Jack closed the kitchen door quietly, but his attempt at stealth had failed. Kitty was standing by the window with folded arms and tapping foot. “What’s in that trailer?” she snapped.
“Oh, hello, dear,” Jack puffed. “I’m just going to put the kettle on. Do you want something?”
“Not until you tell me what you’re up to.”
They sized each other up for a few seconds. Should he come clean now? Or was it better to wait until she had calmed down?
“I went to the auction in Stow,” Jack said at last. “Some really nice stuff, actually. Mostly too expensive for us. There was some lovely furniture, looked like it had come from …”
“What did you waste your money on?” snarled Kitty.
“Not much, really, dear. Just some … ornaments for the garden. I thought we could put them up near the road. It will amuse the schoolchildren as they walk past.”
Kitty’s eyes had narrowed. “Schoolchildren don’t walk past here, you old fool. It’s the A44. There’s no pavement.”
“Well, maybe we could open the farm at weekends, then.”
Jack’s mind scrambled to think of an excuse. None came. Very slowly, he put his boots back on.
She followed him into the yard, watching him intently as he unhooked the tarp and pulled it back with a dramatic flourish and a weak “Ta-da!”
Kitty unfolded her arms and stared in bewildered disbelief at the contents of the trailer. For a second, Jack thought he might have got away with it. But then her eyes narrowed, her lips grew thin, and she turned to him so sharply that he thought she was going to hit him.
“You’ve got about ten seconds to explain what all this junk is for,” she said, “or you’ll be sleeping in the pigsty for a month.”
“I told you, dear. I thought we could open up the farm to the youngsters. They could come and pet the sheep, and that.”
Kitty was wearing the expression of a headmistress who had caught a mischievious schoolboy pulling a little girl’s hair, and who was quite prepared to wring a full confession out of him, no matter what.
“If they are here to pet the sheep,” she said, every word precise and cold, “then why have you bought a life-sized plastic castle?”
“That’s not just any castle,” he beamed. “That’s Snow White’s Castle, and it was very reasonably priced.”
“Oh, well then, excuse me,” she shot back. “I meant to ask, why have you bought a life-sized plastic Snow White castle?”
“I thought we could have a bit of a theme. Fairytales, like. The kids will love that.”
She gave a slow, exaggerated nod. “Yes, they will love petting a sheep in a plastic Snow White castle. Where is Snow White, anyway?”
Jack pulled the tarp back further. Despite herself, Kitty gasped. “Why is there a corpse in your trailer?” she hissed.
“It’s Snow White, dear. She just needs a lick of paint, that’s all. And,” he said proudly, “I’ve got the s- … I’ve got some dwarves as well.”
She stared at him so long that he started to shuffle and stutter.
“That’s – that’s not all, dear. Of course, it wouldn’t be fairytale-themed if it was just Snow White. I’ve – I’ve also got these other things.”
He peeled the tarp right back, and waited while she took in the other items in the trailer.
“Tell me, Jack,” she said, at last. “What fairytale is it that tells the story of two seahorses, two dophins, two octopuses, two mermaids, and a duck playing the guitar?”
“It doesn’t have to be an actual fairytale, dear. They can be wired up to the ‘leccy! They’ll be magical! These are genuine seafront illuminations from the prom at Folkestone!”
She exhaled and looked at the sky. Appropriately, it had started to rain on Jack’s parade.
“OK, Jack,” she said eventually. “I think you’ve lost your marbles, but this isn’t the first time, is it? That barn is full of old rubbish you’ve wasted your money on but don’t know what to do with, and I’m tired of telling you off about it. Here’s what we’ll do. Let’s split up the savings account. Take your half and invest it in your fairytale petting zoo. Build your plastic castle out by the main road.”
“You’ll help me?”
“No, Jack. I’ll take my half and invest it in something else. Something that might actually earn us some money for our retirement.” She eyed the lower field. “Maybe I’ll build a nice smart hotel and spa over there,” she mused, wistfully.
Jack felt a rush of emotion but failed to keep a straight face. I’ll show her, he thought. This will be the Disneyland of the Cotswolds. People will come from miles around to see the fairytale illuminations. I’ll build it, and they will come. I bet I can even get the Prime Minister to do the official opening ceremony.
Rather against the odds, he was right.
This is, of course, a work of fiction. Some of the text above has been exaggerated for comic effect … but only very slightly. In recognition of the fact that this is a functioning business and well-known tourist attraction, I have chosen not to explicitly identify it.