#fridayflash Ice cream dreams

It’s been quite a while since I did #fridayflash. Here’s one with some of the characters from Origami Flamingos.

All day the ice cream van was circling. Ice dream van. Rat catchers, child snatchers from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall while waiting for it to arrive. Eating in his mind’s eye a 99 – whipped ice cream with a jaunty chocolate flake. He would save that until last.

They didn’t have the money. Barry put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a lining that was torn. It was reminsicent of his magician hankerchief trick when he was still on the domestic circuit. He shrugged his shoulders. Gary glared in the ferocious glare of the sun. His lips were as dry as popped pods, from which he ate peas, shooting them staccato sweet at the back of the throat, as if he could extract something special from his resistent life.

It was all there, wasn’t it in the shrug of his shoulders? Pauline and Barry. His parents. Not his Mum and Dad, Just two random people who fused a sperm and an egg. He knew about that. He was interested in science. Life wasn’t all necessarily random, there were patterns and conditions. And if there were he was going to find them.

In Gary’s room there was a map, a print out. It depicted the route which the ice cream van took each day during the month of August. It was part of a greater analysis, the graphs of which were safe inside his computer. There was a slightly different pattern for every month. He was a fan of Traffic estimation and prediction systems, other wise know as TrEPS. His uncle Gavin the architect was fascinated when he showed him. His father told him about the perfect rhythm of the Las Vegas Can Can Dancers and how the crowd went wild when he made Pauline spin at the end of stick while elevated. The thrust of this revelation was somehow at the same time both tangential to Gary’s project and way off the mark.

Speaking of mark, Gary had made a new friend, Mark Burns, a strange boy with an obsession for paper aeroplanes. He was always trying to improve the aerodynamics. He said that he had once flown across the Irish Sea with his mother. He was such a serious boy that Gary was inclined to believe him, witnessing the incline of his head, his determined fingers as he sharpened the edges of paper wings.

Every day now, he and Mark would test the TrEPS for the ice cream van down to exact timings, leaving only sixty seconds from the house to the predicted arrival point at the ETA (estimated time of arrival). Gary had other friends but only online. They would Skype each other with verified sightings of the van as the data for the TrEPs was compiled. He was cheered by the sound of these disembodied voices. Barry and Pauline had never Skyped him, despite their many travels. They ‘hadn’t been ready’ for parenthood. He lived with Gavin and Christine instead. When he was younger he had made maps of their travels, stuck pins in where they were located but he was finished sticking pins now. Now he merely scowled at Barry’s empty pockets. Back on the sun lounger Barry revealed his gold medallion on his hairless, sculputured chest. Why would you want a Dad like that?

The chime of the ice cream van came from far away, but he knew it was closer. He had this impression of Mark putting down his paper aeroplane, tightening his laces. Gary had an aunty who ran. Gertie ran for no reason up and down the highstreet, out to the edge of town, in marathons and muddy obstacle races, during parades despite peramulatory preponderance. Gertie was running now, in the kitchen, helping Gavin and Christine out with everything. Any of them would have given him the money for an icecream but he like to test Barry from time to time to see if he really was good for nothing.

Pauline’s handbag was fancy. Alligator skin he thought she’d said. When he opened it up he saw the alligators jaws widened. He was quick to get in and out before the jaws snapped shut. He felt paper between his fingers. He folded it quick, sharp, like Mark.

His heart was on standby, kerthump, kerthump. His toes were poised and he heard the shrill laughter of Pauline on the recliner, the deep throaty answer of Barry. All that time he had been counting down in his head. At school they called him exceptional. The exceptional informed the pattern of the regular. The ice cream van may be late on the day of a match or the broadcast of an opera. The human bits were harder to equate for.

As Gary passed the recliners with the ten pound note wrapped into his tight fist Barry raised his hand but through his sunglasses he could not see his son’s face. The boy counted down to the suitable number. He raced out of the garden to the sound of the ice cream jingle. He crossed the road and headed to the green. He could see Mark coming towards him. In the glare it looked like he was flying in the centre of the great orb of the sun. For an instant he was halted by his imagination instead of facts.

If he had been too distracted by life, like his parents had been, if random events collided, like they had when he was conceived by the time he crossed the road he would have been in the path of the ice cream van. There would be a bang that rang out around the estate so that even Barry snoozing on his recliner, would sit up. Mark would fly to his friend and Gertie’s footsteps would not be far behind. The ice cream man would have his head in his hands and at the house Pauline would put her cardigan on against the chill. Gary would lie on the ground with white in his head, the last thoughts of ice cream melting.

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3 comments

  1. I love the inter-cutting of thoughts, movements and scenes..There is an amazing hallucinogenic quality to your writing as characters occupy a middle ground between what is real and what is imagined. I am reading “if nobody speaks of remarkable things” at the moment and this wonderful wee tale mines a similar seam of poetic expression. You write with a beautiful (and enviable) command of the language.

  2. Welcome back to #fridayflash, Alison! I agree with Tom that it was a bit trippy, and it brought to mind some of the tones of Mrs. Lowman from Death of a Salesman.

    If you’re looking for critical feedback, I felt like something was missing from “It was all there, wasn’t it in the shrug of his shoulders?” The two clauses didn’t seem connected in my head, though I might have missed something.

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