'Multum in Parvo'

by Casey Logue  

It was a perfect summer’s Saturday morning. The fat man opened his door and walked out among the azaleas. He could hear the clinks of milk bottles from the milkman’s cart. The sun blinked up from behind the village church, which he’d attended every Sunday he could remember. He placed his thumbs in his belt loops and sighed with contented, comfortable pleasure. 
His full English on the table, he pulled the newspaper from the jaws of his black Labrador. Flicking past the local news, the ongoing drought and the obituaries, he came across a small, half-page spread, titled Where’s our postcode? 30 years on from county status, our wonderful county is still forced to borrow its postcode from its neighbour…
He read on, mildly intrigued. It was the last few lines that really caught him: Our motto, multum in parvo, was given to this great county in the years following the end of the second world war. We must uphold this legacy, as we are plunged into an ever-changing future.
*multum in parvo is Latin for much in little.
It was written by a nameless author. He reread it, becoming increasingly incensed. He remembered the day that Rutland became its own county. His father had shrugged and gone out to shoot, whilst his mother raced to the phone booth down the street to call their relatives. Both were dead now. He remembered feeling joyous, sitting around with Bob and Tim and that lot in the pub, singing the national anthem. 

Having greeted everyone in The Old Swan, he ordered his usual and sat, with slight difficulty, on one of the barstools. 
‘I dunno mate, it just don’t feel right. How come we’re the only bloody ones without a real postcode eh?’
So he wasn’t the only one that read the article? He turned to look at the men speaking, recognising one of them from his fishing days. ‘Alright Archer?’ He stood, extending his hand to the older of the two. ‘Alright mate? Haven’t seen you in a while. What d’you reckon to this postcode business eh?’
Six pints later, he was trudging the mile-walk home. The sky was immaculate, not a cloud blemishing its raft of stars. The ground crunched beneath his feet. He thought about the conversations he’d had that evening. He was surprised that he didn’t have to make his case for once. They were all as vehement as he was: we need our own postcode. He could see the front page of the newspaper now: Local Parish Councillor triumphs over postcode fury. His slightly tarnished reputation would be entirely restored. Damn that woman, he thought. A year or two ago some of those ‘new-rich’ types had come in, bought a bungalow and received planning permission from the council to build on it. He balled his fists at the memory. They’d held a parish meeting and she was there, wearing a pantsuit of all things and high heels. She told him that he was being chauvinistic, at which point he lost the bloody vote. 

It was Monday. He was sitting at a long table furnished with cakes and Meissen teacups with the other Parish Councillors. The room was cased in dark, wooden panels, with oil paintings and a modest chandelier. He’d always liked this room. Facing them were four lines of chairs, usually mostly empty. Today, however, the room was teeming with people, from 90-year-old Mrs Weathers to his friend Joe at the council. He cleared his throat. ‘Right then, shall we get straight to it?’
Four hours of intense and barely organised planning followed, and he finally emerged into the blazing sun. ‘Pint?’ Joe clapped him on the back as he chuckled. ‘John Smith’s?’ said the bartender, who’d hurried in from the town hall to start his shift. ‘Go on then,’ he said. ‘Bastards them aren’t they, not giving us our own postcode.’ He nodded conspiratorially at the fat man.
They sat outside, sweating in the June sun. He spoke well in the town hall. Everyone who walked past him nodded, or stopped to make comment about the abomination they’d been forced to accept. He could could almost feel the respect radiating from them. Joe was on his phone, as usual. He looked around him. The square was fresh and clean, mothers walking with their children to the park, young men in crisp, white shirts were standing by the pub door. Suddenly, Joe grasped his arm. ‘Look at this’ he said, pointing the phone towards him. It read: Local hashtag #wheresourpostcode goes viral.

‘Happy birthday.’ His wife slammed his breakfast down on the table and stormed out, leaving the dog yapping in her absence. He’d been out every night for five weeks, discussing exactly what to do. Endless meetings coming to a mutual agreement on the first four letters of the postcode had inevitably escalated into more sovereignty for the county. They were to hold a referendum on the independence of Rutland. They were to hold debates on curfews, entry to the county and museum rates. They were to fight for more recognition as a proper fucking place. 
The rest of the Parish Council were digging their heels a bit, but so what? He didn’t need them, really. There was Mrs Rush, the 70-something year old who was there for the tea, Reverend Ponce, as everyone knew him, and a couple of others who had no idea what they were doing anyway. They didn’t have a political background – he did. They didn’t know how to create a campaign that enveloped both older and younger citizens alike – he did. 
He picked the paper up from the mat and opened the door. Clear skies. Again. God, he did miss the rain, that smell of wet foliage creeping into the house, the fresh new flowers that erupted in its wake. The azaleas were withering, now a brown mass of folded leaves. The front page of the paper read: Rutland’s upcoming referendum expected to spark small town ‘revolution’. There was already talk of a protest movement. He scoffed at the idea. Who would protest a pissing county becoming more efficient, more powerful, with its own damn postcode? Philistines. 

