The Magic Flute

byoggbashan©

Bob looked at a monitor we couldn't see.

"Seventeen sixteen," he said.

"Tom and I will be back to say yes, no, or maybe by eighteen thirty. OK with you, Tom?"

I nodded. Things were moving fast. Less than a quarter of an hour after becoming engaged and we were making decisions about our wedding.

We walked back across the village green hand in hand. The stalls were being dismantled. Julia led me to Mrs Jones' stall to collect her stuffed toys.

"He did it, then," Mrs Jones commented, pointedly looking at our linked hands.

"Yes," Julia and I said together.

"We're engaged," Julia added, "and you're the first villager to know, even before our parents."

"I'll keep it quiet until tomorrow," Mrs Jones said "but others will have guessed even if they can't be sure. We knew it would happen, but not when. Congratulations to both of you."

"Thank you," we chorused.

Mrs Jones laughed. "Off with you, get changed. You two look as if you've been through the wringer."

I left Julia at her house and walked the few steps to mine. We had agreed that I would come to her in twenty minutes. Could she shower and change in that time? I didn't know, but if she said twenty minutes she probably meant it.

We couldn't tell our parents. Both sets were running people and equipment home after the fete. We would have to decide about our wedding by ourselves.

Why not? We were adults and although living in the same village as our parents we were independent, living in our own small houses.

As I showered, I considered what to wear. Bob, Helen and the others of The Magic Flute crew were formally dressed. I decided on a suit, not my best, but a reasonable one tailored to fit me by the tailor in the market town. I was sure that Julia would dress up too.

She had. When I went to meet her she was wearing another light dress but with stockings and high heels.

"Well," she said, "will we let them film our wedding?"

"I don't see why not. We would have to get permission from the Vicar but he has allowed amateur videos of weddings."

"There's the Parish Council too, Tom. They could object to a film crew."

"They allowed The Magic Flute, Julia, and kept it quiet. The village didn't know until the trucks turned up."

"What do you think, Tom?"

"I don't see why not. Presumably they'd give us a copy of the recording. That would save money..."

"Money?" Julia said pensively. "I wonder what the real prize for The Magic Flute is? They've already promised us four thousand pounds unconditionally."

"Perhaps what we have won depends on agreeing to let them film our wedding?"

"Maybe. So. Decision time again. Yes? No? Or maybe?"

"I'm for Yes."

"So am I, Tom. Let's go and tell them."

I looked at the watch I was now wearing. It read eighteen fourteen.

Bob was standing by the door of The Magic Flute as we approached. He scanned our formal appearance and nodded slightly.

"You've decided?" he asked as we followed him back into the small studio.

I let Julia answer.

"The answer is Yes, for us two. But we, or you, will have to get agreement from others such as the Vicar and the Parish Council. Is that good enough?"

"Yes, Tom, Julia. Your agreement is all we asked for. We will have to get your formal agreement in writing but that can wait. In the meantime..."

Bob gave a thumbs up to Ralph who smiled broadly before opening a small fridge. He took out a large bottle of champagne and opened it carefully. He filled a glass for everyone.

"To our winners," Bob announced, "Congratulations on your engagement, Tom and Julia, and on winning The Magic Flute's grand prize."

He turned to Helen who picked up a large sheet of white board. She flipped it over. It was written like a giant cheque made out to 'Tom and Julia'.

I nearly dropped my glass. Julia grabbed my arm.

The winning prize was fifty thousand pounds.

"Thank you," I said. "Thanks to all of you."

"You might like to sit down," Bob suggested.

We did.

"Because that's not all. That cheque is for winning The Magic Flute contest. You also get..."

Ralph produced two rectangular boxes. He opened one to show a real flute embossed 'The Magic Flute' in gold on the ebony. The second one was identical.

"...and, because you have agreed to let us record your wedding, the balance of the prize fund which might have gone to the contestants who were runners-up and third."

Helen showed another giant cheque for forty-five thousand pounds.

"The runners-up would have received thirty thousand, those placed third, fifteen thousand."

"It's my turn," Julia announced. "Thank you, thank all of you. If we had known what we were competing for..."

"That was our mistake. We wanted the winnings to be a surprise, as it is to you. But we forgot that people need a worthwhile incentive. You had your own, but ours isn't bad, is it?"

"Not bad?" I exclaimed. "That's life changing, isn't it Julia?"

"Yes. I think I know what you are thinking about, Tom."

"A secret?" Bob was intrigued.

"There is a local business for sale. We couldn't afford it, but with that money..."

"...we could buy it a couple of times. We would have reasonable capital to make improvements as well."

"What business?" Helen asked.

"Our local farm shop," Julia answered. "The owner wants to retire but he has to sell the business to clear the mortgage on his house. It's a large wooden shed in a good position adjacent to the junction of a major road. The majority of the stock comes from our local farmers who get better prices than they would from selling to supermarkets. They are worried that they would lose that outlet. So are the customers. We could run it, employing the existing staff."

"It would be like achieving a dream," I added. "We would be working locally, employing local people, helping local producers, and..."

"...enjoying ourselves," Julia added.

"If you don't mind me asking," Bob said, "what do you do now? Where do you work?"

"I'm an assistant sales manager in a department store," Julia replied.

"And I'm a just-qualified accountant working in the family accountancy business. I do the accounts for the farm shop now, and most of the local farmers. I work at home and around the village a couple of days a week. I could continue as now but help out while Julia managed the farm shop."

"So you know what you would be doing?"

"Yes," said Julia firmly. "We have both worked at that farm shop during university holidays. We know exactly what we would be doing."

"Then, if you do take over that business, could we film that too?"

"Yes," Julia said. "It would be great publicity for the farm shop."

And so it was. We were married with the whole village present. We had already bought the farm shop and local builders were constructing new, larger and better premises with the Parish Council's enthusiastic support during the planning process.

We were happy. The village was happy. The farm shop's suppliers and customers were happy.

And the TV company went on to make a different game show that made millions for their backers. The Magic Flute had played out its magic.

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