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.

About Dominic Laing

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