Three hours later, when Norman’s patience became sufficiently exhausted for him to close the pub briefly in order to clean the bar, Jim Barnes and Miles Fenway stumbled out to the nets once more. In the foggy dying light of the day, arms rose in anger, bats swished through the air, like the weapons of ancient warriors at swordplay.
With seven pints of Spit and a couple of whisky chasers, Miles Fenway was inducted into the playing ranks of the Beulah cricket club and duly scheduled for the forthcoming fixture with Wye on the Minnis pitch, wickets pitched at two in the afternoon on May Day.
He stumbled home at six, feeling bloated and decidedly drunk. Alison surveyed him swaying by the back kitchen door, looking a little pathetic.
“You smell like a beer can stuffed with dead ciggies, darling,” she said sweetly. “Upstairs for a bath, now. If you’re sober I’ve got some pheasant in cream and cider on the go.”
“Bacon sandwich’ll do,” Miles said, slurring his words. She bought wonderful bacon these days, from Coopers down the hill. It sat in the frying pan and sang. No mess of water and white, plastic-looking foam.
“Your wish is my command. I’ll try to steer clear of vegetables or anything else that might mop up the beer.”
Miles stumbled and clutched the big pine table for support.
“God,” she said, “you are slaughtered, aren’t you? Do try and stay upright. I don’t want beer running out of your ears and staining the new carpet.”
“Boglocks indeed. Now run along.”
He didn’t move. Miles looked different. Frank Wethered had blabbed, she guessed. And Miles was just too drunk for an argument.
“I’m in the team,” he said in the end.
“Surprise, surprise. Did you ever doubt it?”
“Don’t be so bloody cynical,” he mumbled sourly. “Someone’s got to make an effort here.”
“You still sleeping in the spare room tonight?” he asked.
“Oh yes. For a little while. Be patient.”
“Spend all my fucking life being patient. That’s the truth of it.”
She wanted to kiss him on the cheek and send him packing. But it would be like planting her lips on an ancient, overflowing pub ashtray.
“Just a little longer.”
“Huh,” he snorted, and shuffled off to the stairs, his head alive with dreams of flailing bats and tumbling wickets.
(c) David Hewson 2012