i’ll have a scoop with red eyes, please

by bam

it had been the summeriest of weekends. farmer’s market saturday morn, followed by a hike in a woody place where a fawn, not knowing it should be afraid, up and tiptoed into my shadow. a grand dinner in a friend’s beautiful bountiful garden. strawberry rhubarb pie for breakfast, i kid you not, in the summer porch where the breeze and the wren warbling made me want to stay all day. screens washed and tucked in windows, so the breeze, the one that swept through the pie-in-the-porch breakfast could also cool our nights. a stroll to the beach where a 3-year-old we love decided she had no need for a sandy-bottomed bathing suit, so off it went, and she romped naked, much to the 5-year-olds’, there were two of them, giggly discombobulation. heck, the weekend was so fine, even the last-minute grilled chicken came off juicy, down to the last sun-dappled bite.
so, as the great orange orb went down in the west, and the cicada turned down the sci-fi channel for the night, the one i love, the one who has a license to do so, jangled the car keys in that way a papa sometimes does, making the ping of the keys an invitation without words.
then came the words: “who wants to go for cicada ice cream?”
a question, of course, that can only be met with squeals. and little feet running out the door. straight toward the car.
the little one, hearing the words “ice” and “cream” in the same breath, was on for the mission. regardless of whatever ol’ modifier got in the way there. the big one, curious, vowed to stick with water. but he buckled in anyway.
the one with the keys started the car.
“do you think it’ll be kind of orangey, with crunchy little wings in it?” he asked, pulling away from the curb.
let us explain where the man on a mission was headed: there is a fine old ice cream parlor nearby, a place so beloved that when the owner died a couple years back the sidewalk was so packed with bouquets and hand-scribbled letters from children, children who wrote about the joy of walking in a shop where, no matter how the day had been ’til that minute, the man with the scoop behind the glass counter, the man with the phalanx of tubs lined up before him, the man willing to give a whole spoonful for free and call it a taste, the man who always knew you by name, or found out right away if he didn’t, well, you couldn’t get around the mountain of sadness there at the curb.
you couldn’t get around ’til they opened the door and starting scooping again. and, being that this is the summer of the cicada, at least around here it sure and crunchily is, they posted a big sign on the door, advertising cicada bug ice cream.
and what with all the talk of cicadas for lunch (a friend of my manchild brought them one day, right into the junior high cafeteria, all battered and fried and chasing the girls away), why not add that certifiable cicada crunch to the creamy vats of vanilla?
thus, as he rolled through the darkening lanes, and turned right at the light, the one with the keys was upping the ante, all right.
“you mean you’ll come along for the trip but you won’t take the cicada challenge?”
this to the boy who just nights before had a snail dangling from the end of his petite little fork.
apparently, the boy draws the line at wild things with cellophane wings. the boy will not bite into bugs with red eyes.
the little one, he leapt from the car. once we got there, that is. could not get into the ice cream shop fast enough. me, i dallied there on the sidewalk. though i was more than game to be family documentarian.
the little one took one look, and opted for superman ice cream, a royal-blue-red-and-yellow concoction that despite a few minutes of rubbing with washcloth still sent him to bed with royal-blue lips, and royal-blue tongue.
the one who’d vowed water, in the end went with root beer; one scoop, sugar cone, please.
and mister cicada challenge himself tiptoed, ohyessiree, into the uncharted terrain, mind you, this is a man whose idea of the perfect bedtime snack is a pop-tart straight from the aerospace foily packet.
he asked for a taste. he dangled the spoon in the air, then he bit.
pffffffft, you could see the air leaking out from his cicada balloon. there were no red eyes in there. no wings. and no crunch. no crunch from the genus magicicada, at least.
the crunch, it turned out, was that of the ho-hum southern pecan.
the tub of so-called “cicada bug” ice cream was nothing but vanilla with swirls of chocolate and caramel and a few pecans thrown in the mix.
“i’m bummed,” said the one left licking the spoon. “no real cicada. no edge. no frisson. just bourgeois fudge swirl.
“it’s all marketing. the triumph of marketing. a metaphor for our civilization.”
he up and ordered rainbow sherbet, he did. and the cicada challenge was put to a rest, where it will lie, deep underground, for the next 17 years. until a gent, just past retirement, hobbles back to the shop with the taunt on the door and tries once again to take a bite of the creamy cold bug with red eyes.

sometimes summer is just for the tale of it, no burning point, no deep metaphor, despite mr. cicada cone’s quip up above. so it is with this tale. just a slow gentle start to the week. how did you spend this summery if-not-yet-summer weekend?
p.s. should you care to cruise for some of the finest dairy-made ice cream there is, point your mobile toward hartigan’s ice cream shoppe, 2909 central street, in evanston. or check out their site at
www.hartigansicecream.com. you can always bring your own ‘cadas, and bury them deep inside the cone. anyone out there in chairland try the flying winged thing said to taste like cold canned asparagus? ykkh. tantalize with your tales…