12. Jumped or Pushed?

12. Jumped or Pushed?

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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TALES FROM THE BOOKSHOP (12)

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Oh my goodness me, you should have seen his face!” giggled Jennifer Dewberry to Mrs Bookworm. It was Saturday and Mrs Bookworm was still troubled by what the vicar had said to her about the ridiculous Walter Archer and his absurd confusion when it came to the shape of his own flesh. She was asking herself whether the colourful edition of what could possibly have been a bit strong for Mr Archer might not have been quite the right thing for her to have offered him. Maybe, she thought, something intended for children might have been more appropriate for such a simple man.

I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall,” agreed Mrs Bookworm, “but tell me what happened.”

Jennifer looked around to make sure that there was nobody else within earshot, but the shop was empty save for its owner gently polishing her till with a brand new yellow duster and looking, to be quite honest, a trifle concerned.

I was in his flat,” began Jennifer, “he invited me in for coffee yesterday afternoon quite out of the blue like a gentleman might if he was feeling a bit lonely, and I could see no reason why I shouldn’t go in as long as we kept a reasonable social distance from each other like they say on the television and like we’re doing now, Mrs Bookworm. I don’t go much for measuring one or two metres! But we were spaced out and he was looking quite confused. But first, he made some coffee. He’s got a really nice machine! And his coffee is better than the instant granulated stuff I make.

Anyway, he brought this book out of a drawer and sort of secretly opened it, but I could see quite clearly what it was because I had copy of it once when I was going out with my one and only young man, not that either of us was actually young even then!”

I didn’t know...” interrupted Mrs Bookworm.

Not many do so don’t worry,” replied Jennifer, “it was a treasured part of my life for a while and Gerald might have married me but he had to go away.”

That’s a shame,” said Mrs Bookworm, thinking it would have been nice for the lovely woman the other side of her counter to have someone more sensible than Walter Archer in her life.

Not really,” sighed Jennifer, “I thought I knew Gerald, but I didn’t. Not really. I never discovered what he did for a living until he got arrested, actually in bed with me, would you believe it, and charged with goodness knows how many counts of breaking and entering and even bodily harm. But that’s in the past and not many people found out. He’s still doing time, and I never want to see him again! But he won’t come back. He was a charmer, and the thing about charmers is they lose all their power when those they charm discover the dark sides of their lives. I was naked when I found out, and so was he, and a posse of policemen actually barged in!”

How absolutely dreadful!”

It was. Put me off men for ages, then I started reading some of the lovely books in this shop and I think I’ve put Gerald well behind me. Then along comes Walter and, as I said, the book you gave him.”

The Karma Sutra,” smiled Mrs Bookworm. “My better half and I used to have a lot of fun trying things out if we had nothing better to do when the shop was shut and there were only soap operas on the telly.”

So did Gerald and I,” sighed Jennifer, “and it brought back all sorts of things I thought I’d forgotten when I saw Walter’s copy sort of secretly in his hands. Then he opened it at one particular page and showed me the picture. It was a modern representation of the old images in the original book, probably recreated in the sixties because the two figures had confused him. The man had gorgeous long hair, probably not cut in ages, all sleek and shiny like young men grew it back then, and the female figure had what looked to be a cropped head of hair, you know, the very short style that some women sported back in the day. So there was, I suppose, the seeds of what some might see as a kind of understandable confusion, and that’s what old Walter experienced.

The figures, you see, were naked, and he really believed because of the hair style that the female figure was the man and the male figure was the woman, and then he saw the other bits of the bodies, because the illustrations were unclothed, and he did a double-take, so to speak and worked out that he was made all wrong and maybe should be a she rather than a he.”

Ah,” sighed Mrs Bookworm, “I think I can see where this is going. He told the vicar that something was wrong with him, and that, I suppose, was what he meant.”

That’s not the worse thing!” laughed Jennifer, “He was in tears, actual tears, and he pulled his trousers down as if it was the most natural thing for a man to do in front of a lady, pull his trousers down, and asked me to look! And I did. I had to.

“’What’s wrong?’ I asked, trying not to stare.

This abomination!’ he crowed, ‘look, woman, and what do you see?’”

And what did you say?” asked Mrs Bookworm.

I said he was rather lucky,” replied Jennifer, “I even told him that any man would be proud to look like that with his trousers down. And you know what he did? He burst into tears and told me just how wicked he thought it was for a sensible woman like me to mock the afflicted and would I please get out of his flat, and never return! There was me, dumped before we got started! But I can’t help it: the whole thing is so ridiculous and it makes me smile even though I guess he doesn’t see it that way. But I mean, exposing himself like that, and me not yet sixty!”

Mrs Bookworm was about to sympathise with Jennifer and tell her that any woman would have reacted in the same way and the fault, if any fault there was, lay with Mr Archer when Humphrey Truman in his smart police constable’s uniform, pushed the door open and barged purposefully into the book shop.

He stood for a moment as if not quite sure what he should say, and then he opened his mouth before shutting it again.

Catching flies are we, Humphrey?” asked Mrs Bookworm, wondering what on Earth could be wrong to make the sensible P.C. Truman look so flummoxed.

It’s just that … Miss Dewberry, let me see, you must have been the last … I was told that you were seen rushing from the Newholme flats not half an hour ago...”

Of course I was, you silly man, I live there!” giggled Jennifer, who couldn’t get the image of Mr Archer minus his trousers out of her head.

And so did Mr Archer live there,” growled the policeman, “so did he indeed!”

What do you mean ‘did’, Humphrey?” asked Mrs Bookworm, “I’d have thought the proper word would be ‘does’.”

He did, Mrs Bookworm, because he’s dead,” pronounced Humphrey Truman with a deadly serious expression on his face, “as a dodo,” he added for effect, “and, mark you, without his trousers! Splat, he was, on the concrete path underneath his bedroom window out of which he’d taken a nose dive, and the big question my Inspector’s going to be asking is, did he jump or was he pushed? And if he was pushed, who might it have been who did the pushing?”

© Peter Rogerson 04.07.20



© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on July 4, 2020
Last Updated on July 4, 2020
Tags: gender confusion, long hair, short hair, dead


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..

Writing