4. Ice-creams

4. Ice-creams

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



   It was next morning when Jennifer Dewberry, face flustered and eyes indignant, burst into Mrs Bookworm’s cosy little bookshop.

It’s no good,” she almost shrieked, “westerns don’t help much! And all I wanted was a few tips on how to shoot straight and keep my man!”

I don’t understand...” stammered Mrs Bookworm.

Take Mr Archer,” yammered her irate customer, “I thought all he wanted was a nice little woman, and I can be a nice little woman if that’s what’s called for, to make adjustments to his trousers with a needle and thread and the like, when he came out with it!”

He did?” asked Mrs Bookworm, wondering what on Earth a gentleman like Walter Archer might come out with that could have such an effect on her favourite romantic fiction customer.

He did! Just like that!” confirmed Miss Dewberry, “and, I cam tell you, that was the last thing on my mind! I’ve never heard of such a thing, and he such a quiet well-mannered gentleman on the surface! But still waters run deep, they say, and there’s no denying it!”

I’m confused,” confessed the bookshop owner.

Let me put it like this: would you expect a gentleman who’s been a widower for this last ten years to make any reference whatsoever to intimate matters that may or may not have been part of his matrimonial life way back when his good lady still had a heart beat?” demanded Jennifer, and a hint of a tear betrayed itself by sneaking out of her left eye and threatening to trickle down her cheek.

Most certainly not!” agreed Mrs Bookworm, largely because that seemed to be the expected reply.

Well that’s just what he did!” sniffed Miss Dewberry, “he came right out with it as if it was the most important matter on the planet! My Peggy, the Lord bless her, he says to me, blatant like that and coming out with private stuff as if it was suddenly okay and his Peggy wouldn’t mind, my Peggy had principles, that’s what she had, and she was straight about them from the word go, and I’d like to know, Miss Dewberry, about your principles and how straight you are with them.”

That’s got me all flummoxed,” confessed Mrs Bookworm, “I mean, what did he mean by principles? That’s what I would like to know, begging your pardon for being nosy.”

Jennifer sighed and smiled at her. “That’s you, Mrs Bookworm, straight down the middle and getting to the nub of the issue like that. So anyway, I turned on Mr Archer, who was wearing his trousers, which was a blessing, and asked him straight out. What do you mean by principles, Mr Archer? I asked. And would you like to know what he said, Mrs Bookworm, because if you would I’ll tell you.”

Go on,” invited her attentive audience of one.

Well, buckle yourself in, Mrs Bookworm, because this was out of the blue. My late wife, my beloved Peggy, laid down boundaries on th evening of our wedding day, he told me, and they were boundaries I accepted all my wedded life. ‘We’re not having kids,’ she said quite firmly, ‘because having kids does a woman’s figure no good at all and anyway in the world we live in it’s nothing but downright cruelty. And not having kids, Walter, means not doing any of that messy stuff involved. So,’ my Peggy said quite firmly, ‘I’ll allow you the odd kiss, maybe on alternate Fridays after prayers, and we’ll keep it at that.’”

Mrs Bookworm looked both astounded and at a loss for words until “what did she mean by messy stuff?” she asked.

Jennifer sniffed and shook her head. “I’ve got an idea,” she said quietly, “like the sort of thin Dr Flynn gets up to on every other page of A Doctor Falls. You know, involving clandestine undressing under harvest moons and the rampant excitement of a medical man on the brink of discovering Heaven. That sort os messy stuff, though I’d prefer to refer to it in gentler terms, like loving tenderness...”

Me too!” admitted Mrs Bookworm, “there’s no finer thing on the entire planet than loving tenderness. Anyway, is that it or is there more?”

Oh, there’s more all right,” sniffed Jennifer, “because I says to him what’s the desires or otherwise of the late Mrs Archers got to do with me, Walter?”

A good question well put,” approved Mrs Bookworm.

That’s what I thought. Anyway, and here’s the nub of it, he looks me straight in the eyes and says if you and I are going to get into the habit of doing stuff, then I’ll have no such rules and regulations, he says, without so much as specifying what he means by doing stuff! I mean, I’m a single lady, Mrs Bookworm, never been taken to the altar by a gentleman, never even been wooed by one, though I wouldn’t have objected if the right kind of person had proposed a bit of wooing. It might have done me some good. I might have learned a thing ir two.”

You’re so right to be, er, whatever it is you are being,” sympathised the bookshop lady, shaking her head. “but what do you think he meant by doing stuff?”

Jennifer Dewberry shook her head, then smiled a very small smile, one that didn’t clash unpleasantly with the single tear that had escaped from her left eye.

You know what Doctor Flynn does with Nurse Petticoat at the end of chapter one?” she asked.

Do I not! I must have read that bit a dozen times!” oozed Mrs Bookworm, “especially the bit when things are almost, but not quite, described, so that you really have to use bit of your imagination...”

I know,” sighed her customer, “especially with regard to… how shall I put it? Size!”

Don’t! You’ll get me going, and I’m at work!” almost laughed Mrs Bookworm.

Anyway, I sort of worked out that that’s the kind of thing he meant when he referred to messy stuff,” admitted Jennifer, “It seemed to fit his mood And I couldn’t help thinking that he was being too expectant. I mean, we’d only ever kissed once, and that hadn’t been one of Doctor Flynn’s specials! Just a chaste little kiss, nothing at all really, almost disappointing. Then he asked me the oddest possible question. ‘If I were to bring you an ice-cream,’ he asked me, ‘what flavour would you prefer?’”

I supposed you said, strawberry. Or chocolate. Something like that,” suggested Mrs Bookworm, who was temporarily at a loss for words.

I suggested lemon,” admitted Jennifer, “and then I learned he didn’t really mean ice-creams at all!”

He didn’t?”

No he didn’t.”

What did he mean, then?”

Think Doctor Flynn at the end of the seventh chapter when he has to rush to the chemist’s shop for something...”

You mean…?”

Jennifer nodded. “and besides being presumptive, I have no idea what flavour’s got to do with it. Anyway, I said lemon, and failing that chocolate...”

Mmm. I’d say you’ve got good taste, my dear,” smiled Mrs Bookworm, “and that means you’ve earned the right to be the first customer to get an eyeful of the latest Doctor Flynn novel! It’s fresh in today, and I know you’ll love it!”

© Peter Rogerson 26.06.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on June 26, 2020
Last Updated on June 26, 2020


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 76 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..