Ice Cream Parlour

Ice Cream Parlour

A different kind of ghost story.

The ghosts who ran the ice cream shop were nice enough folks. A married couple that had passed on about a decade or two back, but decided that our town was a decent place to settle down for their afterlife. When they noticed there was no ice cream parlour to speak of the wife, Maybelle, suggested it would be a good way to spend time rather than haunting and annoying the neighbours. Edward, the husband, agreed and figured it would be a nice way to get to know the local youth.

Honeymoon Treats quickly became the local hangout for kids around town. The soft lighting and clean interior were pleasant enough, but the real draw was the selection of flavours. Edward and Maybelle never received any shipments of new ice cream, probably because every time they yanked a scoop up from one of the vast tubs the frozen dessert below would begin to reform. Sugary matter creeping in on itself to fill a void left for the customer’s pleasure. We would often ask them about the name ‘Honeymoon Treats,’ only to receive a sad smirk in return. I usually argued that it was because they died on their honeymoon, since they seemed to be a younger couple and all, but that was just one of many theories.

Every now and again, midscoop, one of them would go rigid. They would force a smile, then about-face and march to a back corner of the room. Once there, nose to the wall, they would begin to let out a bloodcurdling scream or a terrified whimper, as if seeing something the rest of us could not comprehend. This would last for about a minute, sometimes two, depending on the weather. Sunny days this would rarely occur, and almost always for shorter lengths of time. Rainy days it was more consistent and prolonged. On snow days the couple would sit, each huddled in a different corner of the shop, weeping endlessly until the white flakes stopped falling. They did not open much around Christmas time.

It was once in autumn when I happened to be their only customer all day. I walked up to the counter and tucked my unlit cigarette behind my ear, dirty blonde hair hanging like a drape over my impromptu storage. “Slow day?” I asked, glancing up from behind my glasses, sliding my scraped up flip lighter into my blouse’s breast pocket. Maybelle gave a small nod, but still smiled warmly. “I don’t mind it, it’s nice to have some quiet time with Edward.” I glanced past her slight form, noticing the broader shoulders of her husband drooped in the corner. He was shifting listlessly back and forth, muttering to himself as if in a world all his own. They were sweet folks, no 1matter how odd, besides what the hell did I know about being dead?

I ordered my usual, a small cup of vanilla with a light scattering of chocolate chips, and paid at the far end of the counter. They often took a few dollars off for me, each time repeating like a mantra how much they enjoyed my company on slow days, insisting I take the discounted treat. Whenever I was their only customer Maybelle would flit around the counter and invitingly demand that I sit behind the register with her and chat. She was always interested in my life, keenly leaning in as I answered her questions or explained my grumpy distaste for the majority of the people I knew. To be honest she seemed far too positive and bubbly in her reactions for somebody listening to a teenage girl prattling artsy angst and stereotypical nonconformity. As surreal as the situation may have been, I always quietly cherished these moments while smirking at the image of a lonely girl venting her feelings at the dead… how cliché.

A few minutes into our conversation Edward suddenly snapped back to reality, shaking his head and grumbling. Maybelle and I looked over as he regained his composure and turned to walk over.
“Hey! When did you get here?” he cheerily asked as he approached.

“She’s been here, sweetie.” Maybelle