That night, their work all done, both men retired to rest from their exertions. Cecily sat in the lounge with her employer, darning onion nets whilst Tarquin had made his way to the guest hammock for a snooze.
Josiah appeared to be dozing upside down in his armchair. However, he was feeling more awake than ever. Partly he was excited about designing and building something new. Partly, he was slightly nervous in case an unsupervised peanut shell fell on his head if he actually slept. Partly, he worried if the speaking clock was in this evening.
But mostly he was worried about Cecily. She had not reacted as favourably as he had hoped to his kind, generous assistance of the glider pilot. Instead, she had gone from being off hand with him initially, then ignoring all he said until finally becoming cool and distant. Eventually, though, he had relented and let her come back into the main house again; she virtually leapt up the stairs from the freezing cellar. Now he was brooding. He shuffled around on the nest and thought about why Cecily had reacted this way. He had hoped to capture her love but instead he was being treated like a criminal. He suspected that her head had been turned by Tarquin and that her attention was focused upon him. What did that horrid little, handsome, brave, eligible, personable, charismatic and broad-shouldered man have that he didn’t?
He was shaken from his angry reverie by a peevish voice from the sofa.
“I know you are awake!”
“I wasn’t sure you were still talking to me,” he muttered.
“I am not,” she answered, “I am just letting you know that I know you are awake.”
He blurted “I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that you are awake! “
There was a silence. It was a terrible silence which showed nothing but disdain and malevolence and ingratitude and anger to the wider world. So terrible was it that it started and mobilised a popular political movement which involved the creation of some unsightly posters, a frightening slogan and a rather catchy Party anthem. It mastered public oration and held a mass rally right there on the hearth rug. Finally, the silence noiselessly announced that it was going to organise a sham election then swept from the room.
During the silence, Josiah had realised that he had spoken complete nonsense and shame had spread through him like a fire through a petrol-sodden match and firework factory.
"I hoped you would feel warmer towards me if I helped Tarquin," he grizzled.
"That's just it," she screeched. "You are so feckless..."
"Feckless! Look it up! You are so feckless that you would rather ride another man's coat tails to glory than find your own way there. You wonder why I am not attracted to you, yet you think that just doing something simple for someone that I quite fancy will turn my head. You need to man up. You know, make something of your life. "
Grunting, he pulled a large block of granite into the centre of the room. He erected a pair of steps and donned a smock. Pausing only to grab a hammer and bolster, he clambered the steps.
"You know I am trying to become a sculptor," he whined. Small chips of granite pattered to the floor as he tapped away ineffectually. Attempting to create more of an effect, he took a mighty swing and dropped both tools with a crash.
"It's an inspiration," yawned Cecily, whilst Josiah tumbled inelegantly back to the floor.
Getting back up, he fixed her with a scornful gaze.
“Come with us, then. Join us tomorrow morning for the launch. You will see then the love and perspiration I have put into making his dream come true. Why did I want to do that? “
In his question there was implied an answer. Suddenly, Cecily understood. Her face softened, all anger gone.
“It was for me, wasn’t it?” she asked, a sob in her voice.
Thinking quickly, Josiah thought better of his original and truthful answer about being paid and wanting to see the back of Tarquin. Instead, he thought of a cleverer and more cunning answer.
“Yes, anything that makes you feel happy, then I will do it for you.”
She smiled and sighed, although that just looked like she was suffering from indigestion.
“Say that you will come to the launch,” he begged.
“Of course I will,” she whispered.
“You what?“ he asked her.
“I said ‘Of course I will’!” she bellowed.
“Well, why did you whisper?“ he enquired.
“Him!” she screeched, pointing to an agent from the Maltese Secret Service, who was dressed in dark clothing and was crouched behind the sideboard that held all the spare table football equipment. The shadows fell just so, it was hard for Josiah to see the spy. Eventually, he discerned a shadowy figure.
“Who charcoaled 35.7 on that wall?” he asked, indignantly.
“No! Look to the right a bit!” Cecily told him rolling her eyes and juggling a trio of watering cans.
He looked and there! He could make something out.
“I can see a bunny!” he trilled with innocent joy. “Look, if you just focus on the shadow from the curtain and the flower, the scroll and the fern leaf from the wallpaper design, then let your eyes go sort of swimmy… “
“I need you to concentrate, “she huffed.
“Please don’t, I hate it when you huff. “
A man dressed all in black, well not all in black, but – let’s put it this way, his visible garments were black- stood up rather impatiently.
“Stop looking! I am here, just spying on someone in a film which is showing in a multiplex in Droitwich. Hide somewhere no-one would look they said. So, I chose this story but now my cover is blown and Gozo will take over the world. “
He left rather angrily.
Cecily and Josiah stood, neither knowing what to say for several moments.
“How many people got the Gozo joke, do you think? “
Josiah rubbed her shoulder, trying to reassure her.
“Not many, dear girl. Try not to distress yourself. “
The mist clung to the fields near to Cyril's Creek. It was early in the morning, the mist had been out all night but it was ok, there was no work for it later today. Trying to whisk it away, the sun was wheezing into the sky, wondering if there wasn't some easier way which no-one had told it about. There was no breeze, it was going to be a perfect day for gliding.
