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Ice Cream Man



Seems to me that they chose thirty-one flavors so you can try one for every day of the month. If it's one of those thirty-days-hath-September months, you could have a double scoop, and the last day of February you can pig out on a big honking sundae. Ed thinks that's all pretty stupid, saying thirty-one flavors was a random marketing decision, but I think it's a calendar thing. The moon zips around the earth, and you've had the whole spectrum of ice cream flavors through your gut.

It's my job to open up the store at ten in the morning, while Ed sleeps at home with his big honking wife. Ice cream isn't a big breakfast item, so I have nothing to do but toke up and count flavors, backwards and forwards. You know, a lot of times Ed doesn't have all thirty-one flavors on hand. Some manager he is. If I was in charge, you know that there'd be thirty-one flavors. I'd pay attention to details like that.

Ed doesn't care if I smoke weed at work as long as there aren't any customers in the store. It's just another part of the day, like brushing your teeth or taking a piss. It's not like I have to lecture on Shakespeare. Besides, there's a big exhaust fan to the left of the cash register, so the smoke is all sucked out. No problem.

There's my work week for you: smoking weed, counting to thirty-one and back down to zero, listening to the freezers hum while the sun climbs the sky.

 

Business picks up in the spring, since the days get longer and hotter. Even then, the only customers before noon are restaurant people and ladies planning birthday parties. Those people always pay by check, so it's easy.

One morning two teenage kids, a guy and a girl, came into the store all sweaty and red-faced. They surprised me in the middle of a hit, and I dropped the joint right on top of my shoe. Thought sure I'd burn a hole but I didn't. The guy was wearing a high school cross-country t-shirt, so I figured they were out jogging. Details, you know.

"Anything you want," he said to the girl, puffing. "It's my treat."

"Vanilla," she said. "A vanilla cone." The girl was really pretty, with long auburn hair pulled back in a ponytail and twisted around so I could see her neck. Her butt looked kind of big; that's probably why she went out jogging with him.

The guy laced his fingers together behind his head and took a few deep breaths. "Thirty-one flavors available, and you say vanilla?" He drew a big breath. "Don't be boring. McDonald's has vanilla cones. Try to be a little creative."

Seemed like they were starting to bicker, so I picked up a broom and swept the dropped joint into a corner, so I could finish it later. I kept on sweeping behind the counter so I would look busy.

"I don't feel like being creative -- I'm hot and I want ice cream. I like vanilla best."

The guy grinned. "Come on, live it up. Experiment!" He came up to the counter and looked over the list of flavors. "Candy cane -- bubble gum -- hey, check this out: chocolate orange chip!"

"Yuck."

"It sounds cool! What's the matter? Does the thought of a little variety scare you? Does it make your heart skip a beat?"

"It's unnatural. Maybe chocolate orange chip makes you go blind. Or causes cancer." She sat down at one of the tables, untied a shoelace, and started to tie it up again.

The guy jingled the change in his pocket. He acted like I wasn't even there. "I was thinking something -- tell me if you think it's weird -- all life on Earth comes from the sun, right? But the sun can give you skin cancer, and you could die from that. The sun giveth life and it taketh away, just like God or something."

The girl was digging in her fanny pack now. I couldn't tell if she was listening or not. I was thinking about going to the back room to get the dustpan, but then the guy started talking again. "We wake up when the sun rises. We pick our clothes each morning depending on the intensity of sunlight. Plants take the rays of the light and make oxygen."

"Photosynthesis," she said. She was listening after all.

"Right."

I had swept up a little pile of dust and gunk by that time, so I leaned the broom against the front window and went back to get that dustpan, taking a subtle detour past the girl. She had some nice long legs, from what I could see, and I wanted to get a better look at them. Right then I burped, and a little cloud of smoke puffed out of my mouth. So much for looking respectable. I don't know if she saw it or not; I went to the back room straight-away like nothing happened.

"I'm hot," she said. "You promised to buy me an ice cream cone." I was in the back room by now, trying to make myself belch up the rest of the pot smoke.

"You're hot because of the sun, too. See? It all connects together." By the time I came back out, the guy had pulled the girl to her feet and got snuggled up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her stomach, all lovey-dovey, and spoke into her ear. "One last time: is vanilla your choice?"

"Right now, it's exactly what I want," she said. She wasn't smiling. I couldn't tell what was wrong with her.

Now I had the dust pan, so I went back to the pile and squatted down so I could sweep it up. For a second I thought I saw a dime in there among the dirty crap but it was just a ripped-up gum wrapper.

"That's cool," he said, and then he looked over at me, maybe to see if I was watching. He grabbed one of her tits real quick and kissed her neck, thinking that I couldn't see it all. She clenched her teeth and slapped his hand lightly, but she was smiling now. I pretended that it didn't happen.

The guy said "sir" to get my attention, which I thought was pretty funny. I made a vanilla cone for the girl, packing it down a lot so she'd get a good value. I got a short, tight-lipped smile from her when I handed it over the counter. She took a few licks while the guy paced back and forth in front of the freezers, scratching his left elbow with his right hand.

"I can't decide."

"Flip a coin," she said.

I looked over my shoulder to see if the joint was still in the corner. It was.

"That only give me two options," he said. She licked the drips around the rim of the cone. The guy stood there, still scratching his elbow, and then looked at me with a curious look. He said, "How old are you?"

I hesitated, thinking it would be funny if I couldn't remember my own age, but then I just spat it out. "Twenty-five."

"Then give me flavor number twenty-five. Which one is that?" We all looked up at the big list on the wall.

"That's chocolate marshmallow," the girl said.

I told the two of them that we were out of chocolate marshmallow.

"Well, I'm eighteen," he said. "That's tutti-frutti. You got that?"

We did, so I made him a cone and he paid me. A minute later they were gone. I got a clear look at the girl's butt when they were leaving, and it wasn't so big. She really was pretty.

I stayed at the register for the rest of the morning. When Ed came in he asked why I had left a joint on the floor and I told him that I forgot about it. He made me sweep the floor again.

 

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