When I was little, I grew up on the kind of Chicago street with little brick houses and tiny yards with chain link fences. In the summer, all the kids would be out in the front yards running through sprinklers while moms sat on porches and gossiped. Dads mowed lawns, older kids rode their bicycles up and down the sidewalk, and little ones drew with chalk on the walks up to their homes. It couldn’t be more picturesque or All-American. Summer was a peaceful, joyous time.
Until, as we all know, the scorching summer sun reached its highest point in the sky. Because that’s when it would happen. A sound would start that would catch the ears of children all over the block. A twinkling little song that seemed to pierce the very air from miles away. And when you heard that sweet little tune* you froze. Literally, words were left unfinished with mouths hanging open. Droplets of water seemed to hover in the air. A jumping girl in the middle of a killer double dutch hung, suspended, pigtails sticking straight up towards the sky. And the faces of every child slowly began turning towards the sound. Our bodies were still frozen, but our heads rotated to face the stimuli. Some turned a clear 180 degrees. Our eyes went red. Drool slipped down the sides of cheeks. Somewhere close by, a boy moaned. Grunts began coming from all around, in fact.
Ice cream, Ice cream, Ice cream.
Like zombies catching the whiff of fresh blood, we began to roar. Then move, en masse. One shoulder was now higher than the other, and with our faces twisted and hands gnarled, we began to shuffle towards our houses.
Ice Cream. ICE CREAM. ICE CREAM.
As time sped back up, we started to sprint, screaming like banshees. The freeze that had mystically held inanimate objects in the air broke. Drinks shattered onto the pavement. Frisbees clattered noisily to the ground. Birds fell from the sky, by the hundreds, as we ran. It was coming. And this is what we trained for, g*ddammit.
“Mooooooooo-oooooooom!’” we bellowed as we ran.
The truck was pulling onto the street. Driving tantalizingly slow, the ice cream truck man leaned out of the window, smiling, that little smile just for us. He wanted us to have the delicious ice cream, wanted to take our money, but only if we could make it back fast enough. The ice cream man waits for no soul. He had better things to do with his time than wait for sniveling kids. Like, I don’t know, butcher squirrels or buy a new dress for the skeleton of his mother who was sitting in a rocking chair in his basement and constantly judged him, her empty eye sockets following him all over the room. If we were too late….no. It was too awful to even think about. As we ran, we saw the children whose parents loved them, already outside. Flagging the truck down. Waving dollar bills.
Some of us were not so lucky. Where were our mothers? The children who were still running? Some might say in the kitchen talking to our grandmother on a rotary style land line or folding the laundry in the living room. But as far as we were concerned, they might as well have been cooking meth in the bath tub and turning tricks in exchange for loose cigarettes. They were terrible parents.
“THE ICE CREAM TRUCK IS HERE, MOM,” we screeched. “MOOOOO-OOOOM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHAT COULD YOU POSSIBLY BE DOING????? HURRRRRRRY. I NEED A DOLLAR. DEAR GOD, I NEED A DOLLAR. WHY AREN’T YOU MOVING. IT’S HEREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”
The thought that we might miss the truck still fills me with genuine horror, some 20 years later. That a universe could exist where every other kid in the neighborhood would be savoring a sweet cone of magic while we were in our house, dealing with a person (who in that moment we were convinced) was literally the slowest human being we’d ever met, filled us with irrational fear and rage.
“WELL, WHERE IS YOUR PURSE, MOM? DID YOU LOCK IT IN A SAFE IN THE NEXT COUNTY? HE’S HERE. HERE! HE’S GONNA LEAVE. JESUS CHRIST, YOU SKANK, GET IT TOGETHER.”
When she finally produced a bit of cash, we’d snatch that two dollars out of her hand with a roughness that may or may not have knocked our sweet, little mothers to the ground. We did not care. We ran back towards the street holding up our two dollars like the headless horseman hoisting a head in the air after a kill. Triumphant, savage, blood dripping down our arms.
[Why was there blood? Because I said so. WHO’S TELLING THIS STORY?? We do this every week, Ted. It’s probably a little harmless hyperbole, TED. But you don’t know. Maybe, at seven years old, there was blood dripping down my arm because I had pulled out the heart of the last man who asked me a question WHILE I WAS TRYING TO TELL A STORY. May I continue?]
As I was saying, we ran, triumphant, until we reached the ice cream truck. Mercifully, it was still on the street, (let’s face it, we never missed it) and ordered our treat. Whether we ordered an ice cream sandwich or a popsicle, it was a moment of pure bliss as we gorged ourselves on the delights of the truck. For the truck was our God, and we, its lowly patrons scrambling for a couple of bucks to pay the toll required for our salvation.
And with that memory close at hand (and National Ice Cream day in my heart), I will try to rank the ice cream truck treats from the last thing you would ever choose but, like, they were sold out of everything else (and dammit, you are GOING to eat some ice cream today) to the very best treat you could ever imagine.
Our rating system for this list will be “Number of (theoretical, it’s just a joke, no need to Tweet about it) kids run over in the street while trying to catch the mysterious, seductive truck that sells the cream of ice.”
12. The Firecracker Popsicle
This popsicle thinks it’s hot shit. Soooooo patriotic. Yeah, I’ll admit it. It’s a very ‘American’ food item. And sure, if a terrorist touches it, their skin glows red and burns like the devil to holy water or a vampire to the sun. That’s a given. It’s why they make you take a lick of a firecracker while going through airport security these days. Right after they have you take off your shoes but before they yell loudly that the back of a security officer’s hand is about to touch your vagina.
But this is the lamest of the ice cream treats. IT’S JUST FLAVORED ICE. Do the colors look fun? Yes. But it’s not enough, guys. Plus, while the three flavored popsicle sounds good in theory? Is it? Is it good? Personally, I really only ever want the cherry part. So why am I eating a weird berry flavor a third of the time? And it’s messy. It always falls off the stick before you’re done with it. Then, you’re just licking up ice and food dye off of your palm like a disgusting animal the rest of the time. No thank you.
Rating: 1 (theoretical, it’s just a joke, no need to Tweet about it) kid run over by a Prius going 10 miles an hour while he screamed for the ice cream truck to stop.
He’s fine guys. Yes, his nose always looked squished like that….I think. And he always has blood coming out of one ear! Like 90 percent sure. It’s fine….right, Tommy? I’m gonna get you a nice Firecracker! I said I’m gonna….Oops. Well, at least he collapsed into the grass. Let’s let him sleep it off. He’s going to be right as rain in an hour or two. Right as rain.