The ice cream man looked like a reasonable guy. More cheerful than most of them. He’d just set up his stand two blocks down from my apartment building. I usually visited the one outside the park but stopped to try something new.
I didn’t know his name. They were all called – ice cream man.
Seven flavors. Too much choice I thought. It was tough to narrow it down to two. The man gave me my space, which is a good thing. Customers needed time to decide. Hasty buys never amounted to much.
Chocolate chip or Banana crumble.
I buried my hands deep into my pockets. It helped me think. The hot sun wasn’t helping. It beat down on my head like it was a bongo drum.
I probably looked perplexed, so the ice cream man came to my rescue.
‘Which way you leaning today?’
I didn’t look up at him, but my words reached him.
‘Don’t know. Can’t say.’
He backed off, easing some of the pressure. I liked that. It cleared some of my confusion. That’s when I pointed at the pale yellow one.
‘I’ll have bitterscotch. Two scoops in a cone please.’
I still stared at the ice cream but could feel the man’s eyes on me. Perhaps a weak smile on his face.
His gloved hand opened the case, and he dug the shiny ice cream scooper into the thick, frozen paste. Two round balls, just the way I liked them. He plopped them into a tall, brown crispy cone.
My mouth was already watering.
He handed me the ice cream, but not before topping it with sprinkles. I didn’t ask, he didn’t explain, possibly a freebie.
One lick and joy oozed from my eyes. The ice cream man saw it and revealed what he had been withholding.
‘It’s butterscotch not bitterscotch.’
That’s when I looked at him. And said what I really felt.
‘I’m more bitter than I look. How can my ice cream be any different?’
I pedaled away without looking back. I was only nine but knew the truth about life’s bitter flavor.
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