Ice Cream Ride
It had rained earlier in the day and the air was thick with the muggy smell of wet grass. Small puddles filled the chipped flagstone crevices of the porch. I was looking into a puddle watching specks of dirt floating and wondering what kind of ice cream I’d get today. My dad was sleeping on the couch again; I could hear his deep rich snores out here on the porch step. I told him that Mr. Joyce, my Little League baseball coach, was on his way to pick me up and take me for ice cream. To which he answered without opening his eyes, as he always did, “that will be fine”. Dad spent most of his time on the couch and everything was pretty much “fine” with him since he closed The Blarney Stone, his bar. Mom said if his customers drank as much as dad did we would be millionaires.
Coach and I went for ice cream most weekends usually after a game, he would take me to the Prince Castle the ice cream place on Western just outside the city. He didn’t invite the other kids. Just me. We would go for long rides down side streets or along the forest preserves and get ice cream at the end of the rides. Mr. Joyce had been a coach for a while. I don't think he was really very good at coaching but he let me play second base, even though some of the other kids were better fielders and hitters than I was. The other kids were starting to tease me about being coaches pet , which didn’t usually bother me but today I was feeling like I didn’t want to be special anymore.
Coach’s baby blue Pontiac pulled in front of my house. I ran to it hoping no one saw me. I pulled the door open by the shiny handle it felt heavy resisting my hand. Mr. Joyce reached across the seat to help get it open. On the gray vinyl bench seat, his hand rested outstretched. I got in and sat as close to the door as I could and did not look at him.
"Hey Mr. Joyce,” I said
"Hey" he said "go for a ride?"
I didn't want to ride today just the ice cream "how about ice cream first?"
"Usually we do the ride first, then ice cream, no?" He said.
I sat there looking out the window and I saw Al and Chucky playing strikeout in the schoolyard across the street. "Hey Al! Chucky!" I wanted to call out “ice cream?” I sighed. Looking up at Mr. Joyce, I said "ice cream first."
The ice cream was usually one small scoop. But today, I was thinking more. Bigger. Richer. “Hot Fudge Sundae!"
"We usually get one scoop!" he said. Not today. We said nothing for a moment; “Okay.” he patted the space between us with his right hand. "Closer, come closer," he said.
"Ice cream first," I said. "Hot fudge."
He sighed and snorted as we pulled away. I hated his snorting. It reminded me of our neighbor, the Sorenson’s boxer, who grunted and snorted at the fence whenever I walked by on my way to school, his nosed pushing through the chain link. The Sorenson’s didn’t much care for us, always muttering about “Shanty Irish” and “a disgrace“. They wouldn’t let their kids play with us, which was just as well because my house wasn’t right to have kids over anyway. When friends asked to come over my Dad was always too tired or one of my brothers and sisters was sick with the flu and might be contagious. He snorted again; I moved closer to the door, he patted the seat harder this time.
"No. Ice cream first! Hot fudge!"
Another quick snort and we were off. We didn't say much, maybe a few words about the White Sox chances this year and the game we had coming and “could I play second again?”
“Sure, but don't be afraid of the bounces, put your body in front of them" he reached over to pat me a few times but only the tip of his middle finger touched my thigh which made my body stiffen.
I was thinking thick hot fudge on vanilla. I love the thick warm fudge dripping over the white vanilla, sweet covered in sweeter, nuts sprinkled and gliding through the fudge. A cherry on top was optional as far as I was concerned, but a not a bad place to start the feast.
We got there, finally. I pushed the car door open forgetting to shut it behind me.
“Hey the door!” Mr. Joyce yelled. I kept going toward the faux castle facade past the sign with the profile of a dashing young Prince savoring a cone. Prince Castle. Once inside I was washed with a blast of cold air. It was always cold inside which quickly dried the dampness at the back of my thighs. I looked up at the menu behind the tall white and glass counter and saw that the hot fudge sundae was almost the most expensive at three dollars only surpassed by the banana split. I had made a good choice, though obviously coach was feeling the pinch. "Sure you want the Sundae, not a scoop?"
"Sure.” The girl behind the counter dug deeply into the brown vat of vanilla bending her elbow with the weight of her body to break the hardened surface of the fresh tub. I watched as she pulled the long ladle out of the silver fudge container my eyes pleading for more. I ate slowly digging my spoon into the sundae glass, allowing each spoonful to melt a bit in my mouth and finally getting the last speck, my tongue stretching into the small indentation at the bottom of the glass unreachable by spoon. I took a moment to savor my small victory.