Legs Wide OpenbyEgmontGrigor2011©
Book publishers Flynn & Lombardy, attempting to ride on novelist Jane Austen-Frewin's popularity to push her new novel, 'Legs Wide Open' into the best seller's list, announced in a newspaper and on local TV and radio it would conduct a competition at the widely promoted author's next public appearance.
People attending the function at Woodley Mall in southern England would have the chance of being selected to ask Jane, author of the controversial novel, 'The Beastliness of Men', a question about the characters or observations of characters in her new novel. Anyone presenting an authentic question that Jane failed to answer would be invited to a complimentary lunch with Jane at the Professional Women's Club in London.
Newspaper reader Leo McKenzie sighed and thought what a petty carry on. The black sheep farmer and book reviewer for 'Small Farmers' Monthly Magazine', had mistakenly read the book thinking it was Austen-Frewin's first descent into porn literature, only to find the heroine in 'Legs Wide Open' was a fictitious hurdler destined to bring glory to her village by winning a Gold Medal for England at the Olympics.
There were a couple of quite good sex scenes but they did not remotely approach the lustiness of hot porn. However the story was well crafted and kept his interest and Leo had read on. He'd never heard the cute Miss Jane Austen-Frewin speak so decided to roll up and listen to her fend off questions from peasants and school-teachers out to stump the writer to earn a free lunch at an exclusive domain.
Who said 'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch'?
Well Leo could recall two of his former newspaper editors were on record as saying that and knew of a Member of Parliament making that assertion on the premise that someone ends up paying for a free lunch. If someone did stump Jane, a local author with perhaps the best pair of breasts in the county, they would enjoy a no-strings-attached lunch. Well they would provide the bait for media interest and thereby earn publicity for the author and her publishers. And of course someone would bear the cost of that complimentary lunch.
Leo put on his wellies (gumboots) and buttoned up against the drizzle to inspect his flock that produced wool for sale to people involved in knitting, weaving and felting natural fiber to produce un-dyed garments made of highly prized black/ chocolate brown wool. Two-thirds of the annual lamb crop was sold at market as fat lambs, some of the others were retained as breeding stock while others would find their way to local buyers and the tables of Leo and his butcher who really liked the gamey taste of Leo's sheep. That same butcher purchased all of Leo's culls.
With Leo went Jess, a loyal and placid Border Collie. She was not allowed in the cottage and everywhere where Leo went Jess went, within reason.
On the property in West Dorset were 212 Hebridean Sheep, a hardy primitive breed of horned males and females, coming in recent times from Scotland but originating in the northwest fringes of Europe. Leo's land was hilly, stony and swampy with unimproved pastures, absolutely ideal for the 'Hebs' that thrive in hard-going conditions.
Like Leo, Jess knew every sheep in the small flock.
On week days, Leo who had an MA in Social Development and Sustainable Livelihoods, taught conservation studies at a nearby private high school where he was hugely popular with students because he was so unlike most teachers, never combing his hair, wearing old clothes and talking to them as if he were one of them. Playing a guitar he'd teach his students songs he'd composed relating to their studies that helped them no end at exam time as well to encourage them love or at least respect the concepts associated with conservation.
At the start of each new school year he'd hire buses and take new junior students with at least six parents to walk over his farm to see how he practiced conservation. He'd introduce them to Jess (one of the stars of the visit) and to plants and reveal the habitats of reptiles and small wildlife most of the kids had never heard of, and explain the relationship between species and their environment.
In the vegetable and flower gardens, Leo introduced the visitors to plants that not even some of the parents knew about.
The 'awesome' visits to Woolly Ridge Farm gained almost legendary status at the school and intermediate and senior students would arrive at the farm some weekends as part of special study projects, with Leo, being a bachelor, insisting they must always arrive in the company of an adult. Soils of his holding bordering heathland were low on the rung of productivity but the area was surrounded by fertile farmland
When Leo first arrived to teach at the school, he was practically shunned by some staff. The near-to-retirement principal had known Leo as a boy and was a pal of Leo's father who'd farmed the land before Leo, and so knew Leo was fit for the job in all respects. Mr Childs also accepted it was unlikely even he could get Leo to adopt the school's dress code for staff.
