Ice Cream

A bowl of melting ice cream sat on the kitchen counter. Chocolate with marshmallows and nuts. Some kind of rocky road all swirled into a gooey mess. The old man took a spoon and played with it for awhile. Lifting the mess into the air and then watching it fall from the spoon. It was four in the morning. He could not sleep. Dad never slept. He was awake his whole life; an insomniac. Maybe it was all the coffee he drank. Two pots a day. Perhaps his diet; no vegetables. Nothing healthy. Just ice cream and coffee. Never any meat. No proteins. Thin as a rail. You’d think he’d have a cheeseburger sometimes, or, a steak. Maybe a chicken leg. But, no. Just ice cream and coffee.

The boy was a drinker. Kept a case of beer in the fridge at all times. Momma would sneak one or two, help herself to his vodka in the freezer. She never confessed to this. You could smell it on her. Her face was red, nose had blue veins running in it. A pot belly was always covered by a black and red Dixie tee-shirt. They had a confederate flag in the front yard. Boy would come home drunk and piss on the pole it flew from. Neighbors turned their heads.

You’re not gonna eat that? he asked the old man. Just play with it huh? The old man continued swirling the collapsed rocky road. Boy went to the refrigerator and grabbed an Old Style. Sat down at the kitchen table. The television was on in the next room. Mom was watching soap operas. Days Of Our Lives, or, General Hospital. The dad and his boy could hear her talking to the TV. Calling men sons of bitches and women harlots. The two of em would laugh at her. Never to her face. Always from a distance.

Have another beer momma, boy said. How ’bout a shot. She looked at him. Shook her head. Said she never drank. It was the devil’s poison. The old man just smiled. Stirred the liquid in his bowl some more.

I remember when I was a kid, boy told dad. I’d go off to the grand parents in Arkansas. Your folks, looked at the old man. And in the mornings grandma would set a bowl of cereal out for me, he began to laugh. I’d refuse to eat it. Said I wanted ice cream, looked at the bowl in front of the old man. She’d make me sit there. All this soggy cereal. I never ate it. She’d put it in the refrigerator and come lunch time she’d pull it out again, both of the men laughed. I cried and cried. She’d yell at me. Said they were starving in China, the boy grinned. I always thought, what’s China got to do with anything?

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