Ice, Custard, Happiness, Amen.

This short story by Dominic Laing won our Show Off writing contest: Spring Edition. You can visit Dominic’s blog, dominclaing.com, or follow him on Twitter (@dominic_laing).
Ghetto Blaster

Photo by Stephen Michael Barnett

House faces West, so early-day Sun climbs up back, and late-day Sun tumbles down front.

No one stoop-sits in cold months. Hands buried deep, hoodies and mittens pulled tight; Monks passing between prayers.

But sun re-shines and Vibrance spreads anew. Roy G. Biv comes out of retirement and clear-cool-blue rends Winter’s tabernacle veil as far as Eye can see.

Eyes see further when Sun re-shines and Wind kicks out the bullshit. Blue be clear and cool, and brick be Red.

My eyes record Sun and Wind, Blue and Red.

Long morning. Slow. Funeral tomorrow.

II

Banshee Block. Where I live.

Young bulls rolling up, popping on two wheels like they hot shit. Four wheels, look like tanks, like they oughta be off-roading through Fairmount. In the desert, somewhere.

Not here, though.

They rev their motors, each one-by-one. They blow by each block in the hood, scaring all the old folks, making all the kids think the Banshees are the baddest. They don’t care about the neighborhood. Each one with a mask or a hood, each one making sure my peace and quiet don’t last long.

My head never settles, never rests.

To them, I bet they sound like Kings of the Jungle.

Don’t sound like no lion to me. Don’t sound like no cub neither. Sounds like a Jackal or a Hyena, like some punk in puberty. All squeals and squeaks. Ain’t no roar to be found from any of ‘em.

Hyenas, one and all.

III

Sitting at the service. Everyone looks smaller in coffins. No one looks like they did when they lived. I have a picture of her in my pocket. That’s how I’m going to remember.

“She looks great.”

“She looks nice, man.”

“She’s beautiful.”

Dead, what she is.

We asked a friend to sing. Before he sang, he spoke.

“There was a woman,” he said. “Sick for years; vomiting, bleeding. All these men trying to heal her, but she doesn’t get well. Then she hears Jesus is coming to town. And she fights the crowd because she believes if she can just touch him, she’ll be healed.”

He looks at my family, and smiles.

“So Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers hear about this woman, and they go into the studio to write a song about her. Now, before I start, you have to know it’s a hand-clapping song, so I’m gonna need your help.

And it goes something like this…

“OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
 There was a woman, in the Bible days,
she had been sick, sick so very long
but she heard about Jesus was passing by
so she joined the gathering throng
And while she was pushing her way through
Someone asked her ‘what are you trying to do?’
She said ‘if I could just touch the hem of his garment,

I know I’ll be made whole…’”

Later, the preacher preaches.

“She’s been changed. She’s not in a better place. No sir. She’s not in a better place. That’s how lies get spread, and we’re not gonna spread lies. She’s not in a better place. She’s in the best place. The best place. And you couldn’t convince her to come back here, not for one second.

She is now changed. From the temporal, to the eternal. From the corruptible to the incorruptible. From the decrepit to the intrepid; lost to found. Glory to God! Glory to God!”

“Make sure,” the preacher says, “make sure the love in this room doesn’t stay here. Make sure you carry it out with you. Make sure it resounds.”

I don’t have any idea how there’s love in this room. I don’t feel love. I still feel loss. And pain.

The preacher’s right, though. She can’t get sick anymore, she can’t break any bones, and she’ll never have to see any more doctors.

And she’s unreachable by phone. She has no permanent address, and I’ll never be able to visit her on a Saturday again. I’ll never be surprised by the presence of freshly-made dinner.

Never an unannounced visit. All visits from now until I die will be announced and planned. I’ll always be going to visit on purpose and it’ll always be to pay respects.

IV

First day of spring. Clear cool blue. Roy G. Biv out doing his thing. Looking fresh.

First day of spring means free Water-Ice at Rita’s.

I get the Mango flavor; doesn’t leave your mouth red like some damn lipstick. Sweet.

One-thirty; before school lets out, line’s still long though. You gonna wait, but you always gonna wait for free Water Ice, and it’s worth it.

