A strange little man thinks free ice cream should be free
|The tv was screwed into hinges on the wall. The volume was on full because of all the noise outside on the street. Blue uniformed police were keeping the onlookers back from the sidewalk. You couldn’t actually see any of this from inside Carlson’s Ice Cream Shoppe, all the window shades had been lowered, but you could hear the crowd outside and you could both hear and watch them from the tv on the wall.
Four people sat on the floor inside the shop with their backs to the ice cream case looking up at the tv. They seemed to know each other, it was a small town, but none of them spoke to each other. Mr. Carlson, the owner of the shop sat on the floor away from the others. A strange little man, bone thin and with tremendously crooked and yellow teeth, sat on his knees next to Mr. Carlson holding a gun to the side of Mr. Carlson’s face. They both silently watched the tv along with the others.
Now the tv screen changed from the scene outside to some old guy saying, “Yeah, I was in his class. I remember Lenny. He had a tick,” the old guy made a comical face-twinging expression to demonstrate what the tick looked like on Lenny’s face. He shook his head at the memory. “I remember him as a bully. Used to steal the lunch money from little kids.”
Then, a woman appeared on the screen. She said, “I’ve lived next door to him for twelve years. Sometimes we’d, you know, kinda wave at him when we seen him in his front yard. He never waved back though. I mean it… never a once in twelve years. Lots of dogs and cats used to disappear on this street… Not saying Lenny took ´em, but…”
An old woman now appeared on the screen. She had orange hair up in pink curlers. “Lenny was my baby boy. He’s still my baby boy! He's made mistakes, sure, but he still my baby boy!” She made a sobbing sound.
The strange little man with the gun made a sobbing sound along with her. Without meaning too, he pressed the gun harder into Mr. Carlson’s meaty cheek as tears ran down his own cheeks.
The tv now showed a heavily made-up woman, her face taking up the whole screen, her eyelids painted a sort of electric blue. Her eyelashes looked like two black spiders crawling up her forehead. She said she had been married to Lenny for twenty-one-days and that it was the longest twenty-one-days of her life and that Lenny was god awful mean and “a no good dirty rotten son-of-a-bitch and an effin’ fuckin’ bastard.” She also said that she hoped he would die a slow painful death. On the tv they beeped out the word fuckin’ but left in the effin’ and all the rest.
Mr. Carlson made a hiccup sound when she said that and now the gun was pressed even harder into his cheek.
“You think it funny?”
“You think it funny?”
“Read!” demanded the strange man. His voice sounded like his lungs were full of phlegm. The four people down the floor all saw at the same time that he had on one white sock and one red. He pulled the gray ponytail on the back of Mr. Carlson’s otherwise bald head forcing him to look up at the brightly colored canvas on the wall above the tv. “Read it! Read it, darn you!”
Mr. Carlson started to read. In a shaky voice he said, “Free Ice Cream on National Ice Cream Day. Buy any scoop of ice cream, get a second scoop free on July 21.”
“That not free ice cream. Momma told me, that not free ice cream!” The gun pressed harder still into Mr. Carlson’s cheek making him moan in terror.
“You’re right! You’re absolutely—”
That’s not free ice cream! Is that free ice cream?”
“My mother say that that’s not free,” said the little man.
“No. It’s not,” agreed Mr. Carlson.
“You lied to us!”
“No, yes, but but it is now,” Mr. Carlson said. “Free ice cream all day.” He felt the pull of his ponytail. “All week!” he roared.
Mr. Carlson’s right hand lowered slowly toward his right ankle. He felt the bulge of his.38 under his pant leg. “I promise that for sure!” he said. “Scout’s Honor!”
“You all hear that?” the little man asked the four people sitting on the floor. They nodded their heads eagerly. Four strong yesses.
The little man let out a yelp of glee. He raised both arms in the air as he did so. He began to pull himself to his feet as Mr. Carlson reached under his pants leg and removed the.38 from its ankle holster.
“He promised!” the little man said. “You all heard him promise!”
The four people on the floor nodded absolute yesses again.
The little man had a huge smile. He tapped his gun against the ice cream showcase glass. It made a plastic sound. The little man winked at the people on the floor. “It’s a water gun!” he joyfully reported. He squirted water in the air past the people on the floor who all looked surprised and happy when they saw the water squirting out of the gun and then, not so happy as they saw Mr. Carlson standing with his own gun pointed at the back of the little man’s head.
“It’s only a water gun!” a man sitting on the floor screamed.
Too late. A loud bang. Mr. Carlson, his face muscles all twitching at once, stood with a grotesque smile looking down at the little man now crumpled at his feet.
“You didn’t need to do that, Len,” the same seated man all but whispered. “You really are an effin’ fucking bastard…”