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 he asked.
He dives down, disappears into the marble, rises with a cone,
And proffers it.
You hand him your nickel.
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?
“W. F. Ward, Confectioner, 1958” first appeared in the 2008 issue of True Words Anthology, a publication of Story Circle Network.