Winter Lane

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It takes a couple of turns, but the shade comes down easily enough. Shutting the service window does not make the ice cream truck any darker. The sunlight dances in from the window, a stark contrast to the clouds I saw not a few weeks earlier. Cracking my knuckles and rolling my sore shoulders, I head to the front of the car. The warm, worn leather driver’s seat waits for me. I take the key out and start the engine.

I try to shrug off the annoying pull in my chest as I drive away. Even if the work sometimes tires me, it’s hard not to get attached to people. The car splashes through a puddle as I head down the road. Two students hear the sound and stop talking to each other long enough to wave. Debbie, warm peppermint ice cream, and Jack, multi-temperature vanilla. A dash of hope and a sprinkling of mystery respectively. A boy, Jack’s little brother Alec, sits near them, so engrossed in a game of soccer that he fails to see the truck go by. Alec, creamy sherbet and some soup to ward off cruelty.

They grow smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.

There are more, though, a whole town full of them. Nel, who needed strawberries and memories of a summer hill. Ted, who needed lemon ice and a friend. As it usually happens, all the kids did the lion’s share to fix their own problems without realizing there were problems to begin with.

I put my foot on the gas. The wind blasts into my fast, tugging tears from the corner of my eyes. The car goes fast, far too fast, until the screechy grinding gears cough out the wings. I check my mirror again and see a sea of astonished faces. Who was I to them? A red-lipsticked kindergarten teacher, a scientist with dangling red earrings, a teenager with a red baseball cap, a smartly dressed man with a red tie, a skinny guy with a crayon red mohawk. Whoever they needed me to be.

I turn on the ice cream jingle as the car hits the first cloud. The ice cream car coughs a last breath before rearranging into a crepe cart. This warm, buttery, sugary scent is a nice change from the cart’s cooler metallic smell. Winter Lane is smaller now. The people I met will be as they are only in my memory, as I will be to them. But, if I planted the bulbs correctly, red tulips should bloom any day now. A gentle reminder. After all, spring is just beginning.

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