Prelude: Ice Cream
Prelude: Ice Cream
Cotton candy ice cream in a sugar cone, cookie crumble with caramel and gummy worms. The girl’s napkin is drenched with sticky, multicoloured sweetness. Pink and blue drops trail the crime scene, locating the initial attack as somewhere near the cash register.
The girl’s mom is eating vanilla ice cream with a green plastic spoon. Her napkin is tucked into the collar of her shirt. Her paper cup doesn’t drip.
The mom is the girl’s best friend; that’s why they’re having ice cream. That, and because she got 105% on her social studies test. She got the bonus question right too.
The mom says that this is just a grade 2 test, not exactly the Nobel Prize. Still, positive reinforcement is important. The girl says she doesn’t know what positive rain force mint is. Is it some sort of metaphor? The mom just laughs. “Nevermind,” she says, although she just said it’s important. There’s a hint of future ice cream in all this, so the girl tries again: “Do you have to be noble to get the Nobel Prize? Or is it related to noble gases?” She emphasizes noble gases to impress her mom. She just hopes she won’t have to explain what those are.
The mom laughs. “You’re noble enough, believe me. What you need is to be the best scientist or writer or economist in the world.”
“But how can they tell who’s the best scientist or writer or economist?” the girl asks.
The mom shrugs. “I’m not sure. Maybe when you grow up you can tell them who you think is the best. But then you’ll need to be pretty good yourself, or they won’t believe you,” she winks.
“But if you’re so good at it that you can tell who’s the best, aren’t you the best?”
The mom laughs affectionately, and the girl joins her, feeling proud for saying something clever, or maybe just funny. This proves too much for the soaked sugar cone and it gives in, ice cream and dissolving waffle splashing to the table with a flop. She doesn’t even care, she’s having so much fun. They just laugh harder, the slushy-spraying-out-of-your-nose kind of laughter.
The mom looks at her watch. Her laughter shrinks until she manages to rein it into a smile. “Well, I think we’ve had all the fun and sugar that can be had in one afternoon. It’s time to go to your piano lesson.”
The girl makes a face. “Can we please stay longer?”
“We’ll be late. We can’t switch the time, you have your other music lessons the rest of the week, and it’s too late anyway. Come on.”
“Can we not go today? Mommy, please?”
“No, we have to tell them ahead of time if we want to cancel, it’s too late now. Come on, we’re going.”
The mom’s lips turn thin with annoyance, exposing her teeth. The girl has pushed too far.
Abruptly the girl jumps from her chair, throwing it back with a screech. The yellow floor tiles, the fluffy clouds painted on the walls, the sweet smells, are nothing now.
“Are you ready to go now, darling?” the mom smiles. “We have ice cream at home, you can have some more tomorrow.”
“Who cares – come on – we’ll be late.”
“We’ll just wipe your hands first…” the mom reaches into her purse for wet wipes.
“Let’s go already!” the girl grabs the mom’s hand and pulls at her.
The ice cream parlour is undesirable, a hindrance, a delay. What she wants is to feel the white and black wooden keys, smooth, hard. What she needs is to drown herself, drown everything in sound.
“See, sometimes you just need a little nudge in the right direction,” the mom says as the girl is dragging her.
The wrecked ice cream cone on the table behind them is a sticky, leaky mess, a bursting pink-blue heart. The girl gives it a last glance before they exit. Ew.