2. Science-Fiction

2. Science-Fiction

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



    Mrs Bookworm watched as Jennifer Dewberry made her slow but happy way out of the shop, clutching some works in which cowboys, rather shamefully, took pot shots at Indians and herded their cattle whilst cracking whips with a will. She rather hoped she was going to enjoy these tomes, though a niggle at the back of her mind wondered how much bodice ripping had really gone on in the manly west. At least, she consoled herself, she’d chosen books with some hint of the female sex on the cover illustrations. They might have something to do with fluttering hearts and heaving bosoms within. Hopefully.

Miss Dewberry vanished out of sight, going into the butcher’s shop five doors down, and Mrs Bookworm turned to see if anyone else might be making their way through the gloom of an unlocked lockdown into her bright and welcoming book shop.

A figure, minute in the distance but growing ever larger, was coming her way.

Who might this be? A man, a gentleman no doubt, but she didn’t know his name even though he wasn’t exactly a stranger to her shop. She frowned. Yes, he usually lurked in the science fiction corner … and it was only a corner because, truth to tell, most of her customers were of the female persuasion and much preferred to read of the deep mysteries of love rather than the agonies of apace and time. She did herself. There is, she knew, a great deal yet to be discovered about beating hearts and fluttering eyelids by the writers of meaningful passion, and her personal search would doubtless continue long after her eyes faded and her life ended.

The man paused at the entrance to her emporium, then made his way through the door. She smiled her welcome at him. It was a fixture, was that smile, devoid of any sincerity, but that didn’t matter. Sincere or not, it still meant welcome.

Space stories?” she prompted him when he paused by her counter.

Maybe,” he replied thoughtfully, “though, to tell the truth, I might have a change. Yes, I might.”

Really?” she prompted him. There was nothing she liked better than absorbing the details of her customers’ literary interests.

He nodded his head somewhat vigorously. “I will admit,” he confessed, “to having been a bit single minded in my pursuit of fiction. I have been that way inclined since I was a boy, short pants and acne. I suppose it was the thrill of the unknown back then, but recently, well, it’s been more for the way the human spirit can adapt to this or that situation and emerge from his trials and tribulations gloriously victorious.”

He looked around him, making sure there were no other customers to discover what may or may not be his big secret.

Fascinating,” she encouraged him.

It’s been this situation,” he said quietly, “this pandemic. I, you know, suffer from a touch of asthma and must be very careful what I do and who I interact with else it might be curtains for me. So I have been stuck at home in my flat all on my own and might have actually given in to boredom and ended it all there ad then...”

Oh my goodness!” dithered Mrs Bookworm.

He nodded. “You can have no idea how monotonous life can get,” he murmured, shaking his head, “I have no great fondness for the artificial world of the television where the plastic lives lived by so called celebrities get paraded in moronic repetition. The same, to a lesser degree, goes for the radio, and my small collection of paper backs has long since been read and re-read until I fear I may know some passages off by heart.”

Very disheartening,” she murmured.

Then I had the surprise of my life,” he smiled.

You have such a nice smile, she thought, but “carry on,” she said.

I live in a flat, you know, not so far down the road, Newholme flats they’re called, you may have passed them by, and I had the shock of my life a while ago.”

You did?” she asked, guessing what that shock of his life might be.

Indeed I did. I had lost weight, you know, quite a lot of weight because I just couldn’t be bothered to feed myself properly getting, as I was, so depressed by my own company. It reached a point where my clothing just didn’t fit any mire and so I made a telephone call to a number that claimed to be able to make alterations to trousers.”

I think I know where this is going,” she almost trilled.

I doubt it! Not even I could believe my good fortune when not five minutes after I left a message on the woman’s answerphone there was a knock on my door and a woman, a thoroughly decent woman, came in and talked me into removing my trousers.”

Almost, but not quite, her version, thought Mrs Bookworm, recognising the story and thoroughly absorbed by hearing it told from a different perspective.

So did you?” asked Mrs Bookworm, teasingly.

Before you could say Jack Robinson, she had them off me,” he murmured, actually blushing, “no woman’s seen the virtue of my legs since my beloved Peggy passed away ten tears ago, bless her.”

A man might have quite acceptable legs and make keeping them hidden tantamount to being a crime,” she told him, glibly. “I’ve known men like that. And the other sort with knobbly knees who insist in parading around in shorts. Terrible!”

And, to add insult to whatever it was, that morning I had quite forgotten to put my y-fronts on,” he concluded.

My goodness!” she exclaimed, “I mean, that you choose to wear y-fronts. I’d have put you down as a boxer shorts man. More comfortable, I’m told.”

Really?” he asked, “I hadn’t really given it any thought. I mean, when a man reaches a certain age he doesn’t, does he?”

I’ve never been a man,” she pointed out.

Anyway, to get back to what I want,” he said slowly, “I no longer want to go zooming off between the stars. I mean, it seems such a vast adventure for a man who’s not quite up to remembering to get dressed properly in the mornings. And as I said it’s a good ten years since my Peggy died, bless her. She would never have countenanced me going about my life improperly dressed like I was! It shows how much a man depends on a lady, that he can forget to pull a pair of y-fronts on when he gets dressed in the morning!”

So you don’t want to buy one of my books?” Mrs Bookworm must have sounded as wounded as her till felt at the thought of it not having to ring up a profitable sale.

Oh, I do,” he smiled at her, and for a second time she marvelled at the genuine good looks of that smile, “but not science fiction. Not this time. No, I feel like walking in the footsteps of men who have teetered through life and been awoken at the point of suicide by the love of a perfect woman. I feel like a biography!”

What a fine idea!” she exclaimed.

Or preferably an autobiography,” he frowned, “told in his own words., a man at the depths of misery being edged out of the point of despair by pure unadulterated love!”

Love?” she asked, “If you love the lady, what about a damned good romance?” she asked, always happy to promote her own favourite genre.

But he shook his head. “No: I want truth. I want reality. And I want a packet of condoms!”

That’ll be three doors down. The pharmacist,” she told him, her own heart suddenly fluttering almost out of control.

© Peter Rogerson 24.06.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on June 24, 2020
Last Updated on June 25, 2020
Tags: romance, science fiction, factual, biography, pandemic lockdown


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 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..

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