He stood before the microphone, envelope in hand. He felt victorious. There were four thousand people in the auditorium they’d rented in Leicester. Four thousand people had come to see him speak. This envelope was the key to his success. It had the result of the referendum written on it in small, golden letters. He’d orchestrated it: Should Rutland become its own independent state? The ‘ayes’ had it. 
The audience met his speech with fierce applause. He turned and winked at his wife, who averted her eyes. Joe, standing beside her, nodded at him. He held his arms up to the audience and bowed. 
When everyone had cleared out, he and Joe sat on the edge of the stage, drinking from a bottle of Captain Morgan’s. ‘We’ve done it, haven’t we?’ He turned round to look at Joe, who was staring into the darkness of the auditorium. He looked remarkably like a schoolboy. He clapped Joe on the back. 
It was 10pm, and they were in search of a pub. ‘That one?’ Joe pointed at a busy pub window opposite them. ‘Joe, that’s a fucking Wetherspoons. We’re not going in there.’ He dragged him down a side road, where they found a small, quiet place. ‘Perfect.’ They stumbled slightly inside and made their way to the bar. ‘You’re not welcome here.’ The stony-faced landlord was standing behind it, arms crossed, staring at them. The pub was silent. ‘I’m sorry?’ The fat man took his glasses off and stood his ground. ‘You deaf?’ Someone behind them said, grabbing Joe by his arm. Joe whipped round and punched the man in the face. A fist hit the small of the fat man’s back. The next few minutes were a blur. After being pretty well beaten, they were physically thrown out of the pub. The landlord stood over them as they lay in the gutter. ‘You pseudo-middle class wankers, I know exactly who you are. You can’t go shouting your mouth off about us, Leicester, the people that visit your sodding little shithole and expect to walk in to my pub like nothing’s happened. Fuck off.’ 

He marched towards the barrier, a clipboard under his arm. It was August, 5pm and 29 degrees. His linen suit was a patchwork of sweat. Joe was waiting for him, two policemen either side of him. Car horns and the beeping of large tow trucks rattled the hazy air. ‘You took your time old man,’ Joe yelled, grinning at him. He resented that: Joe was two years younger than him. He grabbed the pen from Joe’s shirt pocket and placed his glasses on the end of his nose. ‘How many?’ Joe frowned, ‘Um, somewhere around the 200 mark, I think.’ Fuck. ‘200?’ He peered at the long line of cars that seemed to merge into a dingy, technicolour fog. 
Over the next four hours he turned 142 cars away, 53 were let through. ‘Bastards. What do they think they’re coming here for? Did you hear that foreign couple? They could barely speak English.’ Joe was striding next to him, scanning the clipboard sourly. ‘Well, no one’s coming now, it’s 9pm,’ said the fat man, holding a bottle of ice water to his face. He shook Joe’s hand and got in the car. A thick, putrid smell hit his nostrils. He checked the back seat, and got out to open the boot. Shit. The fucking dog. It was lying on its side, eyes closed, with its tongue hanging out. He slammed the boot and drove the long way home, stopping to bury it. ‘Think someone stole the dog today,’ he told his wife that night. 

He turned the wireless on: The longest drought Rutland has ever seen is set to end this weekend, with a smattering of showers late Saturday night… Ah, good, he thought, pouring some beans into the pan that sat on the fire. He’d been without electricity for a week now. He’d gotten by rather well, although it would’ve been much easier if his wife hadn’t run off with Joe. At least she hadn’t taken any money. He’d closed his bank account an hour after he realised she’d gone. He ambled outside with his glass of Famous Grouse, watching the sunset. It was glorious, it looked as if the sky were ablaze. He picked up the newspaper. More protests line the streets of Rutland by those who feel persecuted by the recent curfews and entry requirements… - head of the Parish Council for Rutland, is said to have led the conversation from its conception. He smirked at the sight of his name on the front page. Topping up his whisky, he sat in his armchair, reading through the minutes from the last meeting. There was an impatient knocking at the door. He fingered his shotgun under the chair and stayed where he was. The knocking turned to banging. He picked up his shotgun, aiming it at the wooden door. Whoever it was pushed a note through his letterbox. He crawled over to it, pushing his glasses up his nose. Mate, I’m sorry. I hope you’ll forgive me. Anyway, thought I’d tell you the good news – your new postcode is –
Triumph surged through him. He stared at the note long enough to memorise it. Standing up, he walked over to the trunk under the stairs. He found his leather-bound address book and opened the first page. As he wrote, trembling, his new golden postcode, he didn’t notice the thick red flames licking the door to the cottage, or the cloud of smoke advancing from the thatched roof.