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.