The Ice Cream Man was through with wishing. He sat in his van, hands clenching the wheel, before he switched on the music and pulled away. The music made him smile, it always had.
For two months he had turned left out of his neighborhood — today he turned right. He saw a neighborhood up ahead; saw the playground spotless and empty.
Maybe this neighborhood, the Ice Cream Man thought when he pulled in, his speakers singing the sad requiem of children’s laughter that wasn’t.
Maybe this street, the Ice Cream Man thought when he turned. The dreaming houses, all the same, watched unflinchingly as he passed, their shuttered eyes unmoving. Behind their walls were children; the Ice Cream Man knew it must be so.
Maybe this house as he parked.
Maybe right now as he waited.
The children did not hear his song begging them for salvation. They did not chase him down. They did not worry that they might miss him if they didn’t hurry. Their hands did not hold tight to their parents’ money which they were not handing over for a portion of the Ice Cream Man’s dream.
The Ice Cream Man was learning that the only things their hands were holding tight to were wired to a non-life less troubled then his own.
The Ice Cream Man used to be a Teacher Man. He saw year by year the children cease being children. Saw them devolve into a half-life of metal and wires. He was losing them. Everyone was.
The Ice Cream Man couldn’t bear it.
He thought back on his own childhood and what had made it great. He remembered the joyous chimes, the anticipation growing in the line. His eyes taking in the side of the van as his mouth watered, seeing all the treats he had to choose from. He knew what he had to do. He would reach the children this way.
Through him they would remember what it meant to be a child.
When the Ice Cream Man told his wife of his plans she was unmoved. He had lost her to the wires some time ago. He hoped his song would bring her back. In the end she had relented, touched by a bit of the warmth from the Ice Cream Man’s heart.
He knew the scene he would return to this evening with empty pockets and melting hope. She would look up at him, eyes filled with the sun, wondering if this was the day that it all would turn around. He would watch as the sun in her eyes gave way to clouds as he shook his head no, not today my dear. The Ice Cream Man could sense the thunder growing inside of her as disappointment gave way to resentment. He feared the coming storm would blow away all he had left.
Still he sat. Still he waited.
Five minutes, he told himself, in five minutes I will move on.
The music seemed to surge in his ears as he headed to the next street to peddle his dream.
Inside a house a child was lost.
Inside his engine a crack began.
From beneath black blood dripped, speckling the pavement, marking his passing.
D. H. Tuck resides in beautiful Woodstock, Georgia, in a home filled with people and dogs. Every day, she wishes aliens and monsters were real.