I've extended my hours at the store for these dog days, and in doing so I've annexed the back-from-the-beach crowd, the folks that carry their money, which stinks of crustacea and coconut oil, in Ziploc bags, tucked in the crevices afforded by bikini tops and half-soaked sarongs.
They stumble in, squinting at the dim light of the indoors, astounded, perhaps, by the fact that it is no cooler in here, and I give them what they need: cigarettes, candy, and above all else, ice cream.
There is a bruise on my right perimetric palm that comes from trying to start scooping from a new container of ice cream, one that has not yet reached proper excavation temperature. My technique is this: insert, press, lever. Rinse, repeat.
I have worried about my customers' sanity, the level-headedness of ordering a flavor like coconut pineapple, or peppermint. I want to tell them, "You don't really want this. Let me make you a vanilla cone. I think that is more your speed. We both know you aren't going to finish that dish of creamsicle."
Then there are the people who cannot read our menu. The novelty of a sandwich shop has blinded them to our few choices: turkey, ham, tuna, egg salad. They order "the salami," or they request provolone. We are a simple store; this is a simple town. They are too eager to leave our simplicity behind.
The worst part of the job is, undoubtedly, the penny candy. I say here, for the record, that Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls, and the little abominations known as Sour Patch Kids, were never meant to be sold individually. The third child of the day who requests my counting more than 10 of any of these gets an approximation. I always overshoot.
Today I discovered the greatest and most wonderful part of my job. It has nothing to do with smiling faces or tip money: it is the coffee slushee. To create this nectar: take one scoop of instant coffee, add a small amount of hot water and stir. Add milk to desired coffee-tint, and fill the remainder of the cup with the sugary frozen Slush Puppie base.
The pleasures of this job are aplenty, the sweat on my brow at the end of the day not the least of them, but there's nothing quite like caffeine, sugar, and ice all rolled into one free drink to put all kinds of things in perspective.Posted at 10:47 PM in category summer of 1955.