However the acceptance of Leo grew from the time of the first end-of-year exam results were revealed. His success as a teacher was no longer in doubt and then one of his top students won a national scholarship to study conservation the following year and his students begin winning local and regional prizes in conservation. Leo also became the first teacher from the school to be invited to speak at a Southwest England convention for school principals. His school principal pleaded to Leo at least get his apparent best suit dry-cleaned for that event but in the end it didn't matter because Leo went to the rostrum dressed as a 19th Century yokel and he received thunderous applause at the end of his addressed he'd simply entitled, 'Why Teach the Principles of Conservation?'
A week later Leo received an invitation to repeat his address to the dinner at a national convention of secondary school teachers. A portion of his address, with Leo dressed as a 17th Century Scottish shepherd, was screened that night on national television news.
Following that exposure, Leo was commissioned to write articles for magazines and that included producing a monthly column for 'Small Farmers' Monthly Magazine'. When the editor of that magazine visited Woolly Haven Farm, he discovered that Leo had a huge library because he was an avid reader, not possessing TV or even a radio, but he did subscribe to five newspapers. Leo accepted the invitation to write book reviews for the magazine, the deal being he'd keep the review copy.
* * *
On the Saturday of the 'Quiz the Author' event, Leo crossed into the neighboring county of Hampshire and journeyed to Woodley Mall to see Miss Austen-Frewin in the flesh, hoping to view a great deal of her flesh.
Alas it was a cold day with a whistling wind and Jane Austen-Frewin's body was encased in a thick coat and bulky scarf.
The place was crowded and so Leo knew he wouldn't have the opportunity to ask whether her tits were lovely and warm... er were her lovely breasts snugly warm. Yes she might accept that question as being meritorious in a literary sense and inoffensive to her as a person with tits. Perhaps if she did reply without hitting him with her shopping bag, he could add something of even more interest to her, er about the need to conserve handsome tits.
He took a mid-position in the crowd, keeping away from the guys at the back smoking, reeking of beer and passing wind.
Leo flushed in pleasure when Jane looked right at him and smiled and then flushed in annoyance as she appeared to be doing the same thing to everyone. Jesus what a cheap shot.
The brazenly-dressed woman who ignored the cold in the open mall who probably was, thought Leo creatively, also the publishers' joint mistress (there being two principals in the firm) who merely masqueraded as their PR manager, introduced the author of 'Legs Open Wide' (a quote in the book from the heroine's hurdles coach) and Jane smiled at her adoring fans and others who were curious onlookers.
Leo was now a fan after seeing Jane in the flesh.
Lucy Whoppers who actually introduced herself as Lucy Jones-Mason, gave a boring plug for the book and said anyone buying it today at the Mall would receive a 2.5% discount.
God what a miserable offer, Leo thinking 30% off would have been good marketing.
Lucy then announced details of the competition and called for questions.
"Why didn't Janelle have her hair up for the victory ball?"
Lucy said there was no character in the book called Janelle and there was no mention of a ball.
Leo waited for two guys in white jackets to come and escort that idiotic guy, presumably an alcoholic from Kent, away but the constantly grinning guy in a green hemp suit was left undisturbed.
"Why did you spell Festinlog, a community in north-west Wales, repeatedly with a double F spelling it F-f-e-s-t-i-n-l-o-g?"
"Because that's the correct spelling."
"No it isn't."
Lucy said just a moment, pulled up her iPad and after a few dabs announced, "I have Blaenau Ffestinglog here on a map of Wales and it definitely has two 'f's. Next question please."
"Why did you write 309 pages when you could have easily told the story in 209?"
"My initial manuscript was 231 pages in draft form but after editing and rewriting I submitted a 198-page manuscript and that was further amended during professional editing. But what really determined the size of the novel was the choice of page format and typeface chosen in consultation with the printer and thus the book came off the press at 309 pages. Of course any book can be written shorter or longer. In fact my précis of the story submitted to the publisher was only three pages of doubled-paced typing on A4."
The questions, a few that were interesting, followed but none caught out the author.
Lucy began the wind-up saying it was disappointing that no one had managed to outfox Miss Austen-Frewin.