I glance up at the sign. Under the name it reads, “Ice, Custard, Happiness.”

All’s I’m thinking about is how much I wish she were here, and how much I wish those Banshees would never come ripping down my block, how much I wish for peace and quiet…

…and how much I wish I could call her and hear her voice.

Two old ladies behind me.

“Whatchu doing tomorrow?”

“Some of the grandkids are coming over.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Gonna make cookies.”

“Alright.”

“Easter’s in two weeks.”

“Really?”

“MmmHmm.”

“Shame; Jesus is gonna miss His free Water Ice.”

First day of Spring. Me and the Garment. Make me whole.

If you liked this story, read the other winners of our Show Off writing contest.

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  • Daron Henson

    @ Dominic – Excellent story. I especially enjoyed your use of english and your writing style.

  • http://twitter.com/pootlesuzie Suzie Gallagher

    loved it, well done Dominic

  • http://www.facebook.com/LiBuchanan Lisa Buchanan

    Very moving…your thoughts interwoven throughout.

  • Skipper Hammond

    Good story, good language. A pleasure to see them combined.

    • http://twitter.com/Dominic_Laing Dominic Laing

      Thank you Skipper!

  • Diane Turner

    Great story. I particularly love the sense of place you portray. Visual and moving.

  • http://bikerider.Writing.Com/ Angelo Dalpiaz

    Good story, Dominic.

    There is a special “feel” to this story. I picture a man, older, living in a cramped city, who enjoys simple pleasures. And he likes to tell stories using his personal slang.

    The lines about being in the “best” place really caught my attention. For me, it spoke of hope, the hope we all feel when we lose someone close.

    I like your story, especially the way you told it.

    • http://twitter.com/Dominic_Laing Dominic Laing

      Angelo – Thank you for your thoughts, and thank you for the encouragement. I love hearing how people respond to the writing.

  • Holly-Marie St. Pierre

    Congratulations Dominic! I liked your use of stanzas or verses? Not sure which, but it was visually engaging and unique.

    • http://twitter.com/Dominic_Laing Dominic Laing

      Thank you Holly. I’m not sure what to call them either, but I enjoy writing in that style.

  • soulstops

    I like the rhythm and poetry of your writing. Congrats, Dominic!

  • Steph

    Congratulations again, Dominic. It was a treat to revisit your story in its final form. Great voice and rhythm.

  • Yvette Carol

    Nice job Dominic, and a well deserved win. Your story kept me reading until the last word. :-) Must skip across and check out your blog next!

    • http://twitter.com/Dominic_Laing Dominic Laing

      :) Thank you Yvette!

  • http://jblearnstowrite.tumblr.com/ JB Lacaden

    Congratulations Dominic. Loved the story and would love to read some more of your stuff.

  • http://sarachoe.com/ Sara Choe

    THIS IS SO GOOD. THAT IS ALL.

  • Sarah Hosan

    congrats – great writing, as usual, Dom! i like seeing our neighborhood through someone else’s eyes.

  • Oddznns

    This is good … BUT… I think i prefer the original version. This version’s clearer but the additions that make it “clearer” also cause a stutter in the flow of the ‘hood voice. Just a comment mind. It’s still great!

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  • http://twitter.com/Danielle_Reads Danielle Duvick

    Great piece, Dominic! I loved it the very first time I read it. Your voice in the piece (well, the narrator’s) is so fresh and different – it just sucks you in and transports you. You can see the sun and the rainbow and the blue, blue sky and you can hear those Banshees. I love how you consistently showed your reader without having to tell them. Congrats!

  • wendy2020

    From decrepit to intrepid, what a crazy good bit of writing.

    What is so interesting is that the reader never knows if the narrator is male or female, young or old (I am assuming male and at least ‘older’) and we don’t know who died (guessing his mother?).  Yet we really get a sense of the character from your word choice.

    It was a very unique blend of intentionally slack grammar with exquisite word choice.  Like words matter, but if the character feels saying “ain’t no” instead of “isn’t any”, damnit, he will, even though he knows better.  :)

    Great writing.  Congratulations.