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Mr Frosty

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There was a time when I heard nothing.

Nothing.

Not the croaking of tree frogs screaming over and over again.  The rustling of leaves scratching at the street as they made their escape from one lawn to the other.  Not even the screech of some far off car escaping from something or trying to make its way home after some night shift.

None of it.

Nothing.

Only the quiet dead movement of blistering hot Summer air.

I remember I lay in bed atop the covers sweating and turning from side to side to find a position that worked.

When Tracey was still in the house it was easier to find a position.  There had been a certain order.  An understanding.  I had my side of the bed (left) and she had her side (right, like with everything else about her, always right).

But now that Tracey lived with Martin over on Maple Avenue, just across from the elementary school and not too far from what would be the new Piggly-Wiggly, I was left to try and find a position in bed that worked.   I moved over and took her side.

Seemed right.

She took everything else from me.  I might as well take her side of the bed.

I punched the pillow a few times to soften it and then tried to get the last three hours of sleep in before I had to get up and shower and get Tammy ready for school.  It was my week with her and we were still working through it just being me and her every other week and alternating holidays.

We were working through it all.

It was hard enough telling a six year old about why daddy still lived in their old house while mommy lived over on Maple Avenue with the mustached jerk who use to prepare our taxes.

Much less trying to get up at six to make sure her backpack was filled with all of the right books and peanut oil-free snacks.

But I was just about there.  I could feel the sleep.

My eyes were staying closed and my breathing was getting thicker and heavier with every minute.  I was being dragged down into the black hole that is sleep when suddenly it began.

Soft at first.

Like a rustling of far off porch chimes.

Almost soothing.

But not clean like a piano.  Instead there was a certain broken static to it.  Like a radio playing underwater from a car that had been pushed into a lake.

The louder it got the more I got pulled out from the hole that was sleep.  I still lay in bed with my eyes closed but I was awake.

I turned my head a bit to bring the sound in louder.  And it was louder.  And the louder and closer it got, the more familiar it became.

No longer the ringing of some distant chimes or a far off radio.  It was familiar.  Something I knew.

I started to follow along and hum the tune in my head.

Da da da dah da . . .

I knew the song.  The more I listened, the more I understood.

It was the old song from the neighborhood ice cream truck.  From when I was little.

Mister, mister something.  I searched my memory as I lay in bed.

Mr. Frosty!

That was it.  Mr. Frosty.  Only that was not it.  It was spelled “Mister” not just “Mr.”.

More formal.

Mister Frosty.

That was it.

He with the big whipped flip of white hair that was made of vanilla soft serve sticking from his cone head.  He with the little red bow tie.

Laying in bed years away from those moments, I could still pull up the image of the old truck with the plastic model of him on the passenger’s side that stayed lit even in the afternoon light.

Da da da dah da . . .

I could still see the truck inching down the street like some pied piper drawing every neighborhood child from the safety of their TV sets to run around the house scurrying for fistfuls of change.

And then when the truck stopped we would be nothing more than a gaggle of screaming voices.

Ice cream Beatlemaniacs.

The man inside, who we never knew his name, and who looked nothing like the big plastic head with the whipped flip of white hair on the sign, would point to one child over another for no reason at all, and take their order.  And as he pointed with his chocolate stained white gloves, you would scurry to place your order without messing up and hand over your fistful of change as he delivered the whatever it was you ordered.

A single dip or double dip or vanilla and chocolate twist.  The twist, that was the best!

Da da da dah da . . .

The sound was so loud now that I knew it must be over on Cedar Mill or maybe Edgemont Avenue, just a block away from our street.  I opened my eyes and looked at the clock.

3:33.

That had to be wrong.  What the hell was an ice cream truck doing out at this time of the night?  I sat up in bed and listened again to the tune.  But there was no mistaking it.

Da da da dah da

It was Mister friggin Softy.  There was no doubt.

I pulled back the covers and walked to the edge of the bedroom and looked out the window.  The street was blanketed in darkness.  A lone post light from the Poe’s house, six doors down, shed an edge of pissy-yellow to the blackness but not enough to light our area.  I could hear the sound of the truck as it grew closer making what must have been the turn from Edgemont onto our street.

I pushed my head against the screen to see if it really was the truck.  And sure enough, there it was.  Sitting in the darkness just down the street by the corner.  An old white box truck with dark blue trim that looked more grey and black from where I was standing.

The music playing loud like it was a Friday afternoon and school was out.  And yet, no house lights turned on.  No door opened with a robe wearing curious neighbor.

The truck stood still in the blackness but I could make out the glowing of the Mister Frosty sign.  His white heap of hair yellowed from age but still recognizable.  The truck did not move.  It just stood at the end of the street just inside of my vision and then ever so slowly it began to move.  It travelled at no more than two miles per hour, if even.

Just inching along down the street.

Like a dare.

Its music tingling in the night as it passed directly in front of my house.

And then the truck stopped.

Just stopped.

For whatever reason that made me pull back hard from my screen.  Like I had been shocked.

I stood in the bedroom and the safety of the darkness of the screen and looked at the truck just outside of my house.  I looked around at the other houses but no lights came on.  Again, no one stepped outside on their porch.  No one peered from behind a curtain.

Just, nothing.  Everything stayed still.

And then the music stopped.

That pushed me back again with the same feeling of electric shock.

All that was left was the still Summer heat.

I started to lean again in to get a better look when I heard it.  The sound of my bottom screen door opening and slamming against the wood.  The outer door knock-knock-knocking against the main door.

I pulled as fast as I could to the window and looked down.

Even in the darkness, I could see her.  It was Tammy, running in her nightshirt, with her fist curled up with what must have been change from a drawer.  Running down our walk to the truck.

I was frozen in disbelief and before I could yell out, the door to the truck opened and I saw a gloved hand motion her inside.  She did not even hesitate.  She just went in.

I screamed from the window but she never turned around.

I ran from the bedroom down the stairs taking them two and then three at a time until I fell upon the bottom landing.  I ran to the front door and out onto the street but the truck was already turning the corner.  I ran as fast as I could and started screaming.

I ran around the corner and caught sight of the truck.  A hundred yards in front and gaining speed, disappearing into the Summer night.

 

. . .

 

 

It’s not the same anymore. It never is they say.  Even after all of this time.  After Tracy and Martin and the police and the neighbors and the questions and the questions and the questions, I still live here.

“An ice cream truck?”  They each asked me at one time or another during the investigation.  Like it is something I would make up.

“Yes, a Mister Frosty truck.”

I heard how it sounded.  I understood.  I got it.  And I even understood when they brought in the dog team and started digging in my garden and back yard.  I even offered to help search the nearby woods but the police said it was better I just stayed away.

I understood it all.

Especially now that I have become the weird man with the messy hair and the dark rings under his eyes.  The four packs a day habit sitting on the porch.  Waiting for what little money I still have left to run out.  Waiting for it all to run out.

Waiting every night for the sound.

Waiting for the sound,

Waiting for the sound.

Waiting for the sound.

Da da da dah dah da da da da dum.

 

 

 

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