Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Ice-Cream Man Cometh

He always knew when he was needed. He was always the one with a boat in the flood. He had stockpiles of baking soda ready for any fire lit under their noses.

Rosie was bleaching the walls of the apartment when he came this time. She knew him by then and smiled gratefully,

"Something blue with nuts please. I want down."
He smiled as he prepared the treat and topped it with whipped cream, unasked. She looked across his window at him, waiting.

"On the house this time cher," her lips curved upward at his little joke; that is exactly where his truck was parked. "You look like you've had a day." She nodded and took the treat. He watched her throat as she licked and slurped it down, crunching the nuts, sucking at the whipped cream.

"Come check the place when I'm done. It'll be as good as new." He eyed the punctured rooftop below him and sampled the dry rot smell drifting up from the open stairwell. Good as new would take more than bleach and determination. "Until next time." he said and drove off.

Rosie was working her spray bottle like a speed-champion air-brush artist. Some of the markings were coming off. Others were simply changing colour as the paint wore away. Adam hadn't come out of his room yet. The better for Rosie since now she could get every inch of wax off of the walls. She hadn't yet figured out what she was going to do about the light fixtures and the carpet, but she would. First things first. She'd be able to think once the walls were clean. The wax had easily scraped off of the fridge and microwave.

Adam could hear the spray bottle and music playing while Rosie cheerfully scrubbed away the evidence of his binge. He'd thought for sure he had gone too far this time, but as usual, she was making the place home again, eyes narrowed, her fingers raw.

The night before he had been deranged. He'd promised himself no more from the candy man in the truck who showed up everywhere. Their dad had been away again the day before and Adam had been...

He stirred for a long while at the knock on the window. The familiar, uncomfortably thin covers flapped over his dense body as he turned. He had hidden in here the night before, (the eyes staring back at him when he came home had startled him). Stock still in the doorway on shaking feet, he had instantly decided that black wax eyes all over the walls and doorways were too much for him to handle right now. The man had come again that night. He'd seen him drive up outside the bar when it closed and he, with the other straggler, went out once more. He felt the bells before he heard them. A tinkley ice-cream truck quietly easing down snowy Sussex drive.

"You were remembering her". Gordon wondered how he could have known. "You saw her again, here."

"One of her friends was there that tonight. She was like, uncomfortable. And you know. It was weird." Gordon's cheek pulled the side of his mouth up into it as he cast his eyes down. The truck driver smiled down at him.
"Just a minute." he said. "I'm coming"

Gordon met him at the back of the truck. They sat on the lip of it with the doors open. The candy man ran a reassuring hand down Gordon’s back then back up to stroke his hair lightly.
"I didn't know she was like that, How could I? She did it anyway, I never cheated."
The man ran his arm across Gordon’s shoulders and held him to look him in the eye. "You have been with as many men as she has. But she knows what it's called."
Gordon’s forehead creased in panic and anger.
"She's the liar! She went out all the time, it was so bad at her house Rosie came to me!" This was always what Gordon would say when he felt cornered, defenseless. "I did the best I could with those kids. If things had been different between us..." Gordon's eyes sparkled as his lip quivered.

"I know.", said the man. He smoothed his agile hands over Gordon's forehead. "You did what you could. You need warmth from somewhere." He was nuzzling tentatively, then kissing deep into Gordon. Exalted relief filled him, though he knew it wouldn't last.
When they pulled away finally, Gordon was close to tears again. "I have to go back there. I can't go alone."
"You won't be, the man said. He got up and went into his truck. He rummaged in small fridges and cabinets.
Gordon was nervous and excited as the man approached. "Can we go in and shut the doors, its cold out here"
"Come on now, we've done this before Gordon. Turn around." He sighed and shrugged theatrically as his cheek kissed the grimy floor of the ice-cream truck. Strong gentle weathered hands circled his skin, fingertips leaving telltale traces on his back, his crack, the back of his knees. He groaned as the confection entered him. A shiny, round ball of relief and warm waves. His prostate throbbed contentment, gratitude at the base of his cock, waving.
"It's just for now you know, ahhhhhhhh" Gordon groaned. "I won't need this forever."
"No." said the kind and ever-caring man. "None of you will."

