We ice cream men have an inherent ability. We know things, all that we need to know, all that we desire to know, even if it’s just out of boredom. There are however things that we don’t know. To put it correctly, things I don’t know. I find that if I put my thoughts to things about myself all I see is a big gaping hole.
Also I have no idea if this is the same with the other ice cream men. I only know for a fact that there are others like me. We never come into contact with any of our kind. On rare occasions we might pass by another cream blue van on the road,
Do I like what I do? I have no answer to that. I only know that I have to do what I do just like you have to sleep. Once I tried not to operate my ice cream kiosk. Just refused to start up the engine, made an effort not to pull up the aluminium shutter of the counter window. I just sat behind the wheel and mused over my will.
we acknowledge each other like we acknowledge the fire hydrant along the streets, there is no comfort, and no desire to approach each other, in fact there is a slight annoyance, something akin to finding a new stand across from you selling hotdogs as you do.
Fifteen minutes later I was parked at a new street and heading to the back of the van thinking I should melt another batch of chocolate. How should I describe our kind? People say God is the alpha and the omega, well the ice cream man’s profession is our alpha and omega.
The devil’s nature is to lie, man’s nature is to sin and the rabbit’s nature is gentle and timid. The ice cream man’s nature is to sell ice cream of which the result is the children’s death. I can’t deny that we work towards the means of an end (although we don’t have to meet any quota of sorts), but we do not dislike the process.
We don’t see ourselves as an agent of god or the devil; yes I am aware of this world’s religious narratives. Perhaps supernatural is a term we can accept for at least it is not unnatural, for the former, for all things said does have a degree of existential license in the world.
In any case, this is the best explanation I can give about our kind. It is like how (big bang theory aside), I can’t really explain why the universe exists in the metaphysical sense, that is also one of the few knowledge I do not have.
Anyways, this afternoon I have come to sell about twenty odd ice creams, all of twenty odd children will die in time to come, safe for two singular patrons. These two cases are not abnormal to my trade. Sometimes shit happens. And my powers of knowing do not extend to shit like this.
One of these kids did not have any money on them. So instead of going into their house to dig up some change from her piggy bank, she had her nanny come out with her grocery purse. Now transactions between adults are void, it is what some call a losing deal, and some call it a freebie. So the kid gets an ice cream but she will not meet her end.
In actual fact, she will grow up to be a pretty respectable lawyer in the eyes of her peers, and one who choose not to come back home to spend any holidays with her parents. Yes her book will not be abruptly ended in her childhood. Albeit a typical and uninteresting book.
And mind you I only read it (got as far as the chapter on her marriage, a messy journey that was) so I can tell you. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered; I didn’t even pick up on how she looked. To me she is a bad deal, one that I just want to put behind me.
The other deal was something else. I actually dealt with this one first so I think I was already a little irritated when I came to the lawyer kid. So much so that I wished she and her nanny would just drop dead there and there on the steps to their house. But it doesn’t work that way.
That’s just how the rule works and I can’t do anything about it. Two bad deals in a day, but hey that’s life for ya.
It was a pair of them. A brother and a sister. The girl was older. She came demanding for a vanilla triple scoop, which incidentally is still fifty cents. Details that do not matter should just be kept simple. Another thing that children don’t do is compare prices.
The coins they handed over to me just pile up like so much litter on the metallic floor of the van. I don’t count them because numbers don’t matter to us. We don’t pay any attention to how many we get. But looking back, I don’t believe I ever had any slow days.
The coins actually make quite a ding when I drive the van around but of course only I or the rare colleague within earshot can hear it.
Meanwhile the boy who could only show his crown of bushy brown hair over the counter was looking up with pleading eyes at his sister. “You want one too? I’m not paying for you. Go in and get some money on your own.”
The boy ran back to their house. No. 169, which is directly across from my van. His short legs scaling the stairs of the porch two at a time. I know he is going to the side drawer beside his bed where he keeps the dollar he got as a reward for getting full marks in his last spelling test.
I was just receiving his sister’s coin when I heard his panting outside my window. “What flavour do you want?” His sister demanded.
“Choc…chocolate.” “You only get one scoop. Mom will yell at me if you had too much.” She gave me a ‘can you believe this!’ look and said “One regular chocolate, mister. Oh and make it a cup. He most definitely will drop it if it’s a cone”
I went to scoop the chocolate ice cream without a word. With my back to them I know that the boy was still breathing hard and I see him in his blue sneakers and red jumper. He is four and had already started his kindergarten classes last year because the--- enough of distraction.
I turned around and bent over the countertop to hand him the cup with a tiny blue plastic spoon. And then I had this funny idea. “How much for it, mister.” His sister said. “Call it a treat this round. For the lucky little customer.
(very lucky indeed)” I said the words with the same feeling as you would have if ever a wad of hundred dollar bills that you have just placed on the table at the balcony of your 14th floor apartment was blown away right in front of you. Each word escaping out of my mouth before I can stop them, your bills flying off one after the other before you can catch them.
And that feeling you get after the last piece has flown away was what I experienced exactly. Surprised, flabbergasted, a little angry at myself, a slight pinch of loss, disgusted at my own stupidity, and then finally a sense of inevitability. On top of these, I also find it amusing, a candidate for a conversation piece I thought, not that I had anyone to share it over drinks with.
So that boy with the red jumper who was only allowed a single scoop ice cream will also have a rather decent book. The difference between him and the lawyer girl is that I allowed it. I sanctioned it. Never have this happened in my years of profession. I doubt it will happen again soon. I am tempted though.
For it wasn’t stated anywhere in my plethora of knowledge with regards to my job description that I have to be indiscriminate in my targets. Knowing this is like discovering some new power, like how it is when you are stuck in a mundane job for years and finally seeing the opportunity for growth in your company.
AND/OR you can see it as hole in the system where one can do as one pleases and get away with it. It is quite liberating. I can shape the world’s population with my own law of selection.
Wonder if the other ice cream men have already stumbled on this revelation. If so the plan might already be in place and I am just one of the out-dated, left-out-of-the-loop-low value employees.
"But I will never know." I snigger to myself. The world is only what I know, and even then what I choose to know. “So it doesn’t really matter what the others think or are doing.” I muse.
It is close to six thirty by the time I drive myself out of 34 Moonbeam drive. A little late as per my usual but having what had transcended for the day, it is just a little of the unexpected OT. Yes, we do get overtime of our own doing really, because of our distractions which gets the better of us sometimes.
A hundred meters down from 34 Moonbeam drive, I pass by a black Mercedes, the Mr and Mrs of No. 174. They will have Evalyn’s tandoori chicken tonight and the father will overhear her discreet phone conversation as he pass by her room door on his way to the kitchen for a glass of water.
He will spend the rest of the night not in the bed he shares with his wife, and tomorrow his son will die of an asthma attack. I know all this will be and I put my life on it but maybe not on the day and time of the boy’s death or the C.O.D .
You should know by now that I am not one to follow up on details, especially work that is over and done with. It just feels so excessive and tiresome if I would to turn my attention back to every street I visited. So just like how you trust that the salary gets credited into your bank account every month so do I trust that Jeffrey will have his tombstone etched with the words ‘taken before his time’.
Then again you may take the crediting of your salary as granted but still call up your account summary once in a while to be sure, I know mine for a fact and there is no need to double check on that. —The End