Leo thought why not and called out, "Excuse me, I'd like to lunch with your pretty author."
"Oh very well. If you are that confident, have a shot."
"Miss Austen-Frewin, I'm sorry but this is a toughie. Where in 'Legs Wide Open' is an animal specifically mentioned?"
Jane thought and frowned and finally said, "At the outset I mentioned my heroine Jess was somewhat flawed, not liking animals and liking noisy children even less. I don't believe I mentioned the presence of animals in my novel but I admit something in my head is questioning that assertion. I'm sorry, you look to be an interesting luncheon companion."
People tittered and she blushed.
"Oh but I will be lunching with you Miss Austen-Frewin. One of your strengths as a novelist is your ability to solidly use the show, don't tell principle. On page 177 when your heroine begins to climb the stairs of Askew House you mention, and I quote, 'a frightened grey kitten withdrew into the shadows under the open-tread stairs'.
"Omigod that's right," Jane cried and Lucy, skimming down that page said, "Confirmed, here is that passage, two-thirds of the way down."
Jane said, congratulations sir. "May I test your knowledge of that novel?"
"Yes, go ahead."
"Who was Jasper's best friend?"
"Owen, a vehicle mechanic, originally from Royal Tunbridge Wells."
"Oooh very correct."
"What was it about Jess's grandmother?"
"She was Welsh, always wore, quote, 'scary black', walked with a stick with a brass house doorknob for grip and was always telling Jess she could be whatever she wished to be."
"You really do have excellent recall. Right, the final test, what were the two words Jess breathed to herself when she looked up to the placings, knowing she had won the race and then saw her time was under the qualifying time required to be considered for probable selection to Great Britain's track and field team to the Olympics?"
Leo said without hesitation, "She breathed 'Thanks Nain', in tribute to the enduring mind-reaching encouragement she'd always received from her grandmother."
"Oh excellent," Jane said. "You are amazing. What is your name sir?"
"Leo McKenzie from West Dorset."
Lucy cried, "Omigod, he's the somewhat eccentric guy who promotes sustainable living."
People turned to look at Leo and clapped.
As the crowd began moving away Lucy came across to Leo and as she approach Leo admired her breasts.
She smiled, "You're staring Mr McKenzie."
"I know but didn't your mother preach to you anything you do is worth doing well?"
Lucy blushed and said she certainly did.
Local media photographed them together and checked the spelling of Leo McKenzie's name with him.
Lucy said, "I've called the club because we'd expected only females would stump Jane but the director of the club said no it was okay, members often had men for lunch."
"She then asked who the bright boy was and I told her your name and she said oh the conservationist, her granddaughter had claimed you were the best teacher she'd ever had and the director asked would you speak and they could make that day a formal luncheon and raise money for charity. Would you speak to them?"
"The director said you could nominate the charity."
Looking at her breasts to clear his mind (not that it worked), Leo said the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary.
Jane wasn't beautiful but her smile was and she had a cute snub nose and freckles and her green eyes were searching and, to Leo, suggested calmness and intelligence. He tried really had not to gaze at her tits.
"Oh Mr McKenzie. It's..."
"Please call me Leo," he said, looking at her breasts and Jane, noting where his focus was, blushed.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"I should think so," she scolded.
"Eh?" said Lucy, coming off her phone.
Leo looked pleadingly
Jane looked at his ruddy complexion gained from his outdoor life and the trusting pale blue eyes and said, "Oh Leo belched but apologized."
"Oh I thought... um nothing."
"You thought what?"
"Nothing," Lucy said, glancing at Jane's breasts and looking back to check for messages on her phone.
"What day would suit you for our lunch?"
Leo replied any day during the upcoming school holidays.
"Oh why is that?"
"Because I teach conservation studies at a high school."
"Omigod then you were intelligent enough to gain a degree?"
Jane said to Lucy what and then realized what she'd just said.
"No worries," he said, cutting in. "I upset you looking at your breasts and now you have bad-mouthed me. This suggests we have something in common, the ability to trade insults."
"God you two," Lucy laughed while Jane was left bemused and speechless until, she said sounding extremely sincere, "I am so sorry."
