Flash Tales

Ice-Cream

By Clare Wenham . . .

UK “lockdown” Day 47 . . .

You are your own stories….I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art”.

Toni Morrison, Wellesley Commencement address 2004.

I bought it weeks ago, anticipating a noisy, family Easter Sunday: salted caramel and vanilla, strawberries and cream.  It’s clogging up the bottom drawer of the freezer; time it was eaten. 

I text.

They will be at the garden gate in twenty minutes……they are out doing ‘Geography’ this morning.

I wrap up the cold cartons and put them in the old candy-striped insulated bag….memories of summer beach picnics, gritty, sand-blown  squares of cheese and pickle on Whitby beach huddled behind the wind break with damp small girls….

But today is a fine May day.  I place the bag on the stone wall by the gate and wait, watching the green frills of the rowan lift in the warming air.

Four dark heads bob up the steps.  Fingers, then hands poke through the rusty curls of the gate and grab the dog’s lead tied to the latch.  Bottoms squirm on the top step, feet in sandals climb up, the gate swings open and their mum swiftly pulls it shut.  

I stand at a distance on the grass and call

Are you all okay?  Good to see you……. I thought you might like the ice-cream…………

Yes, we’re fine!  Thanks.

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What nights are you working Jo?

Just three this week.  It’s fine.  We’ve still got capacity. It’s fine.

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Gosh, short hair…

Yeah, Dan’s clippers…it’s cooler in theatre in this weather with all the visors and things.

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Where did you walk?

Just to the Co-op and back.  But we did all this tracking for Will’s cubscout badge.  They’ve put all the challenges online.  We’re having a lot of fun with it!

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Excellent……..good to be out in the sun together………..

Yeah…………..Sam, get down and stop taunting the dog!

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Oh Dougal’s okay, he’s just glad to see you all…………………I couldn’t get any flour this morning, none at all………

Yeah…….. I think everyone’s baking.  I made bread, but the kids won’t eat my bread.

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Not just bread, people are making cakes, biscuits, pies………..

Yeah………..you can have the rest of my flour if you like, mum.   I can bring it down tomorrow and leave it on the wall?

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Oh I’ve got enough for now…….….I’ve got that spelt flour……and plenty of pasta…I’ve got rice, do you need rice?

No, we’re fine, plenty of everything really………..Well, good to see you but time to get home, I think.  Come on chaps!

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Can’t we go in the garden and play with Dougal properly?

Nope.  Tie him back up to the gate now.  Sam, I said now!  Sam!

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When can we then?

Not…………….. for a while. No, I don’t know when it will be.  Come on the ice-cream will melt!

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I think it’ll be fine for a while longer in that bag, Jo..………shall I bring you out a cup of tea?

No, you can’t do that mum, you know it’s not allowed….. we’d better get off now. 

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Yes, of course, I know it’s not.  Lovely to see you all………….

We’ll potter round again in a couple of days, mum.  Boys, tie the dog to the gate again and gel your hands…. now!

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Bye Dougal!   Bye Granny! 

Bye boys……….see you another day………..

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We love you Granny!

I love you too, Lizzie………….see you soon. 

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Hands wave, dark heads disappear down the path.

I untie the dog and wander back towards the front step.  The house behind me is still and empty.

 See you another day, I murmur.  I turn and look out again across the garden, watching the blue tits picking away at the damson blossom.

 Yes, see you another day.

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