Burst – Frontseat

Frontseat

           Walter shot a guy three years ago, but it didn’t stick.  He bought an ice cream truck afterwards, with stickers on the outside of things he didn’t sell anymore.  He kept a shotgun in the powder cabinet, weed in the foam under the frontseat, but when the kids came, he pulled down his t-shirt and slicked his hair, turned on some music, and took their money.

*****

            He made a good living the first six months.  The ice cream truck broke after that, and he couldn’t take it on the highway anymore.  He had to drive back roads to the fairs, the fry-ups and the festivals.  He always had to leave early, but was lucky, because he could sleep in the ice cream truck, in a hammock between the freezer and the front hatch.

*****

            The truck broke for good in Alabast, Washington, on the way to Vancouver, where there was an Exhibition.  When the popsicles melted, he used his tip bucket to bail the freezer out.  In Alabast, he met a stringy girl who asked him for a job.  “Just on my way out,” he said.  They had a burger in the café.  “I have a paper route,” she told him.

*****

            “People are coming back here,” said Lem.  He talked through his window as he typed.  “Don’t you ever leave the house?” asked Walter.  “What for?  Got internet.  Population here went up 10 last year.  Biggest bump in a century.  You going to work at the gas station?”  “I sell ice cream.  See my truck?”  He’d sold the tires and washed off the dirt.  It was sitting on bricks.

*****

            Laura made him walk the route with her, gave him a dime a paper.  “Going to work at the grocery store until the truck is fixed.”  “That place is a goner.  It got stuck up last year.”  Walter tossed a paper onto the roof of a bungalow.  “I got a shotgun.”  The paper rolled off.  He told her he wasn’t going to show it to her, at least not yet.

*****

            “Take your time,” said Rich.  Walter loaded pop crates onto a dolley.  On Sunday, the families came and the store did its best business.  “Slide them in gently, don’t want to snap the cans.”  Walter had parked the ice cream truck out front.  He slept in it when he wasn’t at Laura’s.  The weed was gone, and there was no sugar for soft serve.  “Sure.”

*****

            “Hot,” panted Lem.  “They caught the guy this time.”  Walter was drinking beer.  “Still took all the money.  I didn’t get paid.”  “Sell your truck then.”  Walter finished up.  “Laura wouldn’t like that.  She wants to leave.”  “And that’s her ticket?” Lem laughed.  “Money’s all here,” he said, jabbing the keyboard.  “But your fingers are too damn big.”

*****

            Walter sat with the truck.  Laura was cleaning it, inside and out, third time this week.  “You thinking about leaving without me?  May as well say so.”  “No, not really.”  She scrubbed the windshield.  There were kids sitting against the glass of the grocery store, playing marbles.  “Be back in a minute,” he said.  The back door of the store was open.

*****

            Walter didn’t take sugar.  But there was jam, a whole crate in the back, glass broken up.  He screened out the glass with a sieve, put the jam in a bucket, went to the truck.  The engine started on first try, freezer came on.  Laura came running, afraid he was leaving.  Lem yelled.  “Where do you think I’m going without tires?” he yelled.

*****

            Walter had his shotgun.  He had a record.  The ice cream he made was thick, creamy, because he used a powder he blended himself.  He didn’t sweeten it much, and it never felt too cold.  The fan in the ceiling spun.  Laura sat in the passenger seat, looking for a radio station.  Walter leaned out the window.  He leaned until he almost fell.

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