by Ray Daley
ice cream shake
It didn't look much like a day for an apocalypse. "We haven't got the weather for it. Can't possibly be today, can it?"
I gazed at Michael. Of course, it wasn't the weather for the end of everything as we knew it. "Not a cloud in the sky, it couldn't possibly be the end of the world. Shall we keep walking?"
He nodded, we were in agreement.
The park was clothed in all its autumnal finery, leaves just starting to fall. The ducks were still on the pond. Surely they'd have known of an impending disaster? I even pointed to them, "The ducks are still here. They'd know, right? They always say animals sense such things first, don't they?"
Michael nodded. "That they do, that they do. I know, there's one sure-fire way to check. We need to go this way."
That way led us by the bandstand, where Jim Millers Brass Jazz Men were still regaling park goers with the smoothest jazz refrains.
Only that wasn't what Michael was looking for. If the jazz men were still playing, then there was still something worth playing for. Another plus in my book. Further down the walkway, past the bandstand, over by the old men playing chess. They were always here, the source of all knowledge in the park. Surely if they'd come out for another day of chess, then the world was going to continue revolving on its axis as it always had?
"He's not here," Michael said.
Then I saw it. The space under the elm trees where Rudy's hot dog cart always stood, rain or shine. No matter what the weather, or what kind of state the country was in, Rudy was always there.
"No Rudy? But that's impossible." I was as shocked as Michael. "What do we do now? How long have we got left?" I started looking around. Was anyone else panicking? Rushing home to be with their loved ones? Trying to find new ones to love?
No, far from it.
The world of the park seemed to be behaving exactly like any other day before today had been. Except it didn't contain Rudy and his refreshing hot dogs.
As we stood there by a bench, a man in a loud suit walked up to us. "Ticket, sir? Madam?"
I looked at him. "What's it for?"
He proffered a ticket. It read:- One ticket for the end of the world. Access all areas. Termination guaranteed.
I could hardly believe my eyes. "You're selling tickets to the end of the world?"
He smiled. "Only a dollar. End of the world, or your money back? Buy now to avoid the rush. First hundred are assured a ringside seat, Miss."
I could see Michael reaching into his pocket for his wallet, so I pulled him away. "Come on. We'll get ice cream. The world can't end if we're having ice cream. It's simply not possible."
Michael wanted to buy a ticket. Heck, he wanted to buy two. I could see it in his eyes. But I had other plans that didn't include the end of the world, so I waved the man away. "We'll get some later, if you're still here. But right now, we're going for ice cream."
I had to practically yank Michael off his feet to pull him away from the man selling tickets to the end of the world.
As we walked, I could still see the confusion in his eyes. "Babe, was that a wise idea? If the world is ending, shouldn't we really have a ticket? Just in case?" I could hear the panic in his voice.
But we'd reached the ice cream stall by then, and it was still open. "One vanilla double scoop and one vanilla single scoop with a scoop of mint please."
If civilization was ending, at least we'd have ice cream. I paid and gave Michael his. "Here. Vanilla and mint, just the way you like it."
He was trying not to appear like he was looking around for the man selling tickets. "Can we eat and walk? We could listen to the music?"
I just nodded and started licking my ice cream. One damn fine frosty friend.
He was still there, selling tickets by the bandstand now. And people were buying them too! Idiots like Michael who were willing to believe that you needed a ticket for the end of the world. People who thought that it sounded like a really great deal, at just a dollar!
I carried on enjoying my ice cream. The jazz was pretty darn good too. Smooth, just like the vanilla goodness.
The man got closer and closer as we ate. I could see that Michael already had two dollars clenched tightly in his free hand.
I took the last lick and finished the cone.
"Ticket, sir? Madam?"
Just as Michael was about to hand him the money, I took a knee.
"Honey, what are you doing?"
I reached into my pocket and took out the box, flipping the lid open.
"Ticket, sir? Madam?"
Michael's eyes glowed with rage. "Go away, dude. Can't you see we're having a moment here?"
"These are the last two tickets I've got left, sir!"
Michael gave him daggers. "And what, pray tell, do these tickets give us?"
"Guaranteed access, sir."
I could see the hand holding his two dollars turning into a fist. "Access to what? When's it happening?"
"Two minutes from now, sir. I'd hate to spoil the surprise. Money back, if you aren't satisfied."
Michael just shoved the man away, as hard as he could.
I looked up at him. "Well, Michael? Traditionally a proposal needs two people? Are you in?"
Michael smiled at me. "Yes. And yes!"
"Ticket, sir? Madam?"
I got up and punched him square on the jaw, knocking him right off his feet. "You can take your end of the world and shove it right up your arse, mate! I've got a wedding to plan! He said yes!"
About the authorRay Daley was born in Coventry and still lives there. He served 6 yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in High Wycombe. He has been writing stories since he was 10. His dream is to finish the Hitch Hikers fanfic novel he's been writing since 1986.