Mary hadn’t read the book yet, but she went along regardless. The book was ‘The Thornbirds’ by Collen McCullough. I watched the miniseries that aired in the 80’s. Does that count?
The book club met once a month in the hall and everybody brings a plate to share with the others. Mary had made fresh scones, her mother’s famous recipe that had been handed down by her grandmother, and her mother before that. She got up early, and spent the morning baking, having made plain, choc-chip, and savoury. Feeling mighty proud of her efforts, she made her way up to the hall, but not before giving Bonnie a little taste first.
Opening the door to the hall, she was greeted by a small group of ladies, and one man, arranging chairs into a circle. A long table housed an array of home baked goodies, along with piping hot urns of tea and coffee.
A familiar voice echoed from the other side of the hall. ‘Mary, hey Mary, over here.’ Mary’s heart sank at the sight of her waving madly across the room. Oh great, bloody Noreen. She mustered up a smile before responding. ‘Oh, Hi Noreen. I baked some scones.’ Collective gasps could be heard all around the room as everybody turned towards Mary.
A rather elegant looking lady looked Mary up and down with a disturbing level of distain. ‘Well Mary, we will see if your scones are as god as Mavis’s. Mavis is famous for her scones. Isn’t that right folks?’ Everybody in the room nodded, except for the man. He looked sympathetic, mouthing to Mary, ‘Good luck.’
Four more ladies entered the hall carrying plates of food. Out of Noreen’s pocket came a little gong, which she proceeded to hit with the accompanying mallet. ‘OK, gather round, everybody take your seats, let’s get started.’ Noreen then clapped her hands together, as if she was addressing a kindergarten class. Everybody snapped to attention before finding a seat. ‘OK, hands up who has read the book?’
Three people put their hand up. Noreen scanned the room, peering angrily over her glasses. ‘Three? C’mon guys, that’s less than twenty percent of the group. You all know this a book club, right? We read books.’ Four of the ladies were staring at their feet, avoiding eye contact with the Sargent Major, who was still clutching her gong.
One lady who was trying, unsuccessfully mind you, to stifle a giggle, spoke up. ‘Lighten up Noreen. We all know, some of us only come for the food and wine.’ Noreen wasn’t amused. ‘Well there is wine club Jillian, if that’s what you are after.’
Mary didn’t quite know where to look as the two sides of the book club camp began to bicker across the room. ‘Who made you boss anyway Noreen?’ ‘Shut your bloody pie hole Lynda, does it look like anyone cares about your opinion?’
The quiet gentleman, finally spoke. ‘OK ladies, that’s quite enough. Let’s discuss the book shall we?’ Ladies? These women are far from being ladies. They are downright rude. Ten minutes was spent talking about the main plot, before more verbal abuse was hurled around the circle.
‘You know what you are Noreen? A bloody control freak, that’s what.’ ‘Oh for Christ’s sake, pipe down Sue. At least I’m not a flake, like you.’ Right, that’s it, come here and I’ll shove that book up your arse, you bitch.’
Mary was flabbergasted, and crept out the door unnoticed, as the insults grew louder and louder. What in god’s name was that? Didn’t we all leave high school well over fifty years ago? I have no doubt, I’ll soon hear whether or not my scones live up to Mavis’s.
Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2020