ONE WEEK PREVIOUSLY
Maxine Watson spends much of Tuesday morning in a state of DEEP SOFA. The wool shop downstairs doesn’t open until noon. She is calm. And both she and her sofa hum with delight.
But the next instant, outside, the roar of a motorcycle in the street below.
A megaphone at ear-splitting volume: Maxine sits bolt upright, her heart pounding.
“IS THIS THING WORKING?” booms an uncertain police officer’s voice. A few more hisses and screeches, and then,
“WARNING: ESCAPEE GOLFER ON THE LOOSE.”
The motorcycle roars off into the distance, quiet descends.
Dingle is the last Rompshire village before the border crossing into Oxfordshire and only a few miles from the high-security golf course for the criminally insane there.
All of Dingle’s villagers are used to escapees. Every few weeks, one of them finds a deluded golfer in the garden looking for a lost ball or digging up great clods of earth from the front lawn with a number seven iron.
Maxine is fully awake now. She sits at her little table by the window with a pot of Weird Sister Tea and contemplates her tiny garden; a small square of grass, a willow tree, and a hedge.
Pheme, Maxine’s cat, pushes the door open with her paw. In her mouth, two letters. The cat jumps onto the table and deposits them, and returns downstairs for the Rompshire Gazette. Pheme is something of a gossip and likes to read the paper before Maxine does.
Another letter from the landlord, a decent fellow. Thank goodness Sir William’s agreed to allow her more time to pay. Business hasn’t been brisk at the wool shop lately.
Maxine picks up the second letter with a postmark from Dampford. She opens it to discover it’s from Barry Plumb.
You’re never going to believe this. There’s a Zaftig Sofa going up for sale at the Dampford Auctioneers. The Sofa Guild has asked me to value it. I hate to ask, but could you help me—again?
Gloria Pettigrew has invited me to stay at the school. I’m giving the sofa-etiquette talk on Wednesday, next week. That reminds me I haven’t started writing it yet. Must go.
Yours in anticipation,