Leo stroked her arm and told her to forget it. She looked at his hand on her arm and said nothing and made no attempt to pull away. That's when his interest in her deepened into something he'd never felt for a woman to that extent before.
Lucy got the dates of the school holidays from Leon and said she'd arrange the lunch date and everyone agreed a Friday would be best to attract the biggest attendance of people in a mood to donate generously.
"I'll call you Leo."
"I don't have a phone of any type but you can leave a phone message at my school. But you can write. I clear my mail every weekday."
The two women gawked and Jane said in astonishment, "You must be the only person in England who doesn't have a phone."
"Oh there will be other people such as the homeless," he smiled. "I also don't have TV or a radio and get my understanding of what's going on in the world through reading newspapers and talking to people."
"Talking to people but not on the phone?" Lucy said, intrigued.
"Yeah in the pub on Friday nights is good," he smiled. "And I have my teaching scheduled arranged so in the morning I can attend market days and three nearby towns. That's where one really gets a handle on all local news included gossip."
The women exchanged glances and giggled.
"How will you two get on when a burst of excessive solar energy blots out radio, TV and kills phone communication?"
Jane and Lucy looked at him, shocked.
"Yeah, just like I expected. You two are like most other people. I suggest you stand and watch a free range hen scratch for its food and while watching think about the possibility of one day you or more likely your descendants grinding out a living as basic as that."
They stared at him.
"The upside is you'd have much more time for sex."
Their laughter sounded rather hollow.
As Leo said he must go, Jane smiled wickedly and said, "If you came by bicycle we could give you a ride home?"
"No thanks. I have quite some way to go home. I run my father's old 1991 Land Rover Defender 200 tdi. I have a farm so need a robust vehicle that can go anywhere."
Jane asked, "Then may I collect you and take you to London for lunch?"
"That's a kind offer but I'll head up there the previous day and stay the night with my parents as Maidenhead. That means I'll have to clean the Defender because dad will be keen to inspect it for abuse."
Jane gave Leo her card and asked him to call her on Friday morning to confirm he was in London.
As Leo left, Jane said to Lucy, "Omigod what a character, as strong as anything I write about and I write fiction."
"He certainly is. Why don't you live with him for a couple of months and get all the background to write a novel based on sustainability living?"
"You mean sleep with him?"
"Darling I mean to share his way of life and see what he does and learn how he thinks. You are an adult and if you wish to jump into the sack with him, that's your business. God he looks fit enough to go all night."
They met in the foyer of the clubrooms.
Leo smiled and asked should he kiss her and Jane said without hesitation yes. She expected to be kissed like and aunt and was surprised at what she got.
He smiled and said, "Good drive up here?"
"I came by train."
He said good and suggested she return with him tomorrow.
"Good idea. I'll book into a hotel."
"No mom is expecting you to stay the night. I anticipated you'd say yes because you find me interesting."
"I do, do I?"
"Well that was pretty pathetic as a denial."
She laughed and said she liked his suit.
"It's dad's. I don't own a modern suit and thought you'd be disappointed if I came here looking like a typical West Country farmer."
"Is there such a thing as a typical West Country farmer?"
He grinned and said he said there was too much variety for his claim to be true.
She said he appeared to do a lot of thinking and he said, "And you don't?"
They laughed and she said why did she have this feeling she knew him?
"Because I'm used to dealing with kids?"
She snorted and said she hoped that comment was a question and he said yes.
They looked at each other and smiled.
She said, "It's happening isn't it?" and before he could reply she said, "Oh here are Lady Caroline, the society's president and club director Mrs Sims-Langley."
The large room was packed. Lady Caroline introduced Jane and Leo. After a very appealing lunch and coffee was being served, Leo began his address.
"First thanks everyone for your interest in coming to listen to me and to donate to my nominated charity. As a farmer of an ancient breed of sheep called Hebridean I'm more than just interested in animal welfare; I promote best practices in farm animal welfare in my monthly column in a magazine aimed at small farm operators. We call them small farmers although we know some are very large."
"Your president told me during lunch that she'd mucked out their small piggery on their large estate yesterday, not because of a labor shortage but because, and I quote, the lads don't do it well enough for her."