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Late Night Ice Cream

October 8, 2011

I waited patiently for the town’s only traffic light to turn green. The street ahead of me housed all of downtown, a single row of one-story buildings with two-story facades and soft, yellow street lamps illuminating their names. I pulled ahead at a crawl, the stillness of the dark fall night broken only by the slow turning of my tires, and drove toward the blackness of the residential area where the ever-vigilant street lamps gave way to the scattered lights of houses not yet surrendered to sleep. There was a third kind of light, though, right at the edge of the street lamps’ domain, its harsh flourescent whiteness almost garish against their gentle glow. “The ice cream store is still open,” Dad observed, breaking into an eager grin. “Pull in, pull in!”

I cranked the wheel to the left, slid smoothly into a parking space by the insurance office next door, and stepped out onto the cracked pavement. Dad and Christiana, my sister, followed suit, and together we approached the bright windows to make our orders.

A yellow vinyl banner hung under the windows proudly declaring the availability of twenty four unique flavors of soft-serve and daring us to choose just one. Dad settled on Pina Colada, I chose Peanut Butter, and after much deliberation Christiana decided to try Orange. We took our cones and stood in the pool of stark white light happily devouring our spontaneous treats.

“The peanut butter flavor in this is really subtle,” I noted. “You can taste it, but you kind of have to focus on it or it just tastes like vanilla.”

“Nothing subtle about mine,” Dad replied. “Especially the coconut part.”

We exchanged tastes with each other, nodding in agreement with the other’s assessment, when Christiana spoke up. “The cold of the ice cream makes my teeth hurt,” she said as Dad bit into his cone. “Not all of them, just my two front teeth.”

“Maybe you should ask for a new pair for Christmas,” I chuckled. Dad nearly choked on his ice cream.

When he finally swallowed, he said, “That was the strangest thing. It’s like I thought a sentence in my head, and the words came out of your mouth. You really are my kid,” he laughed, then with a look of mock pity, he added, “I’m sorry.”

Christiana laughed. “Somehow, I knew the moment the words left my mouth that one of you would make that joke.”

“I guess we just know each other too well,” Dad smiled.

“It’s sure better than not knowing each other well enough,” I added. Dad and Christiana nodded as we climbed back into the car and pulled away, past the darkened houses where other families slept and toward the one we called home, the place where we slept and woke and lived and laughed and, for better or worse, knew each other too well. And in that moment, there was no other place I’d rather go.

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