A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

A vast improvement to Ursula's sex life and a big American car.


What were you two up to?” demanded Primrose as she pulled her satchel over her shoulder and grinned mischievously at her parents, “because whatever it was it was disgusting!”

Your father got some medicine to help with his war wounds,” explained Ursula, deliberately obliquely, as Greendale blushed and left for work.

And it makes you do stuff like that! I should coco! Anyway, I know where you got it from and it’s bound to have slugs and bats’ wings in it if I know anything about Miss Entwhistle!”

It’s nothing of the sort,” stammered Ursula, once again telling herself that there was no such thing as a secret in a village like Swanspottle.

Anyway, I trust it worked as expected!” And Primrose’s grin was so broad Ursula just had to grin back, though she did try not to.

Really, Primrose, I don’t know what you mean...” she stuttered, knowing exactly what her daughter meant but needing to deny it. After all, the subject was her sex life, and that had suddenly become vigorous and that was something one didn’t then and doesn’t now discuss with a teenage daughter.

Wait till I tell Susan,” giggled Primrose.

Don’t you dared!”

See ya!” And the fifteen year-old skipped out of the shop door on her way to school.

She and Susan Smith had become great friends. Once it had seemed that Susan’s problems, the way she was different from the other children, might get in the way of her having good and honest friendships, but in actual fact the opposite had turned out to be true. She was still, maybe, slightly slower than the average in her class at school, but that didn’t matter because she was looked on as a great friend to have by most of her year group, and anyway their schooldays were all but over. The future that lay ahead might have been uncertain, but it looked as if Susan would survive whatever life threw at her, and always smile.

Her mother, Jane, normally dropped her off at the shop where Primrose was waiting for her, and the two girls, giggling already, made their way towards the secondary modern school, where they were in the last class before their formal education ended.

He’s finally got me to let him come and visit Susan,” moaned Jane.

You mean Charles?” asked Ursula.

The same. But by the way, young lady, what was your Primrose telling our Susan that you and Greendale might have been up to last night?” asked Jane, smiling. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to hear, but you know my ears.”

I like that: young lady!” laughed Ursula, “and yes, I’ve got to admit that we were doing what I suspect Primrose assumed we were doing. That stuff in a bottle, medicine shall we call it though I’ve never known medicine that works as well as that stuff, anyway, whatever it is that Griselda Entwhistle gave him has done far more than either of thought it would! It seems to have unshackled my Greendale. Doctor Blegg said his main problem had probably been psychological, his difficulty with you-know-what, and whatever it was in Griselda’s tonic has gone straight to his head and set him free. That’s his expert explanation, anyway. And now he can’t stop wanting it, and what’s more he can deliver, and in buckets! And it’s mad me feel good, too. I never felt so young myself. The only trouble is, we both want another child but I think we’ve left it too late. I think I might be coming to the change...”

Not yet, surely? You’re only thirty-something.”

Well, it hasn’t happened yet.”

Sounds that whatever was in the bottle was just what Greendale needed.”

It was. But to your news. When are you expecting Charles to come? I remember when we saw him during the Festival back in 1951 and he looked dreadful. Thin as a rake and with that slimy friend of his leeching off him. At least, that’s how it seemed to me.”

Billy? The last I heard was that he passed away, Ursula. A few months ago. Charles wrote to me about it. His letter was full of the pain he felt, and yet they’d fallen out big time a year or more ago. But when Billy died it did something to Charles. He said he stopped painting for a while, which was a shame because he was getting quite a name for himself and making real money. But when he started again he described his work as dark and deathly.”

I got the impression that Billy never got over the war.” said Ursula thoughtfully, “not that I knew much about him, of course.”

Jane nodded. “I know. Neither did I. But I gather that he didn’t have the best of wars and when Charles rescued him he was expecting to die at any moment. I suppose that can to quite a lot of damage to a sensitive man, and he was, you know: sensitive. It’s just that he couldn’t stand on his own two feet that irritated Charles. That letter he wrote was full of it!”

So when’s he coming?”

Oh, of course. That’s what I’ve come to tell you! Any time now, and I suggested he calls here because, well, I still live with my mum and she isn’t well disposed to him.”

Well, he did get her pretty daughter pregnant!” pointed out Ursula.

And she’s never likely to forget that,” sighed Jane.

Is Susan keeping well?” asked the shopkeeper, standing on a chair and reaching up to to stack tins on a high shelf where customers might see them.

As well as can be expected, but she’ll always have to be careful not to put too much strain on her heart,” sighed Jane, “it used to scare me, but she’s been okay for ages. I try to let her live as normal a life as possible, but I do watch her when I can, keep my eyes on her. But as she gets older...”

What’s this coming?” asked Ursula, almost falling off the chair she was standing on as she stared through the window at something unusual outside the shop.

A car had pulled up. But it wasn’t just any car, it was one of the gigantic, shiny, flashy cars that had been imported from America. On an American road where the spaces and distances are huge it might have looked in proportion, but in Swanspottle it looked much too big.

Now what’s he got?” groaned Jane.

The car door opened, but it wasn’t Charles who stepped out first, but a woman in a flashy uniform and too much make-up. It looked as if Charles employed the family chauffeur still, Angela Tightbottom, and she was wearing well. Jane watched open-mouthed as she went to the rear door of the immense vehicle and pulled it open with a flourish.

Then, for a moment, time stood still. Very little happened.

Until, with a seemingly stupendous effort, Charles Snootnose somehow managed to drag himself out of the caricature of a car. He’d been sitting in the back, on what looked like ultra-plush seats, and he’d had to heave himself through the door and out, onto the pavement.

But when he stood up they had the shock of their lives. He should have been middle-aged, maybe even on the youthful side of middle-aged. He should have been bright-eyed still, he should have been standing tall and proud, but he was none of those things.

Charles Snootnose was an old man with a bent back and the face of one who has seen too much of the world and just wants it all to go away.

I’ve come to see my daughter,” he said, and voice was hoarse and yet muted, “I’ve come to bid her goodbye...”

© Peter Rogerson 09.08.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on August 9, 2018
Last Updated on August 9, 2018
Tags: tonic, medicine, psychology, shiny big car, Charles



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 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..