The Siege of Charity Hall, as it become known in the village due to not very much going on, lasted a total of two minutes. By the time Jackson Lancaster and Joseph Lenin had rustled up enough coffin dodgers from the local pub into a shambolic mess to march on Beard and his Brexit-voting team, the hall had emptied out. All that remained was a sorry-looking plate of hobnobs and some half empty cups of lukewarm tea.
“Our first victory!” shouted Lenin, raising a triumphant fist. “Afeared as they are of the unstoppable forces of revolutionary fervour, the massed ranks of the stinking bourgeoisie have fled to their dungeons to plot the next scurrilous phase of their plan!”
“Nay, lad,” said Jackson, calmly urging his arm down. “If I know that fat bastid ‘ee’s buggered off t’pub where we came from.” Jackson spun on his heels and yelled to the crowd behind him, “OFF TO THE JUICER!”
With a lot of griping and grumbling the geriatric crowd shuffled around, and with a heroic amount of wheezing and choking, hauled themselves back to the warm pub they had recently vacated.
Cressida Lump was already engineering her own fightback against the forces of disunity.
“You lying bastard!” she yelled into the face of Wardon Grimly as she tried to force a sink plunger down his throat. “What on the face of God’s green earth gives you the right to print this SLANDER about me!” She smacked Wardon over his balding head with a copy of the Charity Gazette for emphasis.
“Freedom of speech!” gargled Wardon as he kept a firm grip on the handle of the plunger to stop it sucking his guts out. Cressida was short but she had arms like small tenements, and Wardon could well believe she had the strength to plunge his stomach lining out of his throat.
“Freedom of speech, my arse!” yelled Cressida. “For a start, I’m 43 – NOT 44 – like you LIED in your article! And I do not. Fucking. Swear!” She gave the plunger an extra hard yank before Wardon finally managed to break free and scuttle backwards away from her, finally coming up against a wall and picking up his only means a defence, a moulded inkwell and pen his old boss at The Mail gave him on the day of his retirement. He brandished it at Cressida limply.
“The bulk of the article was true,” he managed, trying to regain some dignity.
“Was it, balls!” yelled Cressida. “You asked me what I thought of Mayor Beard and I offered no comment! Yes, there may have been a few choice words passed between us, but that’s all. Not this… this…” Words failed her as she shook the Gazette at him, and then tore it in two.
Wardon watched the two halves drop to the floor and felt glad it wasn’t his neck.
Cressida brandished a finger at him. “Any more bullshit from you, Grimly, and this foot goes straight up your arse!” For emphasis, she jabbed a finger at her foot, and then spun imperiously around and stormed out with as much dignity as her fuming, middle aged anger would allow her. The front door slammed shut with an ear-splitting crash.
Grimly observed the torn apart newspaper he sweated over day and night (although mostly between the hours of 9 and 12 until the pub opened) and vowed to himself that a) if Cressida wanted a war of words then she would get one, and b) to get a stronger lock on his front door.
Lancaster and Lenin finally found their quarry propping up the bar at the Hound and Squire.
“You BASTARD!” yelled Lenin for want of a better introduction, jabbing a quivering finger at Mayor Beard as he hob-nobbed with the other members of the council. “It’s because of the likes of you we live in a land of austerity!”
“Oh, give over,” muttered Councillor Hartley-Smith as he appreciated a nice brandy in the gloom of the overhead lights. “If you want to know about austerity try pricing the cost of pheasant beaters.”
“You’re not adverse to a pretty penny yourself, young man,” twittered Marjory from beside him in what she hoped was a chiding but coquettish manner. She liked them young, and her sex dungeon hadn’t seen the light of day in donkey’s years.
“Listen to reason,” said Lancaster, edging into the bar and tipping the wink to Cooper behind the bar who was already laying the first of many ales down for what, if he stretched the debate out long enough, could be a very long and enjoyable night. “Now, I ‘as my trinket sellin’ business, for which The Foreigns provide me with much coin. An’ if we take that coin away, then I’ll have no trinkets to sell to them, and if I ain’t got no trinkets to sell to them, then I goes broke. It’s commerce, see?”
“COMMERCE!” boomed Beard, causing enough of a distraction for Lancaster to nip to the bar and down half his pint before the last syllable his finished echoing through the rafters. “COMMERCE is for traders, you snipe! You, sir, are a conman!”
“Aye, yes, that I can’t deny, but a conman who needs to eat,” nodded Lancaster, sweeping the rest of his ale down in one gulp as Cooper set him up with another.
“This isn’t about money!” said Lenin as he strode in and planted himself squarely in the middle of the room, hands on hips and feet spread heroically apart. He tilted his chin in a roguish manner and Marjory almost had a heart attack. “This is about the will of the people! This is about right and wrong! This is about putting an end to your INSANE plans to wall Charity off for your own benefit! This is about JUSTICE!”
“Very good, young man,” said Hartley-Smith, giving him a gentle round of applause. A few of the old sots in the darkest corners joined in.
“It’s also about sovereignty, you little anarchist,” said Beard. “If we let those sods in Brussels dictate how we run our council then we might get overrun. And if we get overrun, we run out of resources, and if we run out of resources we all end up living in penury, and I’m not selling my bloody stake in the village for Johnny Foreigner! No sir!”
“So, it’s outright racism, is it?” asked Lenin.
Beard narrowed him with a gimlet stare, chewed a bit of leftover veal caught in his teeth, and then cracked a smile which glittered faintly on his snake-like eyes.
