Bunny Slippers and Ice Cream

"He's a movie star," Josh said. "He plays that old guy in that one movie."

I'd never seen a grown man in a bathrobe. I'd never seen a grown man eat ice cream like a child, lifting each spoonful up to the light and admiring it before he put it in his mouth. I'd also never seen a celebrity in real life, and didn't entirely understand the concept.

My brother and I were standing outside a TCBY ice cream shop in a little strip mall outside Malibu. I was 10 years old and still sandy from the beach. It was one of those early fall days that desperately wanted to be summer. My parents were standing in the parking lot, the doors to our white van still open. Mom was perched on the curb with a bottle of baby oil and an old rag, swiping at the tar still stuck to her feet.

"Hurry up, you guys!" she said. "Get some ice cream before the wind picks up."

Josh nudged me, and we walked inside. I kept looking over my shoulder at the man. He looked so sad. His eyes were droopy, and his bathrobe was hastily tied. He wore slippers and an expression of displaced disgust.

"Who is that?" I whispered, poking Josh in line. "Why is he wearing that old robe?"

"It isn't polite to stare," Josh said. "You want Rocky Road, right?"

I faced the counter. The server looked bored.

"Yes, please," I said. The server leaned over and scooped us our ice cream.

"That'll be five dollars," he said, eyes scanning the parking lot.

"Do you know who that man is?" I asked, pushing my elbows up on the counter.

"What man?" he asked. He raised one eyebrow.

"Julia!" Josh hissed.

"The man in the bathrobe outside," I said. "The one with the bunny slippers and a cup of ice cream."

The server craned his neck. I watched his eyebrows rise and fall.

"Oh, that's Nick Nolte," he said. "He stops by occasionally." He puffed out his chest, perhaps by accident.

"Oh," Josh and I said together.

"He's famous, right?" I asked.

"He's a movie star," Josh said. "He plays that old guy in that one movie."

"What kind of ice cream did he buy?" I asked.

"Mint chip. Same thing every time," said the server.

"Oh," Josh and I said.

"Let's go," Josh said. We nodded at the server and walked back outside, where Mom and Dad were waiting by the van. I followed him, but my eyes remained magnetically attracted to Nick Nolte. There was something severe about him. Severe and sad, sitting there in his blue bathrobe on a beautiful September afternoon.

"Mom, that's Nick Nolte!" I whispered.

"Ssh!! He'll hear you!" Josh said.

"Nick Nolte?" She looked up.

"Is that what movie stars look like?" I asked.

At that moment, Nick Nolte stood up and gathered his trash. He adjusted his robe and, moving rather jerkily, stalked off. The four of us stood motionless as he got into his car and drove off.

"Only the sad ones," she murmured. "Oh, dear."

I ate my Rocky Road quietly, thinking how lonely his feet looked in bunny slippers.

Comments

David_N._James says,

What a well-written vignette! I was, though. expecting a "flasher" instead of Nick Nolte. Thanks, I enjoyed your piece.

Lora_Mitchell says,

You had him pegged just right. I could see loony Nick Nolte exactly as you described him. Nice work. Lora

LisaAmica says,

Wow! You're such a good writer, your story was a pleasure to read. Keep up the good work.

I like all the details you put in there, he only eats mint chocolate chip, he had droopy eyes--- really painted a compelling picture. :-)

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