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Get ’em when they’re young

watchthechildThe ice cream van jangled down the street the loudness of it’s speaker system jarring even the most trained ear in the neighbourhood.

As the garishly labeled pink and white truck lurched down the street the driver strummed his phone, part of the usual driving distraction he has when he should have been watching for those children.

The van came to a halt in its usual spot. A driveway to the open parkings sandwiched between two buildings on the estate.  The driver moved from the front seat into the back, turned off the music and slid open the window. Now for the wait.

The  ‘joyful’ music box tones  were the herald of arrival and now it was here. A positive cornucopia of chilled dairyesque delights.

flake99The children in the house opposite and over the road emerged. The little boy immediately climbing on the wall and walking to the neighbours abutment so that he could see into the truck and be seen. He was to be the reconnaissance party, his sister quickly followed also climbing onto the wall. When she got up close, she pushed him off the wall.

The purveyor of chilled delights strummed his phone a little more. Business was slow today it seemed. It was one of those typical early British summery days, a little  blustery, some cotton wool clouds with shades of grey and intermittent sprinkles of rain. Enough to annoy but not enough to justify a brolly or a macintosh.

The girl stood where the boy had been. Feeling vengeful he pushed her from the front on her knees, she folded and tumbled. In slow motion it look as if she had taken a jump backwards. The wall was slick from the raindrops and she glided easily off the wall. Fortunately the wall was low and she collected the top of the wall with her outstretched arms.  She burst into a howl from the belly of her soul and the tears began. The ice cream man ignored the commotion. Instead he opened and closed containers as if looking for a missing ingredient. His action was noisy and audible from a distance.

The mother emerged from the house accompanied by an older sibling of the two smaller children. Both were rotund. The mother serving as a predictor of what the older child would look like in middle age.

Though pre-pubescent, her tubbiness created a disturbing voluptuousness only further accentuated by a pre-teen but age-appropriate  halter mumu. In later years she might regret wearing this to a birthday party of her peers but then again,looking to the mother, self awareness did not seem to be a family genetic strong-suit.

The mother challenged the girl, “what happened luv?”. The daughter gestured to the boy who defiantly stood on the  sidewalk pavement waiting for his frozen treat seemingly oblivious to what was coming next.  “What do you mean honey?” the mother probed further, “he pushed me off the wall” sobbed the diminutive waif and the mother erupted. What followed was inaudible and probably filled with a torrent of unmentionables. What I expected to follow next,  was exclusion and  deprivation.

Instead, the mother loped over the road to the van, where the tumescent older child stood drooling over the pictures plastered all over the van around the sliding window. The girl knew what she wanted it. A half glance to the mother for the nod of agreement and then she launched into her order.

cone2The confectioner stirred into action and in a matter of less than a minute had conjured up a swirl of lazily extruded soft serve drizzled with red strawberry flavoured glucose syrup balanced precariously on the yellow cereal poke and speared with a naked stick of  chocolate ‘flake’.

Several more orders flowed from the other three. Coins and notes changed hands and the four meandered off over the road again slipping indoors with their sugary delights.

The ice cream van driver lingered a little longer. Slide the window closed and took up his position behind the wheel. Fire up the engine, cranked up the tune and hurtled off down the road in a puff of blue smoke as the music box blared out loud beckoning to the next eager audience.

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