After swimming for hours at the Blanding City Pool by the South Chapel, the coins pressed in my hand, the parking lot asphalt scorched my feet as I dashed to the yellow Sno Shack across Main Street. I waited behind a friend, my brother, my cousin, or other eager preteens, the goathead thorns digging into the heels and balls of our feet. But the pain was worth the upcoming brain freeze to counteract the dry heat.
I studied the splintery board listing the various flavors, or was it faded printed paper taped to the red counter flap door? It may have been both over the decade I lived there. My tongue usually ached for watermelon, raspberry, or cherry flavors. Other flavors like blue raspberry and tiger's blood always baffled me. I still don't know what tiger's blood is today. Occasionally, someone went for "suicide" by blending all the flavors together.
By the time my hands rested on the splintered counter, I still hesitated about choosing a flavor. After all, I was spending a hard-earned dollar/dollar-fifty on a flavor I had to commit my tastebuds to for the next half-hour. Kids jostled behind me, probably ready to swipe indecisive me to the side. Finally, I made my choice and handed over the hot quarters to the owner's daughter.
Waiting off to the side of the yellow decrepit shack, I ventured further into the dry weeds, adjusting the worn towel around my waist. The machine ground at the ice over and over until the teenage worker handed over a white foam cup filled with ice crystals and ounces of fruity flavoring. Usually, I felt a bit miffed that the juice underwhelmed the ice.
Then I sipped through the red straw-spoon until my head seized in pain. I hunched over until it subsided enough I could spoon a few ice crystals onto my tongue. If I came with a friend, we chatted for some time before I wandered home.
With chalky feet, I meandered home either in front of Mesa Pottery or behind the factory. I alternated between sucking the fake fruit flavor from the bottom and spooning the ice crystals on top. After a block or two in whatever direction home I chose, I pushed the ice down to melt into the diminishing flavored water. If I walked behind the factory, I passed by the blue bed and breakfast where bright flowers bloomed. Otherwise, I passed a field and dilapidated trailer park.
About a block from home, I slurped at the remaining colored water, my damp clumped hair blowing in my face. Soon I only had an empty foam cup. I chewed on the edges, maybe bit off a chunk or two of rubbery substance, which I spit back in the cup. When I reached the last corner, I tiptoed around red lava rocks scattered on the cement walk. My nerves remembered the prick and shock of pain shooting through my leg when I accidentally stepped on one of those demon rocks.
Once I trekked past the rocky wasteland, I collapsed the foam cup and straw only to encounter my gravelly driveway. I either tiptoed or sprinted to the side door, my feet raw from the five-block journey home. Lifting the brown garbage bin lid, I tossed in the crumpled foam, the fruity taste only a memory on my taste buds. And only the red dye remained on my tongue.
The couch and TV beckoned to me. Finally, a place to rest my weary feet.
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