Beads of sweat started to produce on his forehead. First around his temples and then in patches across his brow and forehead. He slipped his hand into his jacket side pocket and pulled out an off-white handkerchief. As he brought his hand up towards his face his eye caught the embroidered letters of M.B in an aged green color.
She was the reason for the panic attack he was trying to get under control.
He wiped his brow and then ran the handkerchief across his eyes to catch the beginning of a few tears of sadness.
“Are you feeling okay Jerry?”
Jerry turned his head towards the voice. “Do you want me to help you Mr. Brown?” the soft-spoken voice asked. That was the village hall secretary Fiona. She was sitting behind one of those desks that kids have at school these days. Two plastic containers placed in front of her. One for the ticket stubs and the other for any monetary contributions by the villagers as they made their way into the hall.
“I’m fine Fiona.Thanks.” “No need to worry, it’s just that, well, it’s been a while.”
He took a step backwards to let the Smither family enter the main hall. Fred Smither was the local farmer. He was a good man, liked his drink but not too much. His wife and three children were a credit to him.
“Evening Jerry, good to see you,” Fred said as he placed his hand on his shoulder.
“Evening Mr. Brown.” Felicity his wife said with a contagious smile. “Say hello to Mr. Brown children.”
He smiled and waved affectionately as they filed past him. Once again, he found himself in the same place standing in front of the double doors.
Behind the double doors was the beginning of their annual commemoration. Every year the villagers in the Cotswolds would hire out the village hall and invite all to come and enjoy themselves. They had a buffet with finger food lined up against the back wall. They entertained themselves with some barn dancing. They also had an open bar. The local vicar didn’t approve of the open bar but Ted the proud landlord of the Golden Lion gave him reassurances that there wouldn’t be a repeat of last year. The vicar was voted down 5 to 1 by the others on the village committee, and so we kept the open bar.
He could see that the majority of the village had already arrived. The local high street shop owners were on one side, drink in hand. They’d had a tough year. One of those large chain supermarkets had been built about 15 miles away from the village and they were starting to feel the pinch. They had rallied round with a petition to get the construction stopped but to no avail. Who’s going to listen to a village consisting of 100 when their hight street consists of a butcher, baker, and a candlestick maker. They had families of 4, 2 and 5 respectively. That was a lot of mouths to feed, over 10 percent of the whole population.
The convenience store on the corner next to the Golden Lion had been passed down the family to young Eric. He was making a go of it, and he was the young determined fire-breather behind the petition. But to no avail.
On the other side was a group of teachers from the local school doing last minute rehearsals with their few but very well turned out pupils. I heard that they were putting on a small performance for us. There were only 11 children in the whole school. The school had three part-time teachers in all. They were having their budget cut, so it would be down to 2 at the beginning of the next term.
Tonight though was not for depressing realities of life, but rather a celebration of village life. Yet, Jerry was not able to enter into the celebrations because he was still stood where he had been for the last 10 minutes.
M.B. had been Jerry’s wife, Mabel Brown. She had been Jerry’s rock. She had loved to come to the village hall every year. They would dance, laugh and get a little tipsy from some of Fred Smithers’ home-brew. Mabel had never approved of over drinking. Elderberry wine, Mabel loved elderberry wine and Jerry had loved Mabel.
Yet, Mabel had passed away 18 months ago after a long battle with illness. He had cared for her in those last months, but he knew he was no nurse. When he had to move her every few hours to stop bed sores he had tried to do with the utmost gentleness. But he couldn’t do anything gentle with those shovel hands of his. Mabel never complained.
He had bought a ticket for this party with the intention of using it to move forward in his life. That’s what Mabel would have wanted him to do. He’d driven into town three days ago so that he could get his sports jacket dry cleaned and his shoes resoled. This would be the first public engagement that Jerry had attended since that day.
“Mr. Brown. Would you like me to open the door for you?” It was Fiona the secretary again.
“That’s very kind of you,” Jerry smiled painfully. He didn’t like being pushed. He started to sweat again.
The door seemed to ever so suddenly creak very loudly as if it was a trumpeter announcing the arrival of someone very important. And, it had done just that. The doors squeaking and then being held open for those few seconds had caused a bit of a breeze to blow through, and this had brought the attention of the party goers to Fiona standing with the door open for me.
Jerry saw Fred and his wife, Edith, Eric and Ted from the local Golden Lion. They looked at me and smiled, ready to clasp a hand into mine and welcome me like I hadn’t been away.
His breathing increased, and now he was sweating down his back and his palms were sweaty. Jerry could sense that he was beginning to crumple up my flat cap. Mable had bought that for me on our 45th wedding anniversary. They never made it to Gold.
Jerry looked at Fiona. “I’m sorry. Maybe next year.” Jerry turned from the spot that he had occupied for the past 15 minutes and walked towards the entrance dropping a rather sodden and crumpled £10 note into the second of the two plastic containers.