Gordon wondered at this on his way home. "Of course there were others." He thought. It would be unfair, selfish to imagine I'm the only one. He still found himself saddened even through the floating warmth.
Now the man was here at his window. He didn't know how and he didn't care. "I can't be here right now. Take me away"
"I've got many people to see today. Can you move, try to get up."
Gordon rolled over on his face and carefully made his feet meet the floor. He stood unsteadily, looking for balance found after toddlerhood.
"Take this. It'll steady you for today. I'm rushing my rounds, can't wait." The good humour man smiled evilly, long teeth and narrow nostrils flared. "Stay where you are Gordon. Watch your son and daughter today"

He left a small green cake on the windowsill. A white star iced onto it. Gordon saw the pastry across a long distance. He had just spent all his effort getting out of bed. Now he had to get back across it to the window. No matter how much he told his muscles to move, they wouldn’t go any further. He crossed the bed creakily, with eyes closed, on faith. On all fours, he planted the tiny cake on his tongue and lay back. The kids would be fine today. Hell, one of them had done it right?

Gordon groaned and cried out as he allowed himself to think, ’just this once’. Again.

Rosie had called him that night. Gordon was nowhere to be found, as usual, and Adam had gone off the deep end. She unlocked the door and went into the apartment that faced four lanes of Merivale. The first thing she saw was a black-eye on the dining room wall. “steady, steady…” a simple mantra, but effective. She turned to each wall and found an eye on every surface but the floor. On the TV screen, the walls, the washer and dryer. There were words on each door. She didn’t bother to read them; she went straight to her room at the rear end of the apartment. There was nothing out of the ordinary in her room; only the regular roaches and window grime. The garbage was packed tight in the old laundry detergent bin she was using. There were no eyes inside. She hadn’t read the wax message on her door. She phoned everyone she knew with a car. After six or seven messages and two refusals, she opened the window to her six-lane neighbours and lay down in the city dark; orange and loud with sodium.

The bathroom was right next to her room so when Adam came home she heard him brushing his teeth. “Adam” she called out.
“How are you”
“I’m okay, are you okay?”
“Yeah.” He said. “I’m going to bed.”
“Okay” she said back. And that appeared to be that.

They never talked about it. And the man comes to everyone as necessary. He never went where he wasn’t wanted. She wondered briefly if he had tapped the phones, orchestrated the no’s in order to see her again. The worry didn’t stay with her, and she went back to her scrubbing.

Saccharine structures of crystal messy melting on his tongue. Two hands grip a cup as he slurps carefully, then replaces the vessel on his placemat. He licks his lips and sits back. Hoping for the candyman and his promised puffy mushrooms. It was bad last night, ugly. He crashed around the place, wild, spinning spilling his adhesive seed on every surface the soft candle end would touch. He could see them now. His recruits watched every move from the lights, the walls, the freezer door. His surveillance, however unnerving, made him feel better. They watched, and watched over him.

Adam had been dumped for the first time last night. He wasn’t ready for it. He wasn’t ready for the cavalier way that his man had turned him into something small. This man and the others around them treated Adam like a jewel, like something precious to be coddled and listened to. He was used to being plied with drinks, used to being touched and kissed seductively, used to being the person who dumped them. The shock of it pushed him to a place he wasn’t used to, brought swimming images of people who had made and broken promises over the years. Faces and small voices floated around him, and he started running.

He was looking for familiar space, somewhere he could get to where his particular specialness was known, was a given. Where it was only a matter of daily life that he was chosen, great. He crunched down pink, blue, green, silver sprinkles and chugged foam as he stumbled towards home. He crashed into the door frame and turned upside-down to get his key in the suddenly huge, long tunnel of lock. He shuddered when the compact was finally made and the tumblers turned to let him in. The door shut behind him and he opened his eyes to what should have been safety, a place to regroup. Alien walls looked back at him, ceilings bulged down in quiet attack; even the carpet moved, tiny legs and shells turning the floor to quicksand. He couldn’t go back out, not now. His back against the doorframe, there was no choice at that moment but attack.

The Good-Humour Man watched over all his children, the frightened, the lost, the desperate, the enraged. These three only needed cupcakes and the occasional topping to keep going, and how sad if they ever separated; started drinking water and cooling their nerve ends. He nursed a green liquid in a plastic batman cup.

They’ll always have me.

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