Ice Cream Lady by Mary Thompson

A man I once knew used to take me to Madame Jo Jo’s in Soho. His place wasn’t far away, just behind that telecom tower in Tottenham Court Road. After our Friday night frolics, he’d pinch my cheeks till they were rosy as a rag doll’s, then untie me from the bed. I’d jiggle my wrists and kiss his neck, and then he’d say, ‘let’s pop along to Brewer Street, babe, and see that mad bird with the ice cream cone. She’s on again tonight.’

In the next-door room, his DJ housemate was playing a mash-up from the 90’s, and in the kitchen, I could see his coffee grinder and a bag of Colombian beans waiting to be ground. This to me was reality. That ice cream lady was not. But I’d say, ‘yes, okay, let’s go.’ I had no choice back then.

Ice cream lady was clad in a slippery dress and looked a little like a fish. She was the type of woman who’d never love a soldier. Years later she was chased across a windy moor by a maniac with a knife. I read about that in the papers. But on this one night in Soho she was beaming and giggling and clutching her ginormous ice cream cone like nothing else mattered in the world.

A pinch of silly is all you really need in life, I thought, as I glanced at my man, all perma-tanned and manly in his Dolce and Gabbana coat, but I wished so much he would look at me in the way he was looking at her.

Mary Thompson is a winner of two BIFFY 50 awards (Best British & Irish Flash Fiction), and her story, ‘The Circle is Complete’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. ‘Ladybird’ was included in Best Microfiction 2020 and her flash collection was Highly Commended in Ellipsis Zine’s 2020 competition. Mary tweets at @MaryRuth69.