Ice Cream, You Scream

Ice Cream, You Scream

Miriam reaches behind her waist, loosens her apron strings. The stripes on her uniform undulate like a golf course. She slow-walks to the counter, slams down an order, shouts, One chocolate sundae with the works. Another chocolate sundae with the works. And another. That’s three chocolate sundaes with the works. Same table.

Karen grabs the slip of paper. You couldn’t say it shorter?

This is the worst place I could ever work, Miriam mutters, jamming her order pad into her apron pocket, her face flushed with a nagging hunger that spirals throughout her body. Viv, also handing in an order, looks over at her with hangdog eyes.

When Miriam first applied, she was elated to meet Viv, just a rail, must be anorexic, a twin in mind, if not in bulk. We’ll be pals, sneak ice cream from the parlor’s freezer, she thought. She’ll lose the calories. I’ll pack mine on, no judgment.

But cancer was what made Viv skinny.  Viv never got the weight back although she lost the cancer, and her boyfriend in the process. Tom looked to have a good time, and a good time meant no bad times.

Miriam hates Tom. She told Viv she wished he’d get cancer. Viv just shook her head, pointed to the button above her name badge. What goes around….

Miriam favors retribution. She wipes her hand in slow circles around her stomach. Contemplating revenge makes her feel thin.

I think they meant right away on those ice creams. Can you maybe get a move on it here? Miriam walks over to the counter a second time, stares holes through Karen.

The night before, Miriam forked the soft pulp away from a stale loaf of sourdough rye, shoved it into the bottom of the garbage bag and threw coffee grounds on top. She filled the remaining crust with cheddar and baked it till the cheese oozed and laced all over the baking tray—something to pry off later for a snack.  Gobbled up walking between the kitchen and the TV, she forgot she ate the sandwich. She gravitated towards her freezer, badly in need of a defrost, pulled out an ice cream cake from work. They’d decorated it with the wrong name, so she got to take it home. She scarfed it down before it softened, then scanned the cupboards for cookies nearing their expiration date.

While Miriam contemplates ordering a ham and pineapple pizza for those Hawaii Five-O’s she’s taped, Karen scoops three scoops of chocolate, sloshes syrup to the brim, piles on whipped cream and chopped nuts. She plops a maraschino cherry on top of each sundae, shoves them across the counter. Miriam snarls, balances them on a tray.

BANG! The front door opens wide, slamming into a booth and letting in a cold rush of air, the entire ice cream parlor now in a freeze frame.

HANDS IN THE AIR! A man in a Donald Duck mask approaches Miriam. She tightens her grip on the tray and parts her feet. She stands stiff as a life-size cardboard cutout movie hero.

Miriam grunts under her breath. Fuck you, cartoon, she says aloud. A kid trying to celebrate his birthday starts bawling, and his mother slaps a hand across his mouth.

No, f-f-fuck YOU!  The plastic mask is vibrating, the inside foggy with spit. O-open the r-register! He raises his right arm in one deliberate gesture, a 45 pointing at her.

Miriam doesn’t budge. After a slow-motion minute, she begins to feel the burn from the hole that ripped her stomach.  Her tray and three sundaes in stainless cups tumble and clang to the floor in slow motion. Outside the parlor window, passersby scream silently, scurry in all directions.

Vivvvv…. Miriam’s legs buckle, her teeth hit the steel edge of a stool seat. She spins face down on the linoleum. Blood like melting chocolate leaks and pools from her mouth and stomach as chocolate ice cream lakes and edges towards her face.  She widens her eyes to keep it all in sight. Then, that familiar flush—of hunger, of unfillable holes. Miriam gasps for breath, wills the biggest wish she ever wished.

A maraschino cherry rolls onto her outstretched tongue.


About the Author

Mikki Aronoff has work published in Flash Boulevard, New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, ThimbleLit, The Phare, The Ekphrastic Review, The Fortnightly Review, Milk Candy Review, Tiny Molecules, The Disappointed Housewife, Bending Genres, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Dribble Drabble Review, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww and elsewhere. Her stories and poems have received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.


Photo by Madeline Tallman on Unsplash