During the drinks break Stephen chatted to a few of the members while Harriet, Ted and Margot discussed the agenda for the second half of the meeting. Margot made frequent trips to the bar to, 'settle her nerves.'
The anger level among the members had lowered from seething, to simmering. Stephen chatted about his writing and work and a few people asked him for a business card. He was listening to a young man's recollection of a university, anti-management demonstration, when Jacky Collins passed him a bottle of lager and nodded towards an empty corner of the room.
'Got a minute?'
'Just about,' said Stephen. 'The revolutionaries seem to be in more of a negotiating mood.'
Jacky laughed as he placed his beer on a table.
'You did well up there, Stephen, very well. It could have turned nasty.'
'They're writers, Jacky, I doubt they'd have resorted to violence.'
'The older lot have, once or twice.'
Stephen shook his head in disbelief as the thought of Mick and Mary fighting with their fellow members flashed into his mind.
'It was a while ago, before Margot's time on the committee. But Harriet was there, so was Ted.'
'What happened? Come on Jacky, spill the beans.'
The older man took a pull from his beer, wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and dried it on his denim jacket.
'It was all to do with a competition,' he began. 'The club used to enter the annual, regional, writers group competition. We used put our best writers up against the writers from the other clubs in the area. Middlewich always seemed to win, but Narrowich and Appleton gave them a good run for their money, most years. We consistently came in last, I don't think we ever rose above seventh in all the years we entered, and there were only eight clubs in the competition.'
'Used to enter? We don't bother now then?'
'Not since the trouble,' said Jacky.
'I'm intrigued. Were you a member at the time?' asked Stephen.
'No, It was before my time. Hilda was running the club then, Margot was just a normal member; she's the one who told me about it all.' Jacky sipped his beer and thought for a moment. 'She was a very good writer, was Margot, she didn't drink quite as much back then.'
'So, what happened.'
Jacky was interrupted as Ted announced that the meeting was about to resume. Margot swayed a little as she made her way past the bar. She took a quick look at her watch, steadied herself, rested an arm on the counter and winked at the barman.
'One for the road, Margot?'
Before she could answer, Ted and Harriet took hold of an elbow each and guided her away from the bar. Margot struggled to break free initially, but after Ted whispered into her ear, she allowed herself to be led from the room.
'I'll finish the story on another occasion,' said Jacky. 'It's time to resume hostilities.'
'I'll look forward to hearing it,' said Stephen. He placed his empty bottle on the bar as they walked past. 'Don't leave it too long though, I'm desperate to know what happened.'
'Come over to my place sometime,' said Jacky. 'I'll give you the grisly details over a glass of Scotch.'
He fished a crumpled business card from his pocket and handed it to Stephen. Stephen smoothed the card between his fingers, scanned the address and put it in his wallet.
'Just say when, Jacky, I love grisly details.'
Margot rose unsteadily to her feet, placed both hands on the table and squinted as she tried to focus on the agenda. Eventually she risked taking away one supporting hand, picked up the paper and studied it closely.
'Aha, here we are.' Margot dropped the paper and returned the second steadying hand to the table.
The membership began to whisper among themselves. Tracy with the lip ring, pointed at Margot.
'She is not pished,' replied an outraged Margot. 'She is in full command of her... her faculties.'
'Get on with it then,' called Josh.
'Nominum...Nomina...tions, said Margot, triumphantly. She waved a hand at her accuser. 'See, sober as a, thingy? Judge, that's it, judge.'
'I'd be careful going home if I were you,' said Tracy. 'Drunk and no knickers, that's a lethal combination.'
'I am wearing knickers,' cried Margot. She began to lift her skirt. 'I'll show you if you like.'
'Spare me,' said Tracy. 'I'll take your word for it.'
Before Margot could respond, Ted sprang to her side and helped her into her seat. He had a whispered conversation with Harriet, than picked up the agenda and read from the sheet.
'Nominations for additional committee members,' he read.
'Thas what I said,' spluttered Margot as she struggled to get to her feet.
Ted placed a restraining hand on her shoulder and continued.
'The Westwich Writers Club has decided to add two new, full voting, members to the committee. We feel that the older members have enough representation, so the two positions have been created exclusively for the newer members of the club. In a moment, Harriet will hand out the voting forms, but first we need to know who you would like to nominate for the positions.'
'I'll have a bash,' said Josh.
'Me too,' said Belinda Dray.
'I want in,' said Tracy, the redhead.
'Would I be able to stop all the bloody poetry competitions?' asked Marvin.
Ted held up his hands and called for quiet.
'Please, please, we have to do this properly. Would any member who wants to be considered, stand up now.'
Ten members got to their feet.
'Right,' said Ted. 'If you would let us know who you are, Harriet will pass out the voting slips and we can get on with this. Could you come to the front, one at a time and call out your name.'
Josh strolled to the front, followed by Tracy Reed and Marvin, when all ten had identified themselves, Ted addressed the meeting again.
'Anyone else, before nominations close?'
Jacky Collins got to his feet, cleared his throat and pointed at Stephen.
'I nominate, Stephen King.'
'Seconded,' called Georgina.
'Good call,' said a woman at the front. 'He gets my vote.'
'Mine too, that was a good speech he made earlier.'
Stephen shook his head as he got to his feet.
'The speech I made earlier wasn't a leadership bid, I just wanted to get a point or two across.'
'You got them across really well too,' said the woman. 'You have to stand.'
'Thank you for the vote of confidence,' said Stephen with a smile. 'But I'm sure the people who have already volunteered will do a good job representing you.'
'You're not getting out of it that easily,' said Jacky. 'You started all this, you'll have to finish it now.'
Stephen held up both hands in defeat, walked to the front and turned to face the group.
'Stephen King, I would like to add my name to the list of nominees. May I also wish all the candidates the best of luck, I'm sure whoever is selected will do their best for the club.'
'I'll drink to that,' said Josh.
Margot's head nodded twice before it fell to her chest.
'Make mine a large one,' she mumbled, sleepily.
The voting forms were collected in a waste paper bin and Ted and Harriet emptied it out onto the end table. The slips were unfolded, counted and placed in a row. When they had finished Ted called for two volunteers who had not put themselves forward for the committee, to verify the count. Harriet jotted down the totals on her notepad. When they had double checked the voting slips, the volunteer counters went back to their seats and Ted took the pad from Harriet.
'A full list of candidates and votes received, can be emailed to anyone who requires it, please get in touch with Harriet. For now I'll just announce the winners. The two nominees with the most votes are...Tracy Reed and Stephen King.'
The membership stood as one to applaud Stephen and Tracy as they walked to the front of the room. Margot, startled by the sudden noise, leant backwards in her chair and tipped over with a crash. Harriet rushed to help as Margot lay on her back waving her legs in the air like an upturned beetle. Tracy leaned over the table and winked at Margot as she got unsteadily to her feet.
'Ok, Margot,' she whispered, 'I believe you now.'
Margot slumped in the chair with her head in her hands and began to cry. Harriet put an arm around her shoulder and made sympathetic noises; Stephen reached into his pocket and passed his handkerchief. Margot blew her nose and looked up to thank him. The look of gratitude turned to horror as she realised she wiping her eyes with Dot's knickers.
Georgina looked at Stephen admiringly.
'Like to keep a souvenir do you?' she whispered.