ICE CREAM TRUCK
by Katherine Gehan
Wednesday night Paul and I made out in the parking lot of the Staten Island Mall, leaning up against his jeep. As we kissed and talked about maybe going dancing in the city later, two gay men holding hands walked by. They wore white dress shirts with their jeans and I loved the picture of them getting into their old-fashioned blue Mercedes in the weird misty fluorescent August light. I framed it with my fingers. When they drove away, Paul rolled his eyes, muttering something about faggots. I hated him sometimes.
Issue #123 soundtrack: Parrot Dream “Jungle”
I let him keep kissing me though, until three guys about our age came around on shiny Schwinn bicycles. They rode in circles and watched us, swinging wider and wider, nearly smashing into one another. I was amused and Paul wanted to deck them. His iguana was sick so he’d been in a bad mood all night.
“Eddie is turning this really bad pale color,” he moaned.
Paul gave the boys the finger and we headed over to his Mom’s house, where we were living, to check on Eddie and also on the ice cream truck. The cooler had been acting up all week, randomly shutting down for periods of time.
In the spring Paul decided he wanted us to drive the truck for the summer. Who was I to deny him this wish when his brother died in Iraq the year before?
“He needs something constructive to do,” his mom, Gina, told me.
I never met Tony. His absence was just a fact, a natural event that happened to the Giovanni family, like an earthquake or a tsunami. I had entered the scene of the aftermath, and piecing together what life had been like before was an ongoing project.
What promises of happiness an ice cream truck brings as it projects an endless loop of tinny music, promoting obesity to the youth of America! I was mostly all in. We put all of our savings together along with a loan from Gina, and we saw a particularly sketchy individual in Queens who rented us a truck. We parked it in Gina’s driveway and from the futon in her basement, the hum of the freezer kept me awake most nights as I got tangled up with Paul in the sheets, so slick with sweat.
Thursday night Jenny and I went to Brooklyn for a bachelorette party. Jenny and I waited outside the brewery for everyone to show up, talking about how ridiculous it was that someone we knew was actually getting married. Totally nuts, three years out of high school! We gave lost tourists wearing light blue jeans and white sneakers detailed, incorrect, directions to Midtown for fun. Amy recognized a guy walking down the other side of the street as the older brother of a high school friend.
“I kissed him once at a party. He’s a male model.”
I couldn’t figure out why.
Then the guy and the friend he was with sauntered across the street, absolutely knowing we were watching them, walking right past us into the brewery. Two minutes later they came back out. The male model tossed out a blinding grin.
He pointed to a parking garage half a block down and said, “My friend and I would like to know if you two would like to come get high with us on the top of that building.”
Jenny and I stared at him, at each other, and then laughed.
“I know you,” Jenny told the male model, whose eyes really did sparkle a little, matching the teeth.
Amy, the bachelorette, and a few of her friends were suddenly there too, and the guys flirted with all of us, telling us we were all so cute. We explained the no-boys-allowed party situation.
“Maybe next time?”
But we never got their numbers. Later Jenny and I decided that if we hadn’t been meeting people, we would’ve gone up to the garage just to be crazy and to say that we had.
Late Friday night/early Saturday morning Paul was driving the ice cream truck across the Verrazano when a cop pulled us over. We’d been at my Mom’s place in Brooklyn Heights grabbing some of my stuff.
“No, no!” Paul slammed his fist on the steering wheel. “I knew we shouldn’t have done this in the middle of the night.”
He was the one who wanted to go late to avoid traffic but I didn’t remind him.
“I’m really thrilled that we’re going to spend the night in jail because you wanted that one pair of cut-off jeans from your Mom’s.”
I hadn’t told him none of my other pants fit anymore from gorging on ice cream. But jail? I anxiously braided my hair. “What did you do, anyway?”
Paul started punching his thigh.
We crawled over the midway point of the long bridge and coasted down to the Staten Island side, the police car swinging a silent rhythm of light across our dashboard.
Once Paul put the truck into park in the plaza, he said very slowly, “I don’t care what happens as long as he doesn’t search the freezers.”
“Why would he?” I pulled a little hard on my braid so my scalp stung.
“If he does, just say you didn’t know anything about it.
“What are you talking about?”
“Promise!” Paul hissed.
All this made me want mention the male model from the night before—poke at the bull a little, throw out something that would make him feel as nuts as I was right then. No one is more jealous than Paul. But I keep my mouth zipped.
Then the cop was outside Paul’s window, squinting at his driver’s license.
“You have a permit for the ice cream truck, kids? This is a regular license. You have a Mobile Food Vending license? Where’s your MVF sticker?”
“It should be in the glove compartment somewhere,” Paul smiled nervously. I’d never heard of this MVF thing.
