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On the first day of August, Bill Forrester and Douglas head downtown in Bill's car to get some ice cream. Bill orders old-fashioned lime-vanilla, and Miss Helen Loomis, age ninety-five, overhears and commends him on his choice. She recognizes Douglas as a Spaulding, and knows Bill as a newspaper reporter. Bill mentions that he knows who she is and that he was in love with her once. They get into a conversation, and she asks him to come by for tea the next day.
The following day Bill goes to Helen Loomis's house and they talk over tea. She tells him how she was young and foolish and how at age thirty the only man she cared for stopped waiting for her and married someone else. So then she traveled all around the world. He likes her, and says that interesting women like her are rare. She says that is because most men do not want a woman with a brain. Many women get good at hiding their intelligence. She asks him what he wants out of life, and Bill says that he wants to see many places. Helen Loomis has been to most of those places and so she tells him all about them. He sees her every day for over two weeks, and they have a very good time together.
Then one day she asks him how he was once in love with her. When he first came to the town he saw a picture of her in the paper the day of the town ball and he did not know that the photo was from 1853 and that the town published it every year before the ball. She tells him that he reminds her of the man who courted her seventy years ago. Near the end of August she gives him a letter and tells him that when he receives it, in a few days, she will be dead. She says that love is in the mind and that they had that together, even if their bodies were years apart. She tells him that he must not live too long (he is thirty-one years old now) because if he does then one day he will meet a young girl who reminds him of Helen Loomis. If he dies at a moderate age perhaps everything will come into balance and sometime in the future a young man will order an unusual ice cream and a young girl will appreciate his choice and that will be their happy end.
A few days later, Bill gets the letter in the mail, and he takes Douglas back to the store, where he reads the letter and orders lime-vanilla ice.
Tom, Douglas and Charlie are running and Douglas asks how come there are no happy endings. Tom says that what happened with Bill and Miss Loomis was the only happy ending there could have been. Charlie tells them to be quiet, because they are close to where they are going. They get to Summer's Ice House, the only cold place in the entire town, and Charlie tells them that only one man lives there, a man whose name alone scares everyone: the Lonely One.
Helen Loomis and Bill Forrester are a perfect match for each other. The only problem is that because of their ages it is impossible for them to be together any more than the afternoon tea that they spend with each other. Helen is intelligent, funny, and interesting, and Bill has never met another woman like her. Even though they are years apart, they are able to love each other through the mental bond that they share. Helen says that true love is of the mind, and the time that they spend together shows that she is right. True companionship is not that of the body but rather the ability to talk forever about things of interest with someone. But at the same time Helen knows that their romance is tragic, for two people who are so well matched should have met each other without the difference in their ages. She professes a belief in reincarnation. Not that she herself will meet Bill Forrester in some future time, but that that part of her that is so compatible with a certain part of him will be a part of some girl who will be drawn to a young man with Bill's characteristics. This is what she must hope for, because it is clear that there can be nothing more between them than what there is.
Bill fell in love with a picture of hers from over seventy years ago and he seems to be another version of the man she once cared, suggesting that Bradbury shares Helen's romantic vision of love. However, Tom's statement that what they had was a happy ending shows that what they had was already complete. For a ninety-five year old woman like Helen Loomis nothing could have been better than meeting Bill Forrester, and from her Bill learned many things, but most importantly that he must find a woman before it is too late. It is not necessarily bad if he does not marry, but if he does not he can be assured later in life of finding a younger Helen Loomis, and that might be tragic. Life is not always easy, and it may be that finding true love is difficult. Just because it did not last does not mean what Bill and Helen shared was not important.
Charlie brings up the Lonely One, and it is interesting the way the kids quickly move on from something as abstract and difficult to pin down as true love and happy endings to something much more concrete. The evil force that scares everyone, the Lonely One is much more in the consciousness of these young children than true love.
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