Непредвиденная вакансия - Часть первая - Понедельник X
The announcement of Barry’s death on the Parish Council website sank with barely a ripple, a tiny pebble into the teeming ocean. All the same, the telephone lines in Pagford were busier than usual this Monday, and little knots of pedestrians kept congregating on the narrow pavements to check, in shocked tones, the exactness of their information.
As the news travelled, an odd transmutation took place. It happened to the signature dotting the files in Barry’s office and to the emails littering inboxes of his enormous acquaintance, which began to take on the pathos of the crumb trail of a lost boy in a forest. These rapid scribbles, the pixels arranged by fingers henceforth forever still, acquired the macabre aspect of husks. Gavin was already a little repelled by the sight of his dead friend’s texts on his phone, and one of the girls from the rowing eight, still crying as she walked back from assembly, found a form that Barry had signed in her school bag, and became almost hysterical.
The twenty-three-year-old journalist at the Yarvil and District Gazette had no idea that Barry’s once busy brain was now a heavy handful of spongy tissue on a metal tray in South West General. She read through what he had emailed her an hour before his death, then called his mobile number, but nobody answered. Barry’s phone, which he had turned off at Mary’s request before they left for the golf club, was sitting silently beside the microwave in the kitchen, along with the rest of his personal effects that the hospital had given her to take home. Nobody had touched them. These familiar objects – his key fob, his phone, his worn old wallet – seemed like pieces of the dead man himself; they might have been his fingers, his lungs.
Onwards and outwards the news of Barry’s death spread, radiating, halo-like, from those who had been at the hospital. Onwards and outwards as far as Yarvil, reaching those who knew Barry only by sight or reputation or by name. Gradually the facts lost form and focus; in some cases they became distorted. In places, Barry himself was lost behind the nature of his ending, and he became no more than an eruption of vomit and piss, a twitching pile of catastrophe, and it seemed incongruous, even grotesquely comical, that a man should have died so messily at the smug little golf club.
So it was that Simon Price, who had been one of the first to hear about Barry’s death, in his house on top of the hill overlooking Pagford, met a rebounding version at the Harcourt-Walsh printworks in Yarvil where he had worked ever since leaving school. It was borne to him on the lips of a young, gum-chewing forklift driver, whom Simon found skulking beside his office door, after a late-afternoon return from the bathroom.
The boy had not come, in the first place, to discuss Barry at all.
‘That thing you said you migh’ be int’rested in,’ he mumbled, when he had followed Simon into the office, and Simon had closed the door, ‘I cud do it for yeh Wednesday, if yeh still fancied it.’
‘Yeah?’ said Simon, sitting himself down at his desk. ‘I thought you said it was all ready to go?’
‘’Tis, but I can’t fix up collection till Wednesday.’
‘How much did you say again?’ - Сколько там, вы сказали, надо?
‘Eighty notes, fer cash.’
The boy chewed vigorously; Simon could hear his saliva working. Gum-chewing was one of Simon’s many pet hates.
‘It’s the proper thing, though, is it?’ Simon demanded. ‘Not some knock-off piece of crap?’
‘Come straight from the warehouse,’ said the boy, shifting his feet and his shoulders. ‘Real thing, still boxed up.’
‘All right, then,’ said Simon. ‘Bring it in Wednesday.’
‘What, here?’ The boy rolled his eyes. ‘Nah, not to work, mate … Where d’you live?’
‘Pagford,’ said Simon. - Пэгфорд, - сказал Саймон.
‘Where’bouts in Pagford?’ - А где в Пэгфорде-то?
Simon’s aversion to naming his home bordered on the superstitious. He not only disliked visitors – invaders of his privacy and possible despoilers of his property – but he saw Hilltop House as inviolate, immaculate, a world apart from Yarvil and the crashing, grinding printworks.
‘I’ll come and pick it up after work,’ said Simon, ignoring the question. ‘Where are you keeping it?’
The boy did not look happy. Simon glared at him.
