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Rated: E · Short Story · Relationship · #1688993
This is an assignment I had in my English class for a mock college entrance essay.
It was nearing midnight when he entered the local 24-hour supermarket. He was in the mood for ice cream so he shifted into autopilot mode. He got to the endless row of freezers containing every single flavor of ice cream imaginable. What kind of ice cream was he in the mood for? He was older–deep-set wrinkles, thinning gray hair, bad eyesight, and stiff joints–so he wasn’t willing to try anything wild. There was his favorite, vanilla. Simple, classic, easy to pair toppings with, and his grandkids loved it, so he could treat them when they came over next week. But he wanted something different tonight.
As he was gazing at the various sizes of ice cream cartons, a young woman wearing a pink scarf around her neck came up next to him. “Can’t sleep either, huh?” she asked to make polite conversation. She reminded him of his youngest daughter: medium height, long dirty blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a permanent smile.
“What kind of ice cream are you looking for?”
One of the greatest indignities about being old is that people insist on helping you with things like bathing and going to the washroom and getting the shopping done. He sighed and admitted, “I have no idea.”
“Interesting,” she replied. “I bet that I can find an ice cream that you will love.”
“Oh, really? You think so?” He raised his eyebrows for emphasis.
“Sure. I’ll ask you three questions and then I’ll pick out an ice cream. If you like it or not, I’ll pay for it.”
He pondered this for a minute. What’s the worst that could happen? he thought. “Okay, shoot.”
“Question number one: How many siblings do you have?” She smiled and waited for his answer.
What could this possibly have to do with ice cream? He ignored the silliness of the question and answered, “I have two younger brothers.”
“Well that rules out anything with peanut butter.” He couldn’t help but laugh to this response, partly because of how true it was. He had never liked peanut butter since he was ten. That was when he and his brothers had a peanut butter eating contest. He won, naturally, but he was sick the rest of the day from eating an entire jar.
He stopped laughing for her to ask the next question. “Question number two: what is your middle name?”
“Andrew.” He was still bewildered as to how she could guess an ice cream flavor from these questions.
“Ah, yes. Definitely a coffee lover.”
He didn’t laugh this time because he desperately wanted to know what the third question was and what his answer would tell her.
“Okay. Question number three: What was the state you were born in?”
“Hmm.” She looked up to the right, biting her bottom lip. “You like just a little bit of chocolate, not too much.”
How could she know all of this? This is crazy! He was waiting to hear her conclusion. “So what flavor do I want?” He couldn’t help but smile.
She didn’t say anything. She moved two doors to the left, opened it, and pulled out a single carton. She walked it down to him. He read the name of the ice cream while he held the frosty carton in his calloused hands. It was Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz.
They walked to the check out stand and she paid for his ice cream and her own, a carton of Dublin Mudslide. After she paid, he couldn’t wait to try it, to see if she was right. He tore off the plastic and lifted the lid. He stuck his finger in to get a mini scoop. He loved it. It reminded him of the mornings he had spent with his wife in the hotel in Paris, long before they had children. He wiped his finger on his pants and ambled to the doorway. He paused before leaving the kind and bubbly stranger. “How did you know?”
“Well, these friends of mine live in New York and they were raised in Michigan. They don’t know a lot of things and they don’t hold hands, but they guard their hearts the best they can. They are the ones who taught me to read people. It’s not that hard once you learn to love with an open mind.” And with that, she walked past him and never saw him again.
The next week, after a sharing the incident with the stranger with his loved ones, he read the morning paper as always. There was a small article about a car accident. The article included a small picture of a smiling young woman with dirty blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a pink scarf. He read the article and learned that she died nine days after their encounter. He cut out her picture and placed it in his wallet next to the photos of his children and grandchildren, so he would remember–not that he needed it to remind him. He attended her funeral three days later, but nobody there knew him. He stayed after, staring at her grave. He realized that ‘there [was] nothing to be done about it,’ so he went home. He could never remember her name despite it’s being in the paper and on her grave. Whenever she came to his mind, as it did often, he thought of her as Dublin. Every time he got ice cream after he met her, he bought Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz. "Damn ghosts" he thought.
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