Friday, 17 July 2015

Howard's Way

As the nights start, noticeably, to draw in and despite the occasional heat our thoughts turn to winter and the coming yuletide season – only twenty-three Fridays to Christmas, don’t you know – it’s easy to write off the year as almost done. But as the world turns and the big events fill our media horizons we forget at our peril that the real meaning of life and all its mysteries lies much closer to home…

One summer evening, in a state of some agitation, Jed jumped aboard his tractor, rumbled out of the yard and headed out onto the winding single track country lane. Over the dual-carriageway he went, barged through a gate into a field of young barley and drove diagonally across the crop before flattening another fence, turning into another narrow farm lane leading, eventually, to Sunnybrook farm where he pulled to a stop by the cow shed. The brook, obligingly, twinkled in the late, low sunshine, flecks of reflected gold lighting up Jed’s features, even creased as they were into a deep scowl.

He strode up to the door and hammered on the knocker. After a few minutes a young boy opened the door and stood there, blinking at his neighbour. “Is your dad home?” demanded an impatient Jed. “No sir” said the boy, “it’s market day. He went into town.” Jed thought for a moment and then enquired, “Well, is your mother here?” The boy looked nervous, sensing his reply would be less than adequate but told him anyway, “No sir, she went into town with Dad.” Jed wasn’t happy. The two stood there, gazing at each other across the threshold.

Jed’s complexion turned a slightly more vexatious shade of puce as he cleared his throat and asked, in a measured tone, “How about your brother, Howard? Is he at home?” The reply seemed inevitable when it came. Brother Howard was, of course, at market with the parents, helping with the stock and no doubt now propping up the bar with his friends, as was the custom. But the young lad wanted to be helpful so decided to step up and be the man of the house; business was, after all, business. “Can I help you?” he asked. “I know where all the tools are, I know where the key for the combine is, or if you like, I can take a message for when dad gets back?”

Postcode, O-R-O-R...

“Well” replied Jed, a little uncomfortably, “I really wanted to talk to your dad. It’s about your brother Howard getting my daughter, Rosie, pregnant.”

An uneasy silence descended. The boy looked pensive and Jed looked embarrassed. Eventually the boy piped up. “Well,” he said “You really would have to talk to dad about that.” Jed nodded agreement and was about to say his farewells and leave when the young ‘un continued: “I know he charges £500 for the bull and £1000 for the stallion… but I have no idea what he charges for Howard.”  

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