Errata Literary Magazine

Bucks County Writers Workshop

Jittery June Smites
by Connie Wrzesniewski

lways, since time immemorial, the month of May has been followed in hot pursuit by the jittery month of June close on its heels. What May hath carefully tendered June can most always tear asunder. The heat builds and temperatures rise, accounting for some of the most bizarre and untimely events.

Constantia and her iceman's existence resembled closely one of Shakespeare's stories in his First Folio of 1623. That would be The Taming of the Shrew. Their life together was, indeed, a farce and measure for measure, Katherina and Petruchio could not hold a candle to these two newlyweds. But who shall conquer in the end?

It wasn't long into the marriage that Mrs.Van Meeker Constantia Coulson Hornberger wearied of the low status of her iceman's trade, let alone his bad habits. And, it was in order to escape his wife's superior and temperamental ways, that devoted husband, Horatio, took to stopping for a little swig and some conversation in each taproom scheduled for ice delivery. After all, one must keep a friendly contact with customers. Furthermore, he was tired of being treated as a cipher. And all told, it was a good antidote for his wife's frigidity in the area of connubial matters. But his familiarity with acquaintances, especially the female variety, was unacceptable to Constantia.

The nightly routine when the iceman cometh home almost always ensued the minute his hand rested on the front doorknob. Pots and pans flew swiftly from Constantia's hands like a flock of angry eagles hell bent on destruction.

The scene usually went something like this. Pots and pans sailed through the air. Mrs. Van Meeker Constantia Coulson Hornberger would duck in response to the ice hooks or an errant ice pick delivered in her direction.

"You good for nothing gold digger," she would shout. "Curse the month of May's madness. All you ever wanted was my money." 

"Your money. Don't you mean that old goat's money? That cranky excuse for a father,"  he would yell in exchange.

One day, just such an argument occurred while they were together at the ice house where she ventured to intercept him and confront him on the issues of whiskey and wanton women before he started for home. But when she entered the ice house, the scene of Horatio warming up his female acquaintance set off sparks in Constantia. Words came fast and furious, and both Constantia and Horatio took turns targeting each other with tools of the ice trade as the lady in question slipped away.

Like a well rehearsed vaudeville dance routine, they ducked and side stepped their way through the fight until Constantia got slightly out of step and side stepped when she should have ducked. A swordsman would say that she should have parried instead of married.

The ice pick flew right into her chest and she fell onto a huge slab of ice. Presumed dead, Constantia lay on her frozen bier and Horatio skipped town.

To make a long story short, the newspapers announced that the iceman was strongly suspected of Constantia's death and would be hunted down. So, when Constantia showed up at her father's house some time later, you can imagine the stir that it caused, since everyone thought she was dead.

"Father, I was terribly wrong for ever running off with that cad. He was only after money."

"Constantia, are you a ghost returning to haunt your poor old father?" 

The old man jumped from his chair and cried out in pain as he hit his gouty leg on the end table beside him.

"No, father, it's really me. The way things happened, that wretched iceman was sent to jail and I was unfortunately left there to die. I found this out once I woke from my unconscious state on that slab of ice. The newspapers reported that you were honeymooning with your new wife, so I was kept on ice until your return when you could have a proper burial for me. I guess I was just too hot tempered to die."  She looked mournfully at the old gout infested gentleman.

"I lay for weeks in cold storage in that ice house and no one even cared. Dr. Freeman says the ice is probably what kept me alive. You see, I was only nicked. The pick never entered my heart. But no one knew it at the time." 

"Good God, girl, are you saying that you were frozen like a common piece of beef tenderloin?  The old goat stared at his daughter in disbelief.

"What does it matter father? I'm here. I'm alive and well. Aren't you glad to see me?" 

"If this damned foot would stop throbbing and I could see anything other than stars before my eyes, I would be quite glad to give an answer to that question. You see, my dear girl, while we were cruising the Atlantic on the Olympicand heartily consummating the honeymoon, I developed quite an appetite in the salt air. I relaxed my standards of eating and it seems to have taken a toll on the gout." 

Just then, Mrs. Widdup Coulson entered the room and seeing Constantia went into a dead faint.

* * * * *

Judge not that ye be not judged.

* * * * *

The truth be known, upon reviving, the brand new bride explained that the plot was to kill Constantia and Mr. Coulson. The housekeeper would then marry the iceman and live comfortably ever after. But none of this frivolity ever occurred since circumstances became frozen in time.

Shame that it was about the near fatal accident, Horatio was prevented from choking both the daylights and haughty words right out of Constantia's throat.

Justice dealt with the conspirators and both were given their just desserts. The former housekeeper was carted off to jail to join the iceman who'd been found hiding out inTarrytown. The two feasted on bread and water while serving their sentences. Since no actual murders took place, they were dealt with in a moderate fashion. Horatio was sentenced to 25 years in an iron forge to sweat out his time. Old lady Widdup Coulson, as she fondly came to be called by fellow inmates, was sent to toil at the jail's pharmacy where a close eye was kept on her -- ironic, since her plan to kill old man Coulson was through the administration of an overdose of aconite, thirteen drops to be exact. The action was to take place just about the time that Constantia returned home to her father.

As the story goes, Mr. Coulson and Higgins, the loyal butler, lived happily ever after, good friends to the end. Constantia mended her temperamental ways and "got thee to a nunnery." Upon Mr. Coulson's death, Higgins was willed a tidy sum of money with the rest bequeathed to Constantia to spend in any way she wished. She, in turn, pledged it all to the church which used it to rehabilitate former prisoners and further educate those in the religious life.

So, in the long run, things eventually did come full circle. When old lady Widdup Coulson and Horatio Hornberger were released from jail on good behavior they were sent for rehabilitation, of course, to The Franciscan Manor run by the missionaries of St. Francis. It was there that the corruption was driven from them and they got what they bargained for in a round about way, provided for by Mr. Coulson. Both, in a weak moment, after much tutoring by the good fathers, were coaxed into joining the religious life where they often came in contact with the now meek and mild Constantia.

It was, in the end, a comedy of errors.

* * * * *

All's well that ends well.

Bucks County Writers Workshop