A new short story for those final days of summer.
Mr Jacobs woke a little earlier than usual beating his alarm clock ticking loudly by the bedside by a good 15 minutes. He had a big smile on his face and with good reason. For today was the day when the Withering-By-The Sea ‘Dippers’ met for their annual picnic on the beach before rushing naked into the waves. All in the best possible taste of course. And today was also the day he had invited Mrs Golightly and the Nussling-In-The-Vale ‘Wheelers’ to the picnic too.
The sun’s morning rays creeping across the foot of his bed made his smile even broader and the thought of the rather ‘Rubenesque’ Mrs Golightly running down the beach and into the waves in front of him even broader still. There was no time to waste. Today called for a hearty breakfast and an early start to ensure everything was ready. He tumbled out of bed and went about his ablutions with extra care and thoroughness.
Soon he was ready and took a final look at himself in the hall mirror. The Zingari blazer and striped tie from the second hand shop matched with a white flannel shirt and panama hat created just the right image he thought to himself, befitting his position as President of the Withering ‘Dippers’. He picked up the small packet of sandwiches made the night before, all carefully wrapped in greaseproof paper, and stuffed them into a pocket. Although Mrs Golightly and her gals were bringing hampers stuffed with all manner of home-made goodies and fortified ginger wine he doubted it would include any of his favourite cheese and salad cream sandwiches.
Mr Jacobs reached the beach and dismounted rather ungainly from his Elswick Hopper. It had not been very easy cycling with two windbreaks tied to the crossbar and that little snappy Jack Russell near the chemist’s had not helped matters. He removed his bicycle clips and rubbed his ankle. No blood drawn, thank goodness. He pushed on through the marram grass into the sand dunes and to the place Mr Timms, the club Secretary, and he had specially selected for their little gathering. It was a natural bowl in the sand surrounded on three sides by sand dunes with a narrow gap on the fourth side that funnelled out onto the beach. Beyond was the sea, which at precisely one forty five, high tide, would be a mere 50 yard exuberant frisky dash away.
By 11 o’clock all was in place and ready. The flagpole and windbreaks, which doubled as modesty screens for changing, were erected and there was a good turnout of ‘Dippers’ present; seven in all, three more than last year if you included old Mr Stocks who had collapsed with a stitch before reaching the sea, and had come this year in his capacity as honorary Treasury and spectator . Mr Jacobs hoped it was the sunny weather that had increased the numbers but as Mr Timms had so ineloquently commented, “More like the prospect of Mrs Golightly, and her friend Miss Partridge from the florists bouncing over the sands. Bloomin’ lovely, the pair of them.”
All that was missing now was Mrs Golightly, the other Nussling ‘Wheelers’ and a tightly packed hamper or two. Meanwhile the tide crept ever closer.
Suddenly there was a loud commotion and young Billy Pearce appeared at the top of one of the dunes. “Oi, Mr Jacobs, you’d better come quick. There’s been a dreadful accident. At the crossroads, near the church. Three of the young Nussling ‘Wheelers’ with hardly a stitch on between them. Didn’t half startle the vicar’s pony and trap, never mind the vicar. Poor horse bolted, ran amok, bodies, vicar, bikes and upskittled hampers everywhere. No one knew where to look first. Mrs Golightly and several others have been taken to the cottage hospital. And as for Miss Jenkins the organist. Well you’d better come quick. There’s a right to-do.”
All in all it had been a long day and as he sat quietly at home eating his cheese and salad cream sandwiches, now curling sadly at the edges, Mr Jacobs reflected on what might have been. He sighed. Sergeant Burton had been most adamant. The ‘Dippers’ had dipped their last hereabouts. As for the ‘Wheelers’; it was out of his jurisdiction but suffice it to say Mrs Golightly and her gals would not be wheeling anywhere quite so ‘lightly dressed’ again either.