Deep in the mist, the sound of clanking, banging and sawing were not to be heard. You should have been here a few minutes ago, the countryside air had been filled with those sounds then. Now, there was just a couple of men's voices going to and forth as they obviously made minor adjustments to a glider launcher.
Let's not concentrate on them.
Instead let's go to the reedbeds. I hope you have some suitable footwear on. Here, amidst the waving stems, an angry and jealous being looked out at the proceedings. The dark eyes had focused on the man in the leather flying goggles for some time, narrowing with passionate and jealous rage. Here was the rival for the beautiful girl's affections. Behind the eyes, slitted in hate, the mind worked overtime about what to do now. Attack? Accuse? Advertise? Ok, not the last one-stuck on the 'A' theme a bit there. Just as it looked as though the red rage would take over, the watcher noticed two things. The first was that the rival appeared to be sitting in the funny wooden thing that had fallen to the floor, bringing him to the lovely girl's attention. That had to be a good thing, maybe there was no need to act.
Secondly, there was rather a plump frog nearby, just by a reed.
The secret watcher chose to do nothing about the man.
No sooner had this resolution been reached, then the voice of Cecily came through the mist seeking direction. Although the words weren't clear, the anxiety and tension were clear in her voice. Prickles of concern ran down the rather long neck of her concealed admirer. Yes, there was her grey outline. Was there any need to do anything? No, not just yet. Sit and wait, that was best. That was easy. Yes, sit and wait was what the watcher did best.
The eyes retreated back into the reeds.
Cecily finally found her way to where Josiah and Tarquin had been putting up the glider and the massive slingshot. Just as Cecily arrived by their sides, so the mist decided that enough was enough, stretched, yawned and drifted away to bed. Once back in its flat, a spacious studio affair on the South Bank of the River Thames, it set its alarm. Feeling somewhat insubstantial and rather grey, it resolved to be earlier to bed for a couple of days. Then, after gratefully slurping the cup of tea it had bought from Vlad's Tea and Stake stall, it settled down to sleep.
The effect of the mist leaving was that it encouraged the sun to make an effort. Its warm rays caught the orange paintwork of the frankly silly wingless glider and the whole mechanism became clear.
"Why have you brought an almond croissant out here?" Cecily asked.
"No! It's the glider..." Josiah's anguished voice broke off in frustration.
Whilst Josiah was looking on the floor, crawling about on his hands and knees, Tarquin led Cecily on a tour of the construction.
"This is, er, the front end. Here in the middle is where, well, I shall sit here and pilot. And this is the back end."
He went on to point out the quince peeler, bottle rinser and mountain proximity alarm. The last was a terrified looking porcupine whose nerves were not what they had once been and tended to panic at anything untoward. He had been given the name Wilhelm. Nobody knew why.
At last, his voice restored, Josiah stood back up.
"The weather is perfect, let's set up a trial flight."
"Rightho!" brayed Tarquin.
He grabbed Cecily by her shoulders. Looking her in the eyes, noble devotion written across his face, mouth set stern and heroic.
"Please wait for me, Cecily," he whispered.
"You what?" She enquired irritably, "I can't understand you with your mouth all stern like that."
"I said 'I rather enjoy a soft, luxurious fudge'."
"Are you sure that's what you said last time?"
He laughed condescendingly, "Yes, it's just no-one, not even the author, could really hear me. Now then, I must be away!"
The two men discussed the flight path, swivelling the launcher to and fro until they were satisfied with the direction. In the end, bearing in mind the direction of the wind as well as a faint sound of a mischievous pile of macaroni due East, they decided upon a flight path that they could agree on. Out over the lake, across the nearby open-air gasworks until coming to rest just before the nearly nearby National Clam-Racing Stadium.
As he wound the propulsion unit, Josiah muttered “Mustn’t overdo this. Going over the stadium with those updraughts and them thermals could be fatal. I should have added a vest guard to the port side.”
He finished winding, licked his finger and held it up to the breeze. From the feel of the air, there was definitely a breeze.
Meanwhile, Cecily and Tarquin were talking.
“I am ashamed, my lovely Cecily. I have not been completely honest with you. “
“In which way? “ the object of his affections and his binoculars enquired earnestly, shredding a tractor tyre with anxiety and her bear hands.
“I wasn’t commenting on my love of fudge at all earlier. Instead,” he continued meekly, “I asked you to wait. I should love it if you would.”
Ugh, what a despicable bit of dialogue. Whilst we reel from it and Josiah tests the wind and the two young things share noble thoughts which I would rather saw my fingers off than record, something is happening to the launcher. A gangly figure, unseen, is tampering. It loved a good tamper, it hadn’t had a tamp for weeks. The figure thought guiltily about the promises it had made at the last session of Tamperer and Meddlers Anonymous but pressed on anyway, any way.
It was a lapse of a promise that would change all their socks. Oh, and their lives, but the sock bit was more dramatic. Remember the socks, dear reader, remember the socks…