I wrote the following poem to the memory of W. F. “Dick” Ward, who operated an ice cream parlor on the Main Street of Fentress, Texas, and for nearly seventy years sold great big double-dipped ice cream cones to children of all ages. In all those years, the price remained the same: one nickel. The ice cream didn’t get better, said Dick, so why should the price go up?
We loved him.
W. F. WARD, CONFECTIONER, 1958
Out on the porch it’s August,
But it’s cool inside and dim,
one bulb suspending from a cord.
A slim brunette holding a bottle of Royal Crown Cola
Smiles down from above the mirror.
In the back, where it’s dark and you’ve never been,
Sit two small, dusty tables and four delicate chairs.
Once, flappers and their beaus
Sipped sodas there and flirted,
But now they’re ghosts.
Behind the marble counter stands Dick Ward,
Eighty years old to your seven, and deaf, and wiry as the chairs,
Blue eyes dancing.
“Chocolate, please,” you say.
He leans down, tilts his head.
You stand on tiptoe, breathe deep, shout.
Of course, it’s just a game, because
He knew before you asked.
He dives down, disappears into the marble, rises with a cone,
And holds it out.
You hand him your nickel. “Thank you.”
As you turn to leave, Mr. Perry shuffles in.
“Bugler!” he rasps,
And as Dick reaches for the tobacco
You know that’s wrong,
Because your grandfather smokes Bull Durham,
How could anyone pass up chocolate?
The writer couldn’t find a suitable photo of a chocolate ice cream cone, so she had to make do with vanilla.
“W. F. Ward, Confectioner, 1958″ first appeared in the 2008 issue of True Words Anthology, a publication of Story Circle Network. It was posted on Writing Wrangler and Warriors April 10, 2015.
M. K. Waller’s stories have been published in two Austin Mystery Writers anthologies, LONE STAR LAWLESS (Wildside, 2015) and MURDER ON WHEELS (Wildside, 2017), and in DAY OF THE DARK (Wildside, 2017). She blogs at M. K. Waller–Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers. Read her flash fiction “And Justice for All” on Mysterical-E. She lives in Austin, Texas, with two cats and one husband.