Art Pact 189 - Curry Favour


"Well, you can try to curry favour with him if you like, but I wouldn't recommend it."

"What do you mean?"

"He's - you know, one of those types. Contrary."

"Contrary?"

"Doesn't like to be manipulated," said Alice. "Thinks he's independent. Very suspicious about anyone trying to get in good with him, even if it makes sense. He'd cut of his nose to spite-"

"-his face, I see, I see. I understand."

"That Missus Dalstow from number five, her with the head, you know?"

"Oh, with the head, yes I know the one you mean."

"That's right. She tried to butter him up once at a council meeting."

"She works for the council? That can't be right."

"Not the council-council. The parish council. They have meetings in the church hall every third Tuesday."

"Oh, I see."

"She tried to get him to agree to her idea for the fete, and she thought it would be wise if she played up to him a bit, complimented him on his book."

"Ah."

"Didn't work, for all the effort she put into it. She was-"

"Wait a second," said Bobby, holding her hand up. "Did you say every third week? Like, the third week of the month?"

"No no, every third - you know, three weeks apart. I mean, two weeks off, then a meeting. You know what I mean."

"Yes, no, I got that. I was just surprised. Why not have it once a month? It's almost the same thing, surely."

"Almost, but not quite. It's always been that way, back since the last bishop. He was a numerologist, or a numberonomist or something. He was always going on about the holy trinity this, the holy trinity that. He was trinity obsessed."

"I suppose he was a bishop."

"Yes, they're funny like that. Very tall, I remember - that was before your time, of course. Oh, I mean before you moved here."

"I was about to say! Hold young do you think I am?" Bobby batted her companion on the arm.

"You're only as old as the man you feel," Alice quoted, and they both laughed for a moment, finally sighing and wiping at their eyes. "Precious little of that these days, I'm afraid!"

"Oh, is your Andrew still not...?"

"Don't talk to me about it. We've been to the doctor this week again, he's as useless as ever. Why don't we go and see that Dr. Chowdry, I tell him, she knows which end is up. But he's resolute. Too embarrassed to show it to a woman doctor. Dr. Chowdry's a married woman, I keep telling him, she's seen it all before. Perhaps not in that colour scheme, but she's been a doctor for ten years so I wouldn't rule that out either, you know what I mean?" She nudged Bobby, laughing hysterically.

"Poor you. You want to get yourself a toy-boy, you do. Look at Rachel Billerby - she's been seeing that young chap from the swimming pool."

"She never has!"

"I heard it from Minnie," Bobby confirmed, counting out the connections on her fingers: "she heard it from Kate Miller, and she heard it from that Mr. Adams who lives by the leisure centre. The one with the curtains."

"He saw them, did he?"

"He saw them leaving the place together, going to his car."

"Mr. Adams's car?"

"No no, the swimming instructor's car. He'd have had a bit more of a story to tell if they'd stolen his car to have their ends away in, now wouldn't he? You'd have heard that on the evening news, I don't doubt."

"He always was very proud of his car, was Mr. Adams. You didn't know him when he had the princess, of course, back in the old days. Always out there cleaning it, he was, wouldn't let Mrs. Adams lay a hand on it."

"Mrs. Adams?"

"Oh yes, he was married. Course, he drove her away. Literally, she said to him one day Thomas, I cannot live with you any more. You're taking me to see my mother, and I'm going to stay there. He argued with her, of course, but what could he do? He loaded her and her jigsaws and the cat all up in the back of the princess and he drove them to Milton Keynes and left her with her mother. Ten weeks later he hears that she's shacked up with someone she met on her Open University course, and he's not been the same ever since. I think he'd decided that he'd go and get her back in the princess, and when she didn't come back he drove it into a wall outside the Asda."

"Where the railings are now?"

"Exactly where the railings are now - that's why, you see! Railings are cheaper to replace if some broken-hearted middle-aged man drives a British-Leyland princess with all the options into it."

"Ah. Well, I suppose that's what the world's like now. It's all about money."

"Exactly. Anyway, I would say that's why he's so interested in Rachel Billerby's doings. Probably reminds him of his own wife sneaking around on him - not that she actually did sneak around on him, but you know what I mean."

"Quite. It's a terrible thing, leaving your husband, but we can't lump that in with someone who runs off to sow her wild oats with a man ten years younger than her who sits around in his underwear for a living, now can we?"

"My Darren said he fell in the deep end once and he didn't even dive in to rescue him. Too busy talking to some young chippy at the other end in a two-piece. Shouldn't be allowed, if you ask me. Too distracting."

"Terrible! How was you Darren. Did he drown?"

"Only a little bit, but one of his friends pulled him out in the end. Gave him the kiss of life, which goes to show that Albert was wrong - they really were practising it that time he walked in on them in the garage."

"Ahhh." They stood for a second in silence, then Bobby scratched her head. "How did we get on to this?"

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