11. Insanity

11. Insanity

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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TALES FROM THE BOOKSHOP (11)

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It was Friday, and by tradition the local shop keepers spent half an hour for lunch in Godfrey Grundy’s fish bar where, it was said, the chips were far superior to any you could buy anywhere else. They had a table by the window so that any passers by could note them sitting munching on their lunches and thus be aware that they were still alive and well, in business and would be back at their own counters before long. And they wore white face masks because Mr Grundy, or rather his wife, Winifred, was a stickler when it came to rules and regulations and there was no way the limited seating in his bar could be arranged with two metre social gaps between customers.

Mrs Bookworm was enjoying recounting her most recent meeting with Mr Archer and the way she’d insisted he consulted the manual on personal life, the Karma Sutra.

What book did you say you let him borrow?” asked the butcher, Mr Hatchett, grinning.

Mrs Bookworm winked at him knowingly. “Well, it’s not the original Karma Sutra of course, that’s really ancient and nobody here could understand the writing. But there are quite a lot of modern translations with quite gorgeous illustrations, and it’s one of those,” she explained, “a highly illustrated and very educational volume from the sixties, I believe, when they were discovering such things, and it should leave him in no doubt as to what goes where when it comes to Miss Dewberry and he spending a few minutes together.”

And have you seen him since?” asked Mr Jones, the pharmacist, “because if you have I’d be very much surprised. When I was a nipper at secondary school one of the lads had a few pages of one of the Karma Sutra books, and even looking at then nearly sent most of us blind!”

So if you see Mr Archer wandering around with a white stick and in a daze you'll know why!" cackled Mrs Brussels, the greengrocer whose hairstyle very closely resembled the appearance of a fresh cauliflower.

And know who to blame,” added Mr Hatchett darkly.

He’s a grown man, for goodness’ sake, and there isn’t anything in that book that he shouldn’t already know at his age,” protested Mrs Bookworm, “why, Mr Bookworm and I were well versed in some of the little tricks advocated in its pages even before we swore fealty to each other at the altar, and we were young back then!”

Is that what killed him?” laughed Mr Jones, “because I’ve heard that it can! One loving man and a demanding woman reading that book together and you’ve got red for danger and heart attacks all over the place!”

Or green for go!” cackled Mr Hatchett.

But it’s not funny when you think it’s Miss Dewberry he’s likely to be trying it on,” put in Mrs Brussels, “by all accounts she’s an innocent.”

A single lady in her age, what would you say, in her fifties?” asked Mr Jones.

She’s looked the same as she does now ever since I first saw her, and that’s years since,” said Mrs Brussels thoughtfully.

Forget the lass, it’s Mr Archer I feel sorry for,” said Mr Jones, “that wife of his used to shop at my place and she wasn’t above asking if I stocked some rather dubious things.”

Like what?” asked Mrs Brussels.

Well, I recall when one of the tawdry tabloid newspapers, you know, one of them red tops with shock and horror stories all over them, had a splurge about a new drug a few years back, a concoction meant to make men dry up altogether and put an end to what’s no longer necessary, if you see what I mean, and Mrs Archer, daft old Peggy, was still alive and made enquiries about them as a means, she hinted, of controlling poor old Walter. I said that they were as illegal as illegal can be if they actually exist outside the imagination of the newspaper reporter and there was no way I was ever going to stock that sort of thing even if I could! She gave me a queer look, I can tell you, told me men ought to be kept under control before the population explosion ruined the planet and stalked out like the dragon she was!”

From what Mr Archer’s been saying Peggy kept him dried up anyway!” said Mrs Bookworm, “why, they even had two single rooms for their honeymoon according to what he told me!”

The poor devil,” sighed Mr Jones. “I sold him some condoms a week or so back and I could tell he had no idea what they were for! Thought they were for putting on the loo to keep it clean, or something like that. I couldn’t believe a man on this Earth could be so innocent!

It’s not innocence it’s ignorance,” muttered Mrs Brussels, “but the whole idea of Walter Archer studying the Karma Sutra is going to make me titter for the rest of today and doubtless into tomorrow!”

Well, begging your pardon one and all, but I’m off to my shop. Lamb steaks don’t sell themselves, you know,” said Mr Hatchett standing up and stretching. “A nice bit of cod that was, and now it’s back to the chopping block to work it off.”

Same here,” chorused the remainder of the little group, and like an army fresh from their mess they trooped back to their shops, all of them hoping that the usual busy herd of customers would come along soon, or they’d all go bankrupt.

The Reverend Bertram Smythe was waiting outside the bookshop when Mrs Bookworm got back, comfortable after her plate of haddock and chips with a side serving of mushy peas.

I need to see you,” he begged, “I’ve had the most horrible time!”

Really? Poor you! And your little old Bible’s ready for you,” smiled Mrs Bookworm, wondering what could possible cause a man of God so much apparent anguish.

Oh. Good,” His reply was short and, if anything, sounded almost disinterested.

What is it then?” asked Mrs Bookworm.

It’s Mr Archer,” explained the vicar, wringing his hands in such a way that Mrs Bookworm felt she really must dust her till. “Apparently you’ve let him have a book…?”

Yes,” she replied, unhelpfully.

And it’s confused him,” stammered the vicar, so he’s come to me for advice, to get the matter cleared up, as if I was any good at such things.”

Why you, then?” asked Mrs Bookworm, surprised because, to her, the Reverend Smythe was the least likely person someone would turn to for advice of a personal nature.

I suppose it’s because I marry people,” he replied, ringing his hands, “and tell them it’s their job to end up with as many arrows in their quivers as is commensurate with common sense.”

Arrow in quivers?” asked Mrs Bookworm, to whom the reference was completely unknown.

Children in the family,” he explained, “it’s an old way of our ancestors suggesting that large families might be a good thing and a quiver full of arrows would be a great aid if you’re at war or out hunting or maybe tilling the land. Better than only one, anyway.

Quite so, I must remember that one,” she told him, smiling warmly and wanting him to get to the kernel of his problem before her shop was inundated with customers all wanting their copy of the latest Doctor Flynn saga.

It’s apparently a reworking of an ancient Indian manual on … er, personal stuff like relationships,” he said, helplessly, “and I’m almost as lost as Mr Archer!”

Really?” she asked, shocked. After all, this vicar was the go-to advice centre in a village that lacked anyone else who might offer dictums on morality and sin.

I thought of asking dear Dottie,” he said, still agitated, “but what would she think of me if I asked her what Mr Archer’s privates ought to look like? She’d think I was mad, that’s what she would think and probably what you think too. But he’s formed the opinion that his body might have been constructed by the Almighty all wrong and wants me to explain why! He’s looked at pictures and diagrams in that wretched book of yours and, well, from what I can make out listening to his babbling he thinks he ought to have a vagina!”

© Peter Rogerson. 03.07.20



© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on July 3, 2020
Last Updated on July 3, 2020
Tags: fish shop, discussion, Karma Sutra, ignorance


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
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..

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