‘Well, I’d need the cash upfront,’ the forklift driver temporized.
‘You get the money when I’ve got the goods.’ - Будет товар - будут и деньги.
‘Dun’ work like that, mate.’ - Ну не, я так дела не делаю, дружище.
Simon thought he might be developing a headache. He could not dislodge the horrible idea, implanted by his careless wife that morning, that a tiny bomb might tick undetected for ages inside a man’s brain. The steady clatter and rumble of the printing press beyond the door was surely not good for him; its relentless battery might have been thinning his artery walls for years.
‘All right,’ he grunted, and rolled over in his chair to extract his wallet from his back pocket. The boy stepped up to the desk, his hand out.
‘D’yeh live anywhere near Pagford golf course?’ he asked, as Simon counted out tenners into his palm. ‘Mate o’ mine was up there las’ night, an’ saw a bloke drop dead. Jus’ fuckin’ puked an’ keeled over an’ died in the car park.’
‘Yeah, I heard,’ said Simon, massaging the last note between his fingers before he passed it over, to make sure there were not two stuck together.
‘Bent councillor, he was. The bloke who died. He was takin’ backhanders. Grays was paying him to keep them on as contractors.’
‘Yeah?’ said Simon, but he was immensely interested.
Barry Fairbrother, who’d have thought it? Барри Фэрбразер… кто бы мог подумать?
‘I’ll get back ter yeh, then,’ said the boy, shoving the eighty pounds deep into his back pocket. ‘And we’ll go an’ get it, Wednesday.’
The office door closed. Simon forgot his headache, which was really no more than a twinge, in his fascination at the revelation of Barry Fairbrother’s crookedness. Barry Fairbrother, so busy and sociable, so popular and cheerful: and all the time, trousering bribes from Grays.
The news did not rock Simon as it would have done nearly everybody else who had known Barry, nor did it diminish Barry in his eyes; on the contrary, he felt an increased respect for the dead man. Anyone with any brains was working, constantly and covertly, to grab as much as they could; Simon knew that. He gazed unseeingly at the spreadsheet on his computer screen, deaf once more to the grinding of the printworks beyond his dusty window.
There was no choice but to work from nine to five if you had a family, but Simon had always known that there were other, better ways; that a life of ease and plenty dangled over his head like a great bulging piñata, which he might smash open if only he had a stick big enough, and the knowledge of when to strike. Simon had the child’s belief that the rest of the world exists as staging for their personal drama; that destiny hung over him, casting clues and signs in his path, and he could not help feeling that he had been vouchsafed a sign, a celestial wink.
Supernatural tip-offs had accounted for several apparently quixotic decisions in Simon’s past. Years previously, when still a lowly apprentice at the printworks, with a mortgage he could barely afford and a newly pregnant wife, he had bet one hundred pounds on a well-favoured Grand National runner called Ruthie’s Baby, which had fallen at the second last. Shortly after they had bought Hilltop House, Simon had sunk twelve hundred pounds, which Ruth had been hoping to use for curtains and carpets, into a time-share scheme run by a flash, fiddling old acquaintance from Yarvil. Simon’s investment had vanished with the company director, but although he had raged and sworn and kicked his younger son halfway down the stairs for getting in his way, he had not contacted the police. He had known about certain irregularities in the way the company operated before he put his money there, and he foresaw awkward questions.
Set against these calamities, though, were strokes of luck, dodges that worked, hunches that paid off, and Simon gave great weight to these when totalling his score; they were the reason that he kept faith with his stars, that reinforced him in his belief that the universe had more in store for him than the mug’s game of working for a modest salary until he retired or died. Scams and short-cuts; leg-ups and back-scratches; everyone was at it, even, as it turned out, little Barry Fairbrother.
There, in his poky office, Simon Price gazed covetously on a vacancy among the ranks of insiders to a place where cash was now trickling down onto an empty chair with no lap waiting to catch it.

The Casual Vacancy • Непредвиденная вакансия
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