Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What it takes

Fort Ave, Lynchburg, VA
we sit at a burnished steel table, metal chairs sapping the heat from our legs, eating ice cream, ignoring the fact that it is ninety four degrees outside. Gasoline, grass and salty sweat scent the air around us, our knuckles dark with dirt. the lawn cut, trim done--my seven year old man doing the weed eating, enjoys his cookies & cream with butterscotch morsels, while i mash fresh blackberries into cake batter frozen yogurt.

a local store is running a special, all you can fit in a 12 oz. cup for four dollars. my son closes his eyes with each bite, savoring the cooling sweet on his tongue, we got our money's worth.

a family of four, a mexican laborer in dirty jeans and stiff pit T-shirt, teens---people file down the line filling cup after cup, the attendants in their lime green shirts dash back and forth, refilling the add-ons: crushed Reese cups, gummy worms, diced fruit, candies & pump action syrups. few customers sit at the tables outside, most either circle ones inside, run to their car or hug wall space. chatter, moan, sigh. chatter, moan, sigh--competes with the light ambient music escaping corner speakers.

'you said, all i could fit,' an elderly lady at the cash register proclaims, great snakes of ice cream rising like a mushroom cloud six inches over the rim of her bowl.

her husband shuffles down line behind her, hunched in his white dress shirt and grey trousers. sparse silver hairs gather at the corners of his mottled head. his hands shake with the weight of his own bowl, a tower threatening to topple, dropping orange and yellow chocolates that slide down its face, like snow skiers, to skitter across on the floor.

my son's eyes saucer as they take the table to our left, puddles already forming where their cup bases kiss the table & she starts explaining to all of us why she took so much, 'well, it said, all you could fit,' her husband digging deep with his spoon already, racing to keep up. they have been married fifty years, love coming here, met in school, he was a shoe salesman--who is eating the whole time as hers melts as she tells all, become a smoothed faced ghost, drip by drip, by drip.

our spoons rest in our empty bowls, the old man has carved a small tapered monument to trim the run off and she takes her first wet bite. he says, and has said nothing, just smiles as her over-painted lips turn up around the spoon. their free hands find each other across the table top, fitting together loosely. they eat and smile. I ask my son if he is ready to go out into the heat again.

'sure,' he answers, happy to return to the few remaining patches of weeds.

he likes to work, so i know he will be alright, because that is what it takes. and a little bit of grace.

written for Imperfect Prose & Theme Thursday.

78 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

First first
With my burst

Pat Hatt said...

Second too
For all to view

Pat Hatt said...

Once more showing you take in all
With your gawker powers at your stall
Nice to see couples survive that long
As most find something wrong
And never get there
At their lair
And he likes to work?
Wow that is a perk..haha

Lisa notes... said...

Sounds like work to eat that much ice cream. ;-) (I'm not a fan--I prefer mountains of cookies and cakes.)

I always slow down and settle in when I come to read your words, Brian. They're worth full attention.

Anyes said...

...he likes to work, so i know he will be alright...Simple and so true, Brian. :-)

Susan said...

Images shiver and sweat between the speaker and his son--to see as he sees? From the burnished table and the salty glass scent through the end of grace, I was engaged sensually in this moment of relaxation in summer work. Wow.

Beth said...

You are such an awesome observer of life, Brian. Thanks for always taking us on a visual and emotional feast--with ice cream this time! Yum!

Eva Gallant said...

Love the detail in this; makes me want to go to this place and fill my cup!

Titanium said...

Something tells me your son had no need to over-fill his cup, as he had solid assurance that you will make sure he gets all the icecream he can possibly eat (all in good time and good taste).

Ah, the things that can be learned simply by observing.

There's no such thing as too much grace. Or too much class.

Valerie said...

'crushed Reese cups, gummy worms'

Never heard of either, Brian, but I loved this story. I could picture the elderly couple, him supping and her talking while the ice cream melted. Loved it. The whole had great appeal.

Matt said...

This sounds like a typical day in Florida for the summer. Oh how I'm dreading it :[ As much as I hate the summer, I really love your writing, great detail. I can imagine it in my mind.

Sue said...

Great slice of life, Brian.
And now you've got me wanting some ice cream...

=)

Maggie May said...

Wow...... they better watch their waist lines. I do love ice-cream, but too much of a good thing can be sickly.
(Maybe I'm just jealous.)
Maggie X

Nuts in May

kaykuala said...

Ice cream to fill the tummy and to quench the thirst. We can never get another that can match ice cream. Even if it is over the brim it might not be that fattening as it is satisfying. The old man and lady can have their fill. Your detailed account is classic, Brian!

Hank

Daniel said...

Well, it did say, all you can fit!

Magpie said...

Glad you were able to share the moment with your son and us. Love the line: "as hers melts as she tells all, become a smoothed faced ghost, drip by drip, by drip"

Chantel said...

Is greed a sin when it comes to ice-cream and love? No, I think not...smother me in both.

Tabor said...

You have such great imagery with words. I was there and now I am full!!

hedgewitch said...

