A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Just like magic, six years have passed since the last episode...


Daddy, just one more go,” insisted Jodie Pyke, aged five.

The computer monitor was glowing in front of her with a little character very much like an animated egg bouncing up and down ready for her to start the game.

Josiah Pyke, complete with fairly new beard which made him look both older and younger at the same time, but no wiser, shook his head. “Not now,” he said, almost firmly but with a twinkle in his eyes, “I’m sure the computer will wait until you get home from school.”

That’s right,” confirmed the child’s mother, Ophelia Pyke, “and haven’t they got a computer for you to work on at school?”

They have, but the games are crap,” explained Jodie, “they’re all about numbers and words which I already know and not about adventures and finding treasure at all!”

Well, maybe it’s just as well that they’re less interesting or you might get fed up with playing yours at home and then what would you do?” asked her mother, adding by way of an afterthought, “and anyway, daddy wants to write Sunday’s sermon on ours.”

I wish daddy wasn’t the vicar,” complained Jodie, “everyone at school thinks that makes me a goody-goody and Michael Stubbs won’t even show me his willy like he does to the other girls, just in case I tell my dad and Michael ends up going to hell!”

Then Michael Stubbs is a naughty boy,” murmured Ophelia, “and I think I’d better have a word with your teacher if he he does things like that. There are some things a girl shouldn’t see, aren’t there daddy?”

Not at any age,” agreed the Reverend Pyke, winking at his wife.

He doesn’t, not to me,” said Jodie, pulling on her coat. “Anyway, I don’t want to see. Not ever. Come on mummy or I’ll be late for school.”

It was only a short walk to the Primary School in Henstooth where the family still lived, and once there Ophelia sought out the class teacher, worried about what her five year-old daughter had told her about one of the boys. As chance would have it the teacher, young and too pretty to be old enough to teach mused Ophelia, was on duty in the playground.

He comes from a troubled family,” said Miss Chalk when she heard. “I know he can be a bit, what shall we say, daring, liking to draw attention to himself, but the boy’s got no harm in him really. After all, he’s only five!”

I know of the family,” nodded Ophelia, “the boy’s father works twenty-five hours a day from what I’ve heard, and his mother’s a, well, a, people say ... she’s a ...”

Prostitute?” asked Miss Chalk. “If you’ve heard that on the Henstooth grapevine it’s quite wrong. She’s nothing of the sort, but she’s got, what shall I call it, mental problems. Gossip can be so cruel, don’t you think?”

Yes, I know,” nodded Ophelia, relieved that the teacher had apparently heard different gossip from that which had reached her ears.

She’s a hypochondriac as far as I can make out,” continued Miss Chalk, “thinking that every little facet of her life is likely to see her off to the great beyond before her time! And to think she was such a good woman before little Michael was born! People can be so unkind misjudging what she does, because she’s for ever popping into Brumpton for medicines at the chemist’s there, medicines for conditions she hasn’t got but thinks she might have, and people make the wrong assumptions. I’ve heard condoms mentioned, of all things, and her husband is away so much, working. Then Michael has got this reputation for … exposing himself … and that worries her too. He really is a naughty boy and I’ll have another word or three with him.”

I see,” sighed Ophelia, “we never quite see the problems that others face until we walk in their shoes, do we?”

Your husband doesn’t exactly help, from what I hear,” murmured the teacher.

Josiah? What’s he done?” asked a surprised Opehlia.

Well, from what I’ve heard, and I hear most things that go on around here, the Stubbs family goes to church every Sunday. They sing their hymns, say their prayers … and listen to his sermons… and its then that Mrs Stubbs becomes troubled, poor woman. You see, if the Reverend makes any reference at all to health, however innocently it is intended, Mrs Stubbs takes it on board and it worries her. I heard that last week he said something along the lines of none of us can last for ever and we must search within ourselves for a healthy mind… and she heard the word healthy, and that’s when she walked out. I was there and I noticed. I rather suspect that next day she was down at the doctor’s asking for drugs to sort her mind out! She wouldn’t get any, of course, so off she’d go to the Chemist’s shop in Brumpton where they’d sell her something or other that would do her no good at all, though it might put her mind at ease somewhat, like a placebo.”

This is dreadful!” whispered Ophelia.

Didn’t you notice her when she left church, shaking like a fig leaf?” asked Miss Chalk.

Ophelia shook her head. “I don’t go to church very often,” she admitted, “it’s Josiah who has the faith, not me.”

We must all believe in something,” almost chided the teacher.

I know,” smiled Ophelia, “and I believe in nature and science and not what some bronze-age dreamer dreamed up in tall stories round a camp fire.”

Each to her own,” muttered Miss Chalk, critically.

So you’ll have a word about the boy exposing himself?” asked Ophelia. “I know Jodie hasn’t said he does it in front of her because her dad’s the vicar and he might have a private line to his god...”

I’ll see what I can do,” promised Miss Chalk, “but you must understand that little boys of that age can be quite curious, and none of it does any real harm.”

When I was five,” Ophelia told her, “I thought the only difference between boys and girls was that girls were allowed to grow long hair and boys weren’t. I had to wait to be ten years older before I had my education enhanced, and that was incomplete until I married Josiah.”

I think I thought the difference had to do with dresses and trousers,” nodded the teacher. “I used to love wearing pretty dresses and I suppose that I knew that boys would look daft if they did!”

I suppose I had similar ideas too,” agreed Ophelia. “And what’s more, I still like wearing pretty dresses, but I’d have a fit if I caught Josiah trying one on!”

And yet the clerical costume is almost like a dress,” put in Miss Chalk, “all white and flowing...”

But not pretty,” laughed Ophelia, “I’d love to see Josiah’s face if one of my bright red jumpers ran in the wash, and his best surplice came out all pink!”

Well, I’ll have a go at the boy, but I doubt it’ll make much difference,” smiled Miss Chalk, “but I’m absolutely certain that in next to no time he’ll grow out of it and find fascination in something else.”

Jodie’s crazy over a computer game,” murmured Ophelia. “Maybe he should get one of those.”

Now, from what I can make out, they’re spawn of the devil,” laughed the teacher, and she waved the bell she was holding and all the children, every one, stood stock still in the playground.

That school bell takes me back,” laughed Ophelia, and she mad her way out of the playground.

Well, I tried, Ophelia told herself as she walked back home, and nobody can do more than that…

© Peter Rogerson 08.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 8, 2018
Last Updated on April 8, 2018



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..