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Sweet Americana

The Shore, 1958

By CJ MillerPublished 2 years ago Updated 7 months ago 4 min read

"Hold my hand while we cross, okay?"

"Okay," Kitty agrees, bouncing on sandaled toes.

The girls stroll down Main Street, careful to dodge the cars situated like dominos.

In a tourist town, no one goes anywhere in a hurry. Their father once described this as the spot where the American dream meets modern inconvenience.

Kitty took his word for it.

They aim for the corner store, coins clutched in clammy fists. Having pulled weeds to earn today's refreshments, both are a touch tuckered out.

Mrs. Herbert, their neighbor to the right, is the generous sort. Mr. Jardin, their neighbor to the left, is not.

The Herberts are now proud owners of a weed-free lawn and Kitty has a shiny new nickel to her name.

Grace, a few years her senior, probably has more, but that's no matter. At Hank's Variety & Tackle, a nickel is all you need.

In the distance, they can hear Sh-boom playing on the radio. Kitty can't help but sing life could be a dream under her breath.

Hello, hello again, sh-boom and hopin' we'll meet again!

It's July, and the air is thicker than week-old milk. Even dressed in sleeveless tops and madras shorts, they're eager to get out of this scorcher.

They enter under the charming ding of a bell, a sound universally linked to treats sweet and melty.

Kitty heads for the freezer section, her stride filled with purpose. After prying open the door's seal, she leans over the arctic blast.

The relief is immediate.

She has a paper fan at home, but those make your wrist hurt.

Grace comes up beside her to survey the selections, aware her sis is one step ahead. Kitty has known what she wants since the calendar flipped to June.

The youngster grabs a beloved Hoodsie cup and scurries to the register, unable to wait any longer.

In line, she eyes the splashy array of glass canisters, each filled with a different flavor of salt water taffy.

Pastel, pretty, a penny per piece. Best bargain on the east coast.

After much debate, she decides on peppermint and grape for herself, strawberry for her mother.

"Let's see," says the tall man with the kindly face. "That'll be five cents, little lady. Two for the Hoodsie, three for the candy."

"Got it!"

Kitty produces her nickel with the swagger of a freshly cemented millionaire.

The taffy goes in her pocket where she prays it won't turn sticky. The ice cream is to be devoured right this very minute.


Seated on the curb, the ritual can commence. She delights in pulling back the tiny tab of white with her nail, revealing double-sided goodness.

She licks the lid until it tastes of cardboard. No sense in letting the fuzzy bits go to waste.

Using a flat wooden spoon, she digs into the vanilla, then the chocolate, taking great care not to swirl. They are, she assumes, divided up for a reason, even if she's too small to understand.

Make the most of the Lord's banquet, as the billboard by the freeway tells it.

Kitty secretly favors the taupe half, summer's icy answer to hot cocoa, but she doesn't want to hurt vanilla's feelings.

The cream's texture is fluffy and smooth, just as she prefers. After a couple of bites, she can actually feel her temp dropping from the inside out.


Once finished, she holds the spoon against her tongue for a long, patient while, savoring the last specks. You never know when you'll get another Hoodsie.

Her spit makes the spatula soft, and she bends it into nifty shapes, ultimately peeling the grain apart like mozzarella.

Her cousin saves them to use as tongue depressors during games of medical make-believe. Kitty hasn't got the discipline.

On the jaunt back, she pops a chewy purple blob into her mouth, mulling over which purchase was wisest.

A tie, she decides, nodding in brisk confirmation.

Her father loves both, and the familiar tastes make it seem like he's not so far away, like maybe he could be holding her hand.

The ocean suddenly hits her nose, and it strikes her that she wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

While breezing through their yellow kitchen, Kitty notices her mother is on the phone, its cord coiled loosely around her fingers.

"Kit, come here! There's someone who wants to speak with you. Then you, Gracie."

The girl takes the receiver, butterflies now keeping the ice cream company in her stomach.

"Hel... hello?"

"Kitty Cat?"


He's rarely able to check in while stationed, and she's missed him something terrible.

"I have news, sweetheart. I'm coming home next week."

"For vacation?"

"For good this time. My service is up."

"Do you mean it?"

"I mean it. When I get back, we'll head out to Castle Beach. Maybe get some Hoodsies at Hank's or a lobster roll at Nancy's. Whatever you want. We'll make it a summer for the books."

Norman Rockwell never captured this particular sunny day, but Kitty will remember it as a comparable work of art.

Short Story

About the Creator

CJ Miller

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  • Babs Iverson2 years ago


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