Saturday, September 5, 2009

Egg Custard

One day after school bullies chased me into a bar. Inside: smoke, cheap beer stench, weathered men like my father reading newspapers, shooting pool, playing electronic poker. Everyone stopped what they were doing, sized me up. At the bar I saw Jim, the neighborhood snowball man, his eyes widening, amber-colored drink before him. His weather-beaten white truck chugged through the neighborhood on warm afternoons, broadcasting canned merry-go-round music. My friends ordered chocolate or cherry, or novelty-named flavors like Pete Rose or Shaun Cassidy. I always ordered egg custard. That’s what he called me.

He approached me, said, Egg Custard, you can’t be in here, escorted me outside. No bullies in sight.

Kid, don’t tell anyone about me at the bar. Anyone’s parents find out, it’s no more snowball truck.

I looked at him, nodded. He forced a smile.

Look, how about free snowballs you keep quiet. When you’re alone. Look, I’m no creep, Egg Custard, just I can’t afford all your friends.

The snowballs-for-silence deal worked fine. One day though Jim’s truck stopped coming. Some said Jim lost his license; others he was stabbed, died in his sleep. A Good Humor truck took over. I could duck into a thousand bars and never see its driver, never hear the name Egg Custard.

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