The Ice Cream Barrel

The air-conditioner rattled throughout the night; it worked half-heartedly. The two of em laid there in bed sweating; it was too hot to make love; that was his excuse.

She tossed and turned throughout the night; saying strange thoughts out loud, daddy stop, you’re not the boss of me, he sat on the side of the bed and tried to make it out. These were her dreams. Every night she had the same ones, always said those words out loud.

Honey, he said in a whisper, Honey wake up, he ran his frail hand through her long gray hair. What were you dreaming ’bout?, he asked. She didn’t have a response. Just laid there gasping for air. Darling, what is it?, he went into the kitchen to get her a glass of water. She followed.

The two of em sat there at the metal table. Do you want some coffee? The sun’s gonna come up any minute now, he told her.

Do you remember when we were young, just dating back then, and daddy used to make ice cream on the back porch?, he nodded his head. Well, daddy always wanted me to sit on the ice cream barrel while he churned it. And it was cold. And there was salt everywhere. And I didn’t wanna do it. I told him that was for little kids to do. And, he’d get angry, telling me that I was still a kid. I was his kid. Now go get a towel and sit on the ice cream barrel, she said as he handed her a cup of coffee.

I told him, he wasn’t the boss of me. I was almost a grown woman. He couldn’t tell me what to do, she said. Then I’d go into my bedroom and cry. I was always crying ’bout something back then. Always.

So, he’d make momma sit on the barrel. Little thing that she was. Barely had enough weight to keep it in one place, she laughed.

You remember when daddy died?, he nodded. I didn’t even cry at the funeral. I never did cry over it. What do you think of that?, he looked at her, stirred his coffee. What do make of a child that never cries over her daddy’s death?, he took her hand. I’m just asking. Just asking. Am I a terrible person? A cruel woman?, he shook his head.

No dear, he told her. No.

I should’ve sat on that damn ice cream barrel. I should’ve minded him. There were so many things I made a fuss over as a child. So many things. And, I never told him I was sorry. Don’t that beat all, she took a sip of coffee. Don’t that beat all.

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