MAY 1998 | VOLUME 2, NUMBER 1
RECENT Y.A. | Every day the grunting yellow monster comes to steal her child away: Yellow Monster
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MARK F. WEBER is a Manufacturing Manager for Eastman Kodak Co. from Pittsford, NY. He is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. more
MARK F. WEBER
The blow surprised him. Pork flew backwards against his ice cream cart, landing painfully near the large spoked wheel. His upper lip ached as blood trickled from his nose. A half dozen high school football players huddled around him. Huge and grimy with blackened eyes and scraped knees, they were surprised that the teasing had gotten so far out of hand. Their quarterback, Brad, towered over him with clenched fists.
"You want some more, troll?"
Pork looked away.
"Come on Brad, leave the freshman alone," insisted a giant lineman whose hair stuck up in sweat clumped tufts.
"Butt out of this, Nate. This punk needs to show me some respect. Now, one free cherry popsicle as requested, courtesy of the freshman troll," laughed Brad while reaching into the freezer. "Plus an extra one for all the trouble."
Nate helped Pork up and whispered, "Better not push it, kid. This guy is a creep."
He and the other players headed for the locker room, picking up some wrappers along the way.
"Look, you fat little turd," taunted Brad. "I expect one free popsicle each practice. Now how many is that per day?"
Brad was six feet tall with long black hair and a sizable gap between his two front teeth. His bumpy nose had been broken a few times. Although he and Pork were about the same weight, the quarterback's poundage was proportioned around a muscular chest and arms. Pork's bulk doubled his chin and rounded his belly. Brad grabbed him by the shirt.
"l'm talking to you, PORK," he shouted as he shook him."How many free popsicles are you giving me tomorrow?"
"Two," Pork mumbled.
Brad stuffed a popsicle in his mouth, tossed the other into a trash can and strutted to the locker room. He turned before entering. "Don't think about skipping practice, Porky. I'll hunt you down!"
Pork pulled out a cleaning rag and held it against his nose. The ammonia stung. Drying blood stained his plaid shirt and his upper lip was throbbing. He picked up the remaining garbage and got on the bike. A brass bell, hanging on the side, clanged as he chugged up the grassy hill to the road. The red cycle shook on each rut. A white freezer with colorful decals, straddling two front wheels, seemed as if it might fall off.
The late afternoon sun rebaked his face and arms. It would have been a good time to cry. Too bad Matt was waiting for him.
Pork's lanky friend grinned, and shook his head in mock dismay, as the cart approached. Thick horn rimmed glasses slipped forward on his long skinny nose.
"Well, was it worth it?"
"You saw what happened!"
"I saw you get your face smashed in for being a cheapskate."
"He wasn't going to pay ..."
"So what? You should've backed off and given him a 'freebie.' I would have hit you too."
Pork dabbed his nose one more time and stuffed the rag inside the bell.
"How are all the little kiddies going to go screaming to their mommies for money if they can't hear the bell?"
Pork startled down the street without replying. It was strange to bump over the pot holes without the clanging.
"Where are you going? The pool's the other way."
"Quit pouting, Pork! That pool's a gold mine. You always sell out."
"You just want to see Katie."
"Hell yes! Now turn around!"
"Shirt's too bloody."
Matt inspected the brown plaid sport shirt that stretched around Pork's chubby sides. "It looks like chocolate. Now come on Porky."
Matt pedaled off in disgust. Hot tears streamed down Pork's chubby cheeks. The ice cream business had been a source of pride. From morning to nightfall, he peddled the cart up and down the small town's streets. Children ran screaming to their mothers for coins at the sound of his bell. The cash box was getting heavier with each trip to the bank. He tried using a coin changer, but became too self-conscious on how tight it fit around his belly.
Pork discovered a few factories where he timed his arrival to their afternoon breaks. A local stamping plant became a daily stop. Metal plates loudly--and sometimes dangerously--slammed into different shapes. Although business was brisk, Pork was still unnerved by the sight of hands with missing fingers fumbling for change. He would grip the handle bars tightly, feeling each of his fingers, for several blocks after leaving the site.
Until recently the municipal swimming pool was the single largest source of customers. Since it lacked a snack bar, Pork realized tremendous sales each day when the pool closed. The football team quickly surpassed this once-mighty cash cow.
At eleven and four o'clock each day, over forty gasping and wheezing players returned from grueling workouts in the nearly one hundred degree heat. They discharged remaining adrenaline from practice by slapping and punching the freezer. Over a hundred sales flew from the cooler each day without a problem -- until today.
Pork composed himself before reaching home. Headquarters was in a shed attached to the garage that had enough room for a freezer and the cart. Pork began the daily ritual of cleaning the vehicle under a single bare light bulb swaying from a cord. Less than a hour later Matt returned.
"Those kiddies at the pool were disappointed you didn't show up, Porky."
"You're back early. Did you see Katie?"
"She was so hot in that little bikini, but she's also pissed at you. I promised her an ice cream bar."
"I'll give you a discount on those." Pork pointed to a melted puddle of chocolate and wrappers in the trash can.
"Didn't you put ice in the freezer?"
"Dry ice vaporizes during the day. Some of the stuff in the corners melt. That's why I have to clean it every night."
"Someone will be cleaning you off the cart if you piss off Brad again."
"I can't keep giving away free Popsicles."
"Why not? It's a small price for all that business."
"Do you think Brad will stop with the Popsicles? In the fall he'll be beating us for lunch money."
"Why not? You're an easy target and no one's stopped him... not yet anyhow."
"Porky, you can't be thinking about messing with him again."
"Not much choice."
"Sure there is. Give him the popsicles. We'll sew our lunch money to our underwear."
"Hey, if I ever decide to start giving away free Popsicles, Lauren will be the first."
"She's a babe!" grinned Matt. Go ahead and try it."
"Oh yeah. Se'd love me about as long as it would take to eat it. Then she'd be gone before I could pick up the wrapper."
"How do you know?"
"Already tried it."
They both chuckled as Pork toyed with the dry ice. He squeezed it in his fist, causing the steamy vapor to filter out of his fingers.
"Doesn't that burn?"
"Naah, I'm used to handling it."
Tossing it into the soap bucket, it bubbled like a witch's brew.
"Let me try." Matt reached for the bucket.
"No! Your hands must be dry or it'll freeze against your skin."
With dry hands Matt handled the ice, but still bounced it about, like a hot potato, before throwing back into the bucket. "You going back to football practice tomorrow?"
"Yeah." Pork seemed mesmerized by the bubbling brew.
"I'll sing at your funeral." Matt left him staring into the silver bucket.
Pork's Popsicles Continued