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THE CHURCH FETE
Reverend Symes hung up the phone, and ran his long slender fingers through his thinning, grey hair, “Oh dear “he muttered in despair.
The tiles on the church roof badly needed repair, and the donations they had collected so far went nowhere near the cheapest quote. The church council needed another $2,500.00 to complete the restoration. Praying for a solution for weeks, all he had been able to come up with was Bingo. It was proving most popular with his parishioners. He had seen them down at the Bowl’s Club playing for the $1,000.00 Jackpot. He gingerly put the idea to the Bishop, but he was outraged by the suggestion. The Bishop didn’t think it was at all fitting for a Church Fete. The old boy hadn’t managed to come up with any other solutions though.
Knocking quietly on the study door, Mary, his long- time housekeeper, entered staggering under the weight of a big cardboard box. Surveying the pile of clothes, lamps, books and a large, dirty, scruffy old bear doubtfully, Rev. Symes thought the whole lot needed throwing out. The poor bear had one brown ear missing and his left eye hung precariously by a thread. The right eye was missing altogether, and he looked so sad and neglected. His once thick brown fur was flattened, and in some places he was bald.
With a loud disapproving sniff, Mary said, “Old Mrs. Steele’s niece donated this box of goodies from her Aunts deceased estate. Imagine that, she’s clearing out the house already to put it on the market. Poor lamb has only been dead a couple of weeks. Shame really, these young ones don’t waste time these days do they? “
Surveying the box with disdain, Mary said, “She didn’t give us anything valuable that’s for sure, just this rubbish. I suppose it saves her taking it all to the dump. Where do you want me to put it? ”
The Vicar was distracted by money- making schemes, and wasn’t paying attention to any of this. “Hmmm! Oh yes, put it anywhere I don’t care.” He said waving his hand vaguely. Exasperated, she stomped out of the study muttering under her breath.
The day of the Church fete arrived. Looking anxiously out of his bedroom window; Rev. Symes felt the mild breeze tickling his head. The sun warmed his face, and the brilliant blue sky was empty of clouds. It was a perfect day. He said a quick prayer of thanks. The local newspaper had given the fete free advertising as their donation towards the St Barnabas’s restoration fund. If this lovely weather holds up we should get a good crowd, the Vicar thought happily. The women in the guild had been working hard for weeks baking, sewing, making jams and sweets, sorting out the donations for the jumble sale, and generally getting everything ready for the big day.
After breakfast, he sat watching the workers setting up, while preparing his opening speech. There had been a few minor hiccups so far, the fortune-teller had left her crystal ball sitting on her kitchen table. Her son was sent home to retrieve it before the fete. One of the Scottish dancers had fallen and sprained her ankle during practice, but a replacement had been found.
By lunch time the crowds were starting to grow. The Vicar wandered around inspecting the various stalls, checking on how they were going and chatting with his parishioners.
“Good turn out Vicar, of course the lovely day helps doesn’t it?”
“Ah yes! Mrs. Marsh, the weather can make or break the fete as you well know.”
He continued on, inspecting the cake stall ,and the book stall, and was on his way to the jumble stall, when he came across a most extraordinary scene. There was a rather large, flamboyant woman, dressed in a garish orange dress that looked more like a tent. She was arguing loudly with a tall, silver-haired man wearing an expensive gray suit. They were at the Jumble Stall, and the object they were arguing over was the disreputable looking Teddy Bear.
“I saw it first, its mine” said the woman tugging harder at the bear’s leg. The Vicar wondered in alarm if the bear’s leg would come off at any moment.
“Madam, I can assure you, I was here first, and I intend to have this bear.”
“Don’t you know who I am? Harriet J Bloomfield! You must have heard of my shop, ‘All Things Collectable’ on Bay St.? ”
She glanced up at him to see if he had indeed heard of her, or the shop, and was suitably impressed by this knowledge.
Regarding her with distaste, he said, “Allow me to introduce myself madam. My name is Harold Bradford-Taylor, a specialist in rare Teddy Bears I don’t sell them to the highest bidder. Unlike you, I repair them and sell them to a good home where they will be loved.”
“I’ll give you $100.00 for it “said Harriet, turning to the stall holder who was staring at them with an open mouth.
“Mind you, I think that’s too much, but I’m prepared to be generous for a good cause.”
“$300.00 “said Harold Bradford-Taylor.
The Vicar couldn’t believe his ears. How astonishing that this dirty, scruffy old bear could be worth all this money.
“Now, now “said the Vicar nervously as a large crowd gathered to see what all the fuss was about. “ We should be able to settle this amicably.”
Ignoring him, they kept trying to outbid each other, to the astonishment of the parishioners who had no idea what rare Teddy Bears were worth, or indeed that it was a rare bear.
The bidding went up to $1500.00 very quickly, with neither side willing to give ground.
Harriet J Bloomfield was furious; she was used to getting her own way, usually by sheer force.
Gritting her teeth, she said, “That’s my final offer, take it or leave it.”
The Vicar thought this might make a good subject for his sermon tomorrow. Anger and covetousness, yes, that would be a good theme, it was hard to keep coming up with new ideas for sermons. He’d spent many a Saturday afternoon locked in his study trying to think of something to talk about. He hadn’t talked about the seven deadly sins lately.
Harold Bradford-Taylor said quietly “$2,500.00”
There was a loud collective gasp from the gathered crowd, and the Vicar nearly fell over with shock. His pulse started racing, and a sheen of perspiration appeared on his forehead. Oh dear, all this excitement really isn’t good for my heart he thought. That is exactly the amount we need for the roof repair. He found his fingers had crossed themselves in hope.
The stallholder hurriedly put the bear in a large brown paper bag in case Mr. Bradford – Taylor changed his mind.
Harriet kept opening and closing her mouth, speechless. A rare condition for her, remarked one wit in the crowd. Her face reddened, and she slammed her fist on the counter in rage. She stomped off in high dudgeon, to the cheering of the crowd who had taken quite a dislike to her. Mr Bradford – Taylor presented his cheque to Rev. Symes with a courtly bow. He picked up the paper bag with just the bear’s scruffy head peering lopsidedly out of the bag, and carried him gently away.
The Vicar watched him as he walked away, and he could have sworn the one -eyed bear winked at him. It must be all the excitement, he thought, my mind is playing tricks on me. I really will have to see the doctor first thing Monday morning.
THE END (C)