Do you remember those hot days in the middle of summer? When you were running around in circles for two hours for no reason other than to make yourself sickly dizzy? The sweat pouring down your face, huge pit-stains spreading under your arms and in the middle of your back, and you were so thirsty that you’d grab the nearest hose (didn’t matter if it was your own house or not) and even if the opening was stuck in the mud, you’d turn it on full blast and take a big swig? You were just about to die from heat stroke and you were seeing blurry and in double when you’d hear that faint jingle, that familiar tune that you just couldn’t place at first. Just as you were questing your own sanity and if maybe it was just so hot that your earwax was melting, dripping like molten magma and buring though your ear drums, the jingle solidified into a song. Here We Go ’round the Mulberrybush, or maybe Pop Goes the Weasel (if you live in the UK or Australia maybe it was Greensleeves), and instantly you knew that the day was about to get a lot brighter.
It was the ice cream man, and he was rushing to your aid just in time to bring you what you needed, what you craved. Be it a rocket pop or a strawberry shortcake bar, an orange cream pop, or maybe even a frozen lemonade.
For me, those first few bars of Pop Goes the Weasel meant one thing and only one thing, Screwballs. I’m not the biggest fan of the sweet things in life, I’m more of a salty dog, but if there is one sweet somehting that I’d do backflips, or maybe even kill for, it was a Screwball. Softish cherry sherbert in a plastic cone with a magical gumball hidden in the bottom of the cup. There was nothing else like it on this earth. No sherbert from the store every tasted to perfect, so Screwball like. And the gum was just the frozen rock hard little bonus at the end of the experience.
One of the things I really miss about my childhood is the ice cream truck coming ’round on the weekends and all summer long. I never saw one again after I left Florida in ’90, though occassionaly I’d hear the chime while driving somewhere, and it always led to a frantic detour to try and track it down to no avail. Then one day last year, at a very low moment, when the apartment building my fiancee and I lived in for four years burnt down and we were scared and tired and camped out at her father’s house, while we were taking in a stray dog, and had absolutly no comfort at all, a ray of amazing sunshine fell upon us. As we were going out that next moring after the fire we both heard that too familair jingle and stopped and just looked at each other. I think we even both said something like “Holy Crap, the Freaking Ice Cream Man!” in unison.
Low and behold, he brought to us the fabled Screwballs, and both of us, against out lust for more, just bought one. It was the best Screwball I’d even eaten. At the end it was very bittersweet, because we don’t get ice cream men in our apartment complex, and I knew that was the last Screwball I’d have for a very long time. It’s going on a year and two months, and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t stop for a second and listen for the jingle.