And? Chapter 1 Ice cream vans and harpoon guns
Wed, 18 Sep 2013
The ice cream van was parked at the base of the Owlshead Mountains in the remote south west corner of Death Valley. A giant revolving Mr Whippy Whip Cornet protruded from its roof and the Ride of the Valkyre’s squirted out of two neolithic speakers and exploded into the cloudless sky, showering the rocks below with Germanic semi quavers.
The shutters of the van were closed.
The little girl with the infeasibly red hair, which coruscated around her shoulders as if it were woven from threads extracted from the radioactive core of the sun, twisted her face up towards the photosphere and folded her mouth into the shape of a question mark.
“It says..” she spoke in a voice which belonged to the recently bereaved, “stop me and buy one.”
Her father, a wan faced man whose eyes lacked the lustre normally afforded to the living, twisted his right hand into his trouser pocket and percussed the change that dwelt in the reclusive inner folds. The scene disconcerted him.
The man selected a hand from his limited repertoire of limbs and rapped a knuckle against the rusted shutters, recoiling immediately from the intense heat generated by 120 degrees of August daylight. He mentally sampled the colourful array of soda’s, ice cones, lollies and popsicles, hand painted on to the ‘A’ board that had been carefully placed to the side of the van, presumably to prick the interest of passing black tailed jackrabbits. Neither he nor his daughter had drunk anything for over eight hours and the urge to do so was wretched. He licked his lips and caught the eye of the little girl. She was searching amongst the ruins of his face for lies. There were so many to unearth. If she had ever trusted him it was a mistake.
There was a rumble from within the innermost depths of the van. It was like a sound like anger but worse. The serving hatch shook and then opened.
“And?” Demanded M, the incumbent. He was wearing a startlingly white cap emblazoned with a multicoloured lolly, a full length white apron and nothing else.
The man wiped his hand from the back of his closely shaven head and down his grime engrained features which floated in a firmament of sweat.
“Two 21 scoop sundae’s please” he gestured at the A board “like that one”.
M leaned over and out of the serving hatch displacing his redoubtable blubber as he did so and studied at the ‘A’ Board as if he had never seen it before.
“Eaten them” he said.
“All of them?” Asked the little girl.
“All of them,” replied M “they were yummy in my tummy.”
“What you got then?” Asked the man impatiently.
“Extra large key lime flavoured snow cones,” M said.
“Two a those then” said the man, licking his lips.
M did not move.
A whimper which the little girl had been holding tightly between her lips, escaped and floated up into the relentlessly blue cloudless sky.
“Payment up front,” said M. “Fifty bucks.”
Fury rose in the man’s throat.
“Sign says two dollars each for snow cones,” said the little girl, rubbing her right hand nervously up and down the right side leg of her jeans. There was a well worn patch - she had done this before, she could not bear to do it again, not for a snow cone.
“These are extra large. Ice is at a bit of a premium round these parts.” Said M.
A small magenta coloured chuckwalla lizard scuttled up the side of the van and on to M’s work surface. M smashed it’s spine with his leather gloved fist and left it writhing and baking under the man’s nose.
“Ain’t got but 8 dollars and thirty cents,” said the man. “Don’t you got nothin I cun buy for that?”
“Let me see now” said M crouching down without taking his eyes from the man’s and emerging holding a worn red box.
“Matches” he said shaking the box rhythmically.
Neither man spoke. A tear painted a line in the crud that covered the girl’s cheek and evaporated before it could reach her chin.
The man and the little girl simultaneously reached into their back pockets, drew guns of proportionate magnitude and pointed them at M.
“I believe I asked for two extra large key lime flavoured snow cones” said the man. A smile waltzed across his upper lip and coaxed the right hand corner of his nose and mouth into a sneer.
“I believe I said they were fifty bucks,” said M unmoved.
“How you gonna spend fifty bucks in hell?” Asked the man, cocking back the trigger on the gun which was aimed squarely between M’s eyes. The little girl did the same.
“How are you going to eat a snow cone without a face?” Asked M reaching below the serving counter, pulling out a loaded, full size whaling harpoon gun and firing at point blank range. There was complete silence as the man, the girl and M followed the trajectory of the harpoon, as it whistled over the man’s head before coming to land harmlessly at the feet of a startled coyote, which sniffed it, urinated on it, shat on it, flicked sand over it with its hind legs, sniffed it again and pranced off, pleased with a job well done.
“Bollocks” said M.
The man and the little girl, turned their attention back to M and opened fire. M threw himself to the floor of the van under the fusillade of bullets, waited until both guns clicked empty and hefted the mini fridge which was stocked full of beer out of the van and on to the man’s head crushing his skull.
The little girl stared fixedly at the glacial lake of blood which flowed out of the pothole in the man’s temple, pushed his dead face out from the front of the fridge door with the tip of her sneaker, picked out a beer, downed it in one and burped fulsomely. She looked back at M.
“You killed my pa,” she said.
“Well if you must put it as bluntly as that” replied M.
“Thanks” said the little girl. “Been hopin someone would do that for quite a while now.”
M inspected the carnage, sooner or later it always found him and it was always the same.
“Giant snow cone?” asked M uncertainly proffering a cup of lime flavoured ice shavings. The girl grabbed it from his hand and buried her face in it, slurping greedily,
“It doesn’t quite make up for offing your father but....”
The girl looked up at him with a green coated complexion.
“Oh it does” she replied between slurps. “It more than does.”