Everyone was pleased when the Merryweathers moved to the village. They re-opened the little petrol station, so handy when the nearest one was miles away. Their prices were low, and, to the delight of the older members of the community, they insisted upon manning the pumps themselves. No sooner did a car pull up, than one of the Merryweathers, and there were four of them, grandmother, mother, father and son, all alike in drab, knitted sweaters, with wild, unkempt hair, would appear and take charge of the nozzle. It was like going back in time.
They re-vamped the garage shop too. No longer did it just sell crisps and chocolate, expensive engine oil and the wrong type of headlight bulb. It sold bread, and sandwiches from the bakery in the next village. It stocked milk from the local dairy. And, after a while, they began to sell hot, homemade pies.
But not everyone liked the Merryweathers.
“They’re so rude,“ Stella Fotheringham complained to her husband. “I mean, it’s nice they come out and serve you, but if they won’t even pass the time of day with you, well, I don’t know why they bother.” She ran her hand through her blonde, blow-dried hair, remembering how elder Mrs. Merryweather had stared when she’d stopped for fuel on her way home from the hairdresser.
“Nonsense Darling,” her husband lowered his newspaper. “I think they’re very nice. Why, their son was telling me they’re thinking of offering a valeting service. They’ll come to the house and collect your car. Isn’t that a good idea? And those pies are lovely.”
“Their son?” Stella shuddered. “His beard is a disgrace. It’s so thick and matted. I’d have something to say about it if he were mine. Mind you, look at the father,” and she let her words trail away. Mr. Merryweather was, if anything, more hirsute than his son. “I don’t like them, and I’ve a good mind to start filling up elsewhere.”
“That’s not very nice,” her husband chided. “If people don’t use the garage, it will end up closing again. Remember what happened last Christmas?”
Stella scowled, and shrank into herself at this hurtful reminder. It was so like him to bring it up to make a point. She had forgotten to fill up with petrol and they’d broken down half-way to her daughter’s house on Boxing Day. Any kind person would have pretended to have forgotten about it by now.
A few days later, she needed petrol again. Reluctance gnawed, but remembering the conversation with her husband, she pulled into the Merryweather’s garage. The shop door opened. Her heart sank. It was the son.
“Hello,” she babbled. “Isn’t it a lovely day. Can you fill her up, please?”
The young man looked at her, his watery blue eyes peering from under the thatch of his eyebrows, but said nothing. He stuck one hand into the pocket of his torn, waxed jacket, and picked up the nozzle with the other. The pump hummed into life.
“It is a lovely day, isn’t it?” Stella said again. But the young man merely stared at the dial on the pump, and appeared not to hear. Stella blushed. She looked down at her feet, and wriggled her toes.
Finally, the pump cut out. The young man replaced the nozzle, put the cap back on the tank, and turned towards the shop. Stella followed.
“Good afternoon,” she smiled, all four Merryweathers standing in the shop.
“Fifty-three pounds and forty pence,” said elder Mrs Merryweather, holding out her hand. Stella looked from one to the other, then bustled in her handbag for her card. Elder Mrs Merryweather took it, processed it, and handed it back.
“Thank you very much,” Stella said, but again, no one answered. Her cheeks flared. Outrage sparked. She took a deep breath
“What is the matter with you people?” She glared from one to the other, but no one spoke. But slowly, elder Mrs Merryweather’s mouth widened into a big, toothy grin.
“Oh fine,” Stella shouted. “I was going to ask for two of your meat pies, but if you’re going to be so bloody rude, I won’t bother.” She turned on her heel, stamped out of the shop, climbed into her car and drove off with a little wheel spin.
The Merryweathers turned back to their chores without so much as a comment. There wasn’t any point in being nice to the likes of Stella, the bony-arsed bitch. She would be too chewy to go in one of their pies.