Ice Cream Page by Jerome Cains

The bench was in a square that landscapers carved into a grassy slope. It was situated about eight yards from the smooth face of a lake. Only tiny, tiny ripples appeared on its surface. Smooth river stones surrounded the bench, some being gray, some tan and some mottled black. All this was part of a planned park to sweeten the lives of the city’s inhabitants.

He sat there, for a little over an hour, on the right side of the bench sad-faced. He reached for the small flask of whiskey in his jacket pocket, but then he changed his mind and instead rubbed his forehead, then his eyes in frustration. He didn’t know what to do about his situation. He didn’t know how to even begin to think about how to change it.

He lived in such a large municipality. There were so many people, so many people he didn’t know and who didn’t know him.

He looked up at the sky and then rubbed his eyes again. He was so tired. He was tired physically, sleepy, but there was a deeper weariness. He felt himself nodding off, and as he did he muttered just under his breath, “I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go on like this anymore. I just . . .” He stopped talking and allowed his drowsiness to take over.. A few minutes passed and he slipped off to sleep, his chin resting on his chest as he was sitting there nearly upright.

He didn’t feel himself slipping, sliding sideways off the armless bench. His body, which was once flesh and blood, was now all at once hollow porcelain hitting the stones on the side of the bench. His shoes, his pants, shirt and jacket, his whole body shattering on the rocks in a loud crash as one might imagine the sound of a dozen or so terracotta pots shattering all at once with a tinkling unearthly noise.

On the inside of the porcelain, a large tan dove flapped furiously to escape the jagged ceramic pieces and the nerve-jangling cacophony. The dove flew at a sharp angle straight into the sky, its wings making their customary slapping sound. The peaceful blue sky welcomed it like a painting welcoming new colors brushed onto a canvas.

Then, another bird appeared, a larger, faster bird flapping its wings without a sound, a falcon. It came from above equaling the angle of the dove’s flight to snatch it from its path in midair. A single feather floated down to the surface of the dark green-blue lake.

The falcon return to the falconer with is living prize. The falconer held the leather tendrils tightly that were hanging from the falcon’s legs. Seeing that the dove was startled, but ultimately unharmed he again released the lovely bird into the blue. He smiled while watching it fly away.

As the man walked to his truck he spotted a child, a boy maybe age six, playing with a small wooden boat at the water’s edge. The boy seeing the bird asked, “Why do you have a bird on your arm?” The falconer only smiled still thinking about the bird he’d released, but he didn’t answer the child. He continued walking to his truck.

The boy’s mother called to him that it was time to go. The boy retrieved his boat for the water and ran to meet his mother. His mother taking him by the hand said, “You have behaved yourself really well today. How about we get some ice cream on the way home?” The boy excitedly said, “Yes, please. Yes, please, mommy!”

As the woman and her son stood at the ice cream kiosk, there was one woman ahead of them speaking with the vendor. The vendor told the woman that he just ran out of strawberry. He was saying, “It has been really popular during this warm spring for some reason. I’m going to have to have extra on-hand for the rest of the week. I still have plenty of vanilla and chocolaty chocolate left, though.” The young woman smiled, shook her head and said, “No thanks. Strawberry’s my favorite. I guess I’ll treat myself later this week if I’m around.”

As she walked away, her phone chimed. A text message came through. She had been expecting messages, the logistics of a relationship ending. The message said, “Since we r not 2gether i wont c u at party on Sat. Don’t want it 2 b awkward. k bye.”

She wasn’t going to be at the party Saturday anyway, but she didn’t send a reply. She enjoyed being free and open. She put her phone away and took a deep breath and exhaled saying slowly and quietly like a mantra, “Ha-Pi-Ness. Ha-Pi-Ness.” She took another deep breath and exhaled, “Okay. Good.”

She walked for a few minutes around the lake until she came to a bench surrounded by river rock in such a peaceful nook of the park that she had to take this opportunity. Boldly, but stealthily she sat down on the left side of the bench. She didn’t want anything disturbing the peace so she took out her phone to switch it to silent. Reaching to return the phone to its place, she blundered dropping the phone backside down in the rocks and it made a moderately loud, plasticy sound as it struck the stones. An embarrassed flush came across her face.

Picking up her phone, she peered to her right. She awoke the attractive sleeping, teddy bear of a man who napped on the right side of the bench. She said, “Hi. Sorry.” He said sleepily, “Hello.” He awoke to the sound that he imagined was that of china breaking.

This is how one person meets another person. This is how life’s rivers converge. This is how pages get turned.