No one builds a scene like you, bri--and sets up a theme to match--love your concluding lines, and how you can find some positivity even in irrational greed.

Suz said...

I love how you brought it home

janae said...

Brian, this is such a generous and loving picture of everything in that moment. I kept laughing and smiling and loving all those people and the irony and the humanity.
Excellent piece!

She Writes Here Now said...

You had me at 94 degrees! The story about the couple cracks me up. It reminds me of a woman I see at Starbucks often, she is fragile and has sat in the sun with coffee spilled all over her dress, and I mean ALL over it. Most would go home but she got her free replacement and stayed to enjoy it.

As for your son, ahhhh :). He sounds like a sweet kid.

Claudia said...

i'd say tons of work and tons of grace..ha..my daughter was reading this poem to me cause she wanted me to do something when i was just about to start reading& she offered to read it aloud while i was busy..so double pleasure...she said you use a lot of words she doesn't understand..and then we translated and talked about it..smiles

Fred Rutherford said...

really nice job of setting the scene here and terrific story-telling. Part of this got me thinking back years ago when I was at this chinese buffet, and I happened to be there with a friend from college and his girlfriend who was fluent in Chinese. There was this one guy, that was there, about seven times my size at the time, and that, let me tell you was pretty hard to do. But anyhow, Lynn heard a couple waiters complaining that this guy had been there since lunch and wouldn't leave. I didn't think anything of it until I went up for thirds, yeah I know, but I went up specifically for another helping of the crab rangoon, and there he was right in front of me, and he took the entire tray, didn't leave a single piece.

Probably was a good thing. But yeah this got me thinking of that. Great write Brian.

Victoria said...

This shows why you are such a good writer/poet Brian...your ability to open your eyes wide, take in everything with all your senses and bring us along with you.

beccagivens said...

Great story with attention to detail -- assuring we are present in the moment!! Priceless time to share with your son! :)

Nikki said...

You're right. It does take work. And sometimes not taking everything so literal....

he'll be more than alright. he'll thrive. ;)

great write, Brian. now I want ice cream...and reese's...

Cara Sexton said...

May we all have our fill. Thanks for your words.

Tara Miller said...

Your descriptions make me feel like I was right there with you, my love! I enjoyed reading about you and Cole. I can see the look in his eyes of always wanting your approval and your words in this poem show that very pride in him. Funny old couple....that will be us one day, but I won't let the ice cream melt and go to waste! Eat first, then talk your ear off. :)

Geraldine said...

Oh so hot! Thanks for sharing this experience Brian. You do lead an interesting life....

Mama Zen said...

Incredible descriptive writing, Brian.

Laurie Kolp said...

Yum... I know where we're going after school today. And kudos to your son! My youngest likes to work, too (thank god b/c he has sooo much energy).

Daydreamertoo said...

Good grief. They showed on CNN the other night a guy well over 300 pounds and he had called the cops because he went to an all you can eat burger place and after eating about 20 all in one go they told him he couldn't have anymore. So he called the cops and even picketed outside.
SMH
LOL
This was another lovely read Brian. Not too sure, I could eat as much as the elderly lady took but, I guess she had her reasons. LOL

Brandee Shafer said...

What I love most is how you invest time into your son...how you teach him to work, and savor, and observe. And you're right, of course: he will be just fine.

Ramblings by Carol Nuckols said...

As carefully observed as this snippet of life is, it leaves a lot to the imagination. Why did they feel compelled to take so much? Were they impoverished? Indelibly stamped by the Great Depression? Compulsive? Defiant? I'm wondering.

Mary said...

All you can fit in a twelve-ounce cup for four dollars is quite a deal, especially if it is GOOD ice cream and you could add all the fun add-on's to boot. I wonder if that elderly lady was about to eat her gigantic mushroom cloud. Your son sounds like he has a good attitude..you gotta love a kid who enjoys doing a bit of work!

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

That last line is my oldest son as well...but at 18 I am counting on a LARGE dose of grace along with the HARD work! Your son will do fine...just fine.

Love this...love the older gentleman's quiet tolerance of his wife...for him it is NOT tolerance...it is LOVE.

Goofball said...

so true, people that enjoy to work will do just fine. They are always in need ;)


can so picture the piled up cups...fun promotion

Barbara said...

What a great kid you have! And I love that old couple - it surely takes grace to stay married 50 years!

DJan said...

Whoa! that made my stomach hurt, thinking about all the ice cream in those bowls. But what a nice portrait of the old folks and the youngster learning, observing. I enjoyed all the mental gymnastics I performed reading this one, Brian. :-)

Grace said...

Enjoyed reading this snapshot of your life ~ Love the flavors here as well as the sounds ~ And I can see that old couple relishing the all you can fit ice cream ~ Happy day to you~

AmyLK said...

What a sweet story! Gotta find me a boy who will work for ice cream and grace.

ayala said...

Love this...the description of the time shared with your son..and the old couple...good stuff :)

bluecottonmemory said...