“Joseph,” he laughed, setting his pint down and sweeping his arms wide to welcome him. Joseph stayed put. “It’s not what you think. The barrier is merely symbolic. It’s what you would call, a gesture.”
Just then the pub door opened and Yanis Kuchma appeared on the threshold.
“Beard!” he chimed. “Bloody good to see you, old mate! When do you want the wall built? Might take a while as it’s only me. I can probably get Harry the Tramp to help out, but he’s useless after his third turps.”
“Yanis, my old friend!” boomed Beard, sweeping past Joseph and scooping the small man up in his arms, only to swiftly negotiate him up to the bar and slide a sloshing shot of whisky into his already open hand. “As soon as you can, my old chum. Remember, the second those bricks start going up the second your pockets are full.”
“OI!” yelled Lenin.
“Bastard!” yelled Lancaster.
“Don’t mind them,” muttered Beard to Yanis. “They’re just jealous they didn’t get the contract.” He beamed a self-satisfied grin at the two.
Lenin was back to waggling a strident finger at Beard’s face. “You’ll regret this, you pumped up small town nobody!”
“It’s a village, actually,” said Beard.
“WHATEVER!” screamed Lenin, and then stormed out into the night.
“Teenagers, eh?” said Beard, despite the obvious fact that Joseph was in his mid-twenties. He turned back to Yanis. “Now, what sort of price are we talking…”
Joseph Lenin had never been so pissed off in his life. Well, maybe that one time when mummy wouldn’t let him purchase a Bugatti for his 18th birthday, but generally he was angrier than he’d ever been without his parents being part of the problem. Couldn’t that stick-in-the-mud small minded bigot see what was wrong with the whole concept of Brexit? You couldn’t wall off the village from the outside world. That was insane. The place needed those visitors to bring a bit of diversity to the place. And they weren’t exactly short of jobs. Farmer Diamond was gagging for help come the grape picking season, and if Beard cut off access to the outside populace, whatever commerce the village indulged in would be sent up the Suwannee. He needed to get an army together. He needed to fight back, by fair means or foul, if necessary, although foul would be preferable. He had a brace of heavy duty bangers from France he was gagging to use up.
“Oh, Joseph…” The voice was frail, and slightly out of breath, and came from the cemetery. For a second Joseph was convinced it was mummy come back from the dead to castigate him about his wanking habits, but Marjory emerged from the shadows with a sickly grin on her face. She battered her eyelashes at him.
“If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem,” grumbled Joseph.
“Oh, I‘m very MUCH part of the solution,” smiled Marjory. “You see, despite this somewhat… dowdy but alluring exterior I have, deep within me, the pounding heart of a revolutionary. All I need is someone to help me… pluck it out.”
“I am here to offer you a base of operations. Underground. I can be your snake in the grass, if you’d just… put your snake in my grass.” She was confusing herself now, trying to drag the dregs of seduction from the cobwebs in her mind.
Lenin hesitated. If he understood Marjory, she was offering herself as the inside woman. A double agent. And with the stacks of cash lining up in her bank balance Joseph was sure he could tap her for a few zlotys to help fund the revolution. But dare he do it? Dare he get into bed with the enemy?
Marjory, who was thinking of a different kind of bed entirely (for a start it wasn’t metaphorical, and this one had straps at each corner), waited patiently whilst the rusty cogs turned in Joseph Lenin’s mind.
Inside the Hound and Squire the debate was hotting up. Lancaster was on his fifth pint by now and Dutch courage was seeking to conquer civilities.
“If you close down’t borders we’ll be friggin’ DESTITUTE!” he wailed. “We ‘aven’t got much commerce in this ‘ere place, and you’ll friggin’ ROB US BLIND!”
“Now, now, my good man, it’s not a matter of money,” said Beard with an unctuous smile. “There is more to life than gleaning the odd shekel. This is about our independence, and if the government are too lily-livered to take control then, I’m afraid, it’s up to us.”
“But what about me?” wailed Lancaster, pausing only to knock back the second half of his pint seconds before Cooper slapped another one in front of him. “What ‘appens when’t trade dries up?”
“Trade will not dry up,” said Beard calmly. “Your pockets will not stay empty. We shall simply have a monitored border. And those who we deem fit to enter Charity will be allowed access – under strict guidelines, of course. Plenty of gullible tourists for your trade, my friend, but ones we know will be brimming with finance.”
“Bollocks.” The wind went out Lancaster. He knew the kind of people Beard entrusted with the safety of Charity’s borders. Big egos in a small village. A deadly combination. If Beard was intent on enacting his draconian measures, then Lancaster was damn bloody sure he would be the opposition. Lenin was a decent bloke, but he lacked the subterfuge required to overturn this pompous blowhard of a Mayor.
“Alright, then, Beard,” he conceded. “I guess you know what you’re doin’. If you need any ‘elp, you’ve got my number.”
“Good man,” said Beard. “Another ale?”
“Aye,” nodded Lancaster slowly, already scheming. “Another ale, indeed.”
Outside of the village, the local constable, Hardly Crawford, manned the barricade on the East side. There were four ways in, and all the roads were closed down and sectioned off. Yes, he was aware the recruits were blood thirsty weekend warriors with a political ideology to the right of that Trump fella, but he knew they loved taking orders and wouldn’t question his authority. He did, after all, have a uniform on.
“Constable Crawford!” That was Gimlet, a small and furious looking man with a forest for a beard and little stature to speak of. “We’ve got visitors!”
Crawford peered into the distance. Coming towards them was a small trail of vehicles. Black, shiny, and very, very official.
“Run back and get Beard,” he ordered Gimlet. “If I’m right, this could be trouble.”