The Bubblegum Cigarette Racket
My brief boyhood interaction with the maybe-not-so-innocent neighborhood ice cream man.
Illustration by Robyn Jordan
We knew the song because everyone knows the song. The song carries a meaning like something instinctual, like birdsong or thunder. We’d sprint from the icebox of the living room into the triple-digit heat of the Texas summer, chasing down the Ice Cream Man. We always caught him; he drove slowly.
Kelsey and Richard and Jennie and James — that was us, the kids. We didn’t love the Ice Cream Man, but we depended on him. He provided an essential service that went beyond daily sweets. I remember using one of his Popsicle Ice Cream Turbo Pops to assuage a lost (broken) tooth after I fell (was pushed) down the small slide that led to our kiddie pool in the front yard. The tip of the Turbo Pop was red, which made it hard to distinguish blood from melted syrup.
When the Ice Cream Man came through, Kelsey handled the exchange. I’ve always had a fear of money, which is to say I’ve always had a fear of responsibility. The exchange worked mostly the way you might expect: g…
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