The church hall boasts its customary fête day smell; the mothballsy stink of old clothes from the jumble, stale buttercream from fairy cakes, offset by the faint parmesan stink of the wooden floor. It’s here, on Friday nights, that Sel’s twin ten-year-old daughters practise ballroom dancing barefoot. The women are fawning over the vicar, plying him with tea and French macaroons. Sel wants to snicker aloud at this cliché but knows the vicar is engrossingly handsome; a young thirty-something with bitumen black hair and big, brown beer-bottle eyes. If he was a woman he would; he knows he would. He drops Dai Tablet’s beans on the pasting table set aside for the annual Abergorki long veg growing society show, then goes back to the car for his cucumbers. Cucumbers are Selwyn’s thing: gently boomerang-shaped, smooth-skinned, a bright Islamic green. He’s won every September for the past five years. The smell of them, acidic and dusty, leaches out of the hatchback as he lifts the door. He heard once their scent is an aphrodisiac. But not for Susan; it’d take an earthquake to rouse her.
As he crosses the courtyard he sees Dai Tablet’s white box van approaching, the name of his chemist shop, ‘Pascoe’s Pharmacy’ decaled on its side. Dai pulls up in the parking bay, the stone chippings spluttering under his tyres. ‘Am I too late?’ he says, clambering out, a package wrapped in newspaper held to his waist. ‘Had to deliver an oxygen tank to the old girl on Tylecoch. You know what the one-way system’s like on a Saturday.’
‘You’re alright,’ says Sel. ‘There’s time to set up. What’s that?’
Dai pulls the parcel closer to himself. ‘Nothing,’ he says defensively. Then he changes his tone, grinning nervously. ‘It’s something new I’ve been experimenting with in the greenhouse.’ He drops the parcel to his side and presses his keys, the van locking behind him. ‘Come on,’ he hurries towards the church doors, the legs of his khaki corduroys rubbing together. Inside, Doug is setting his produce out on the crêpe tablecloth, carrots and leeks expertly arranged in a balsa wood fruit basket. He’s wearing his Cardiff Blues jersey which he knows irks Selwyn no end, lifelong Ponty fan that he is.
The full story is available in our new short story anthology, A Fiction Map of Wales, available to buy here:
Banner illustration by Dean Lewis