My fingers fluttered through a bunch papers—maps, mechanic documents, oil change receipts. Nothing but the rental agreement. I shook my head.
“Sorry, sir, we don’t seem to have those items with us tonight.”
Did we have them at all? Also, what the hell was in the freezers?
“We do have our rental agreement with the company.” Paul motioned for me to give him the paperwork.
“Miss, your identification, please.” The flashlight was blinding. I passed over my New York State ID and the cop ordered us to stay where we were as he walked back to his car.
“What did we even do?” My fear was morphing into something large.
“I have no idea. It’s probably suspicious to drive an ice cream truck at this hour.”
“Questions. I have them.”
“No doubt,” Paul said, thumping a rhythm on the wheel, looking straight ahead.
“One: Do we have a permit? Is that something you knew about? Two: What do you have in the freezers?” I was thinking about body parts—severed hands, toes, ears hidden among the King Cones. My mind can go to dark places.
Paul clenched the wheel and turned to me. “I meant to go apply for the Mobile Food License a while ago but I kept putting it off. The guy in Queens mentioned it. I figured it wasn’t a big deal.”
I scowled. “So are we trafficking body parts?”
“Body parts, seriously? Do you even know me?”
“I’m sorry.” I wasn’t.
Paul took my face in his hands and stared. “It’s pot. Okay? I’ve been making money on the side selling weed.” He dropped his hands and looked at his lap.
Well. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
Paul crumpled over the steering wheel.
Then the cop was back and Paul jerked upright like one of those puppets. “Your record is clean but you need to get your paperwork in order, Mr. Giovanni. How long you’ve been selling?”
Paul coughed. “Selling?”
“Ice cream, dummy. You are selling ice cream from this truck, and not just driving it around in the middle of the night for kicks, right?”
“Three months or so?”
“That’s long enough to get the forms filed. You need to get your house in order. Since 9/11 you know we still do random bridge and tunnel checks on vans and trucks, right?”
He wrote something on his ticket pad, ripped the paper off and handed it to Paul. “I don’t even know all the details but I wrote the website down on the warning I’m giving you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The cop nodded. “Good luck with your business.”
And then we were off, driving in silence for a while along the Staten Island Expressway, an official warning in hand.
“You know, last night, while you were out with your friends?” Paul asked.
“I drove to Silver Lake Park and just sat on Victory Boulevard with the motor running. The view of the city from there is so great. At night it’s like all of lower Manhattan is reflected down into the harbor in some dream place. I was thinking it’s almost like the Twin Towers fell through their reflection and are at the bottom somewhere.”
It was poetry like this from Paul that helped me overlook his more annoying behaviors—like drug dealing. Maybe.
“Like something you could wake up from,” I whispered, “Where everything’s back where it belongs in the morning, right?” But I knew Paul wasn’t hypnotized for hours by imaginary twinkling lights across the harbor, he was hypnotized by a reality where he still had a brother.
I also knew that some nights that summer when I woke up and Paul was gone, he had gone down to the ferry terminal to ride the boats back and forth from Staten Island to the Manhattan slip. I always liked that term for a boat dock—slip—as if the captain could navigate the space along the tall wooden pilings and the landing and slip into some temporary, magical in-between place. Paul’s night ferries took him past the Statue of Liberty, past Governor’s Island, creeping ever closer to the shimmering heights of the city at night, to the point where it seemed the ferry would be swallowed whole. And on the return trip, it would all recede behind him.
Katherine Gehan’s writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Literary Mama, WhiskeyPaper, Luna Luna Magazine, The Stockholm Review, Sundog Lit, Third Point Press, and Atticus Review, and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions, and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Anthology. Find her at kategehan.wordpress.com or on Twitter.
Candace Hope is a photographer from western Massachusetts. Her work has been featured in Take Magazine, The Monadnock Ledger, The Valley Advocate, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Imbibe Magazine, Contemporary Works In, On and Around Music Sharon Arts Center in Peterborough, NH, the Juried Exhibition at the Vermont Center for Photography. She received the 2015 Western MA Creative Awards, Gold Award for Photography. Visit her online at candacemorganhope.com.
Parrot Dream is a Chilean-American indie pop group now based in Brooklyn, New York. Formed at the end of 2013 in Santiago, Chile, band architects Christina Appel and Gonzalo Guerrero moved to North America to make their mark on the NYC scene. Since their move, they have performed at venues like Cameo Gallery, The Rock Shop, Pianos, and The Knitting Factory, as well as made Festival appearances at Northside Festival, BK Wildlife Fest, and the CMJ Music Marathon. They have been named one of the “Best New Bands” by Argentina’s Mute Magazine, listed amongst the “Best Indie Bands from NYC” by The Deli Magazine, and their singles “Sound & Light” and “Come Home” have been featured by various publications. Visit the band online at parrotdreamband.com, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.