Maybe I am a little nuts - but the elderly couple seemed to live life full force - still holding hands, still trying to live it over-flowing - instead of living a famine. There is a place for that - just like the the place for teaching your son, mixing in ice cream fixin's in a day filled to the brim with an awesome work ethic!

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

You really are amazing... Another good one... Love reading it...

JJRod'z

Gloria said...

well I understand they want so muc! LOL but I love enjoy things in little bitesn but is and interesting histoy, I love wen you talk abiut you kids:)

Alecia said...

I laughed out loud at the part of the old woman filling her cup 6" over the rim. Bless her heart, she loves her some ice cream. It sounds like you and your son had some special bonding time that he will never forget.

missing moments said...

Such observation, Brian ... your words create magic.

happygirl said...

Ice cream with your son. Yard work shoulder to shoulder and then a treat. Sweet write and an ode to long love. :)

Annmarie Pipa said...

did you actually see my kids doing this and then change the main characters to protect their identity?

Jody Lee Collins said...

Brian, reading your words is almost as rich as eating ice cream. You paint such deep, delicious word pictures....

Dolly@Soulstops said...

such a sweet treat to read your words about your little man and a couple still in love after 50 years...thanks, Brian :)

Laurie Collett said...

Amazing writing, Brian -- the imagery and detail make me feel like i was there. Yogurt and toppings is one of our favorite sweet savors -- nice to enjoy it again without the calories!

PattiKen said...

This is a perfect snapshot of a moment of life. I remember being absolutely appalled at the mounds of pastries some people managed to pile on their plates for a one-pass dessert line. And this was after dinner!

Theresa Miller said...

Wow, two of a kind, this couple. All these years, you can imagine the work and the grace that went into those hands still connecting over a table of overfilled cups of ice cream. Love how you describe this and the hope it lends to your own boy, having this quality about him, being just fine.

Anne said...

This one really touched me Brian. I felt a hitch in my throat when you began to describe the couple, old together and in love together. Makes me so happy to be married to my right man.

elizabeth said...

This one is one of my favs...a beautiful ordinary moment.

♥ Braja said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry....why are we "forced" to see "beauty" or "wonder" in such things? Is it commendable that the stuck-tire feel of 50 yrs together evades one? Don't mind me...I always marvel at what others find laudable....

Alyssa Santos said...

Stink -- you notice the details (like me, always seeing too much) and decorate and dot and punch with them in such unexpected ways. always a pleasure to stop by and see what you're up to.

the walking man said...

Obviously at that age a big ass bowl of cold ice cream isn't going to melt anything of any importance to those old folks. I am still waiting for that "all the Canoli you can fit on a plate" for $4 special.

Then I could "leave the gun and take the Canoli."

Dave King said...

This is so beautifully written I wanted it to go on, felt disappointed when it finished - not disappointed NY the finish, but simply that there was no more. Short story writing at its best.

Wolfsrosebud said...

Brian... after what I heard in a teen session last night you have encouraged me. Don't ever stop being the dad you are as your kids grow. Teens need dads more than toddlers. Sweet write today in more than one way. Thanks...

ladyfi said...

Ah - what a lovely tender story! As sweet as ice cream.

Ostriches Look Funny said...

I love how you can take me right there, seeing all and hearing all.
Great post.

Alice Audrey said...

That's weird. My comment from yesterday isn't here. Argh, I have so much trouble with these comment things!

redemptionsbeauty said...

You master of words you. Didn't even know you were taking a break from weed pulling till the end. I am a people watcher like you, taking in the lessons He gives through the way others live. My, you know how to tell a story Brian. Love it!

Lolamouse said...

I just love your observations on daily life, Brian. Wonder if that couple went through the depression.

manicddaily said...

Lovely. k.

Beth said...

What fantastic imagery. From the very first sentence I was carried back to my Southern roots, and believe me when I say I sat next to you. I am glad to have stumbled here today!

Mary Mansfield said...

Terrific details here help set the scene...you know it's real love when the old woman is willing to let the ice cream melt so she can relate their personal love story. A wonderful write!

mrs mediocrity said...

I love this. Your ending brought tears to my eyes. Here's to grace.

Zuzana said...

I can so relate to the way you see a situation and it becomes a source for contemplation and reflection.;)
You have a talent of describing a moment in time so I can picture it in head so vividly.;)
Hope you had fun weeding, i am off to do that later today, plus mowing the lawn, hehe.;)
xoxo

Secret Agent Woman said...

Nice summer capture.

Margaret said...

...his hands shake with the weight of his own bowl

Enjoyed this slice of life.

Syd said...

My first thought was about stuffing ourselves to make sure we get enough of what was ou due. Maybe that is what living is about. We try to get the most we can.

dreamhaven said...

I'm so confused. Not about the poem but how to sign up with Mr. Linky. Can you give me a quick update?

Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil said...

...and a little bit of grace. What a vivid portrait, better than the most highly pixylated digital photo. You paint with abandon, words running into one another to create new shades. Slice of life, mos def, you rocked this. Amy

Stafford Ray said...

"he likes to work, so i know he will be alright, because that is what it takes. and a little bit of grace"
Amen!