drinking gestures. He accelerated up the hill wondering what the devil was going on. The scented air coming through the window made him think of far off  Springs when he was a youngster. Those were the days. He wondered what had happened to young Sal. He’d  liked Sal a lot.                                            

Back at the farm George, his handyman, had just arrived.

“Sorry I’m late, guv,” he said, rubbing a hand sheepishly through ginger hair, “the missus must have reckoned it was the weekend.”

“Did you come straight here?” asked John.

“Course I did. I’m an hour late.”

“I’ve just been in the village. The women are going berserk. Looking at porn magazines, taking their clothes off. Even Mrs Pratt, for God’s sake. Now my dog’s at it. What’s going on?”

“That right? Explains a few things that does,” George grinned.

“But why?  They aren’t like that. Except Suzy and we all know about Suzy. What’s different to last week? What’s done it?”

“Well, the rape’s in flower. Bit of a funny smell if you ask me. Told you to watch that new fangled seed we put in.”

John slapped his hand to his forehead, “The rape! That smell reminded me of a few things myself. I’ve got to ring the company.”

He went into the house. There were noises and singing coming from upstairs, Mrs. Caldecote sounded busy. He looked in his diary and dialled the number of the seed company.

“May I speak to Harry Lucus? It’s John Stone from Thirty Pence Farm.”

“He’s out,” said the girl on the line.

“I need him urgently, may I speak to his secretary ?”

“She’s out, too. I’ll say you called.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll try him at home, I’ve got the number,” said John through gritted teeth.

He rang again, “Harry, sorry to call you at home, it’s John Stone,” faintly in the background there was a woman’s voice.

 “Another one? Get rid of him.”

“What’s the problem?” said Harry.

“Are you having trouble with the rape? I know you have a trial at your place.”

Harry laughed, “It depends on what you call trouble. I’ve suddenly become very popular around here. You’re not the first to call, a few people have had, er, difficulties. We think it might be the pollen. My guys are looking at it. I’ll call you back.” John just heard, “Harry come here,” as he put the phone down.

The sounds from upstairs had stopped. John reckoned it was time to change into his work clothes and give George a hand.

He climbed the stairs and, through the open door, could see into his bedroom. Mrs Caldecote was lying on the bed her tee shirt pulled up to reveal an impressive bosom.

“Hello luv”, she said, “got a bit hot and thought I’d lie down. Come and join me, you look like you need a rest.”

For a moment John thought what a fine figure of a woman she was and where’s the harm, but then he turned tail and ran down the stairs two at a time and out of the house.

“George !,” he shouted, “Quick!  Get the tractor out we’re going to plough up Hundred Acre Field.”

Bio: Peter Stockwell  is  an architect and writer living in the UK. He has had his work published in numerous magazines and anthologies.He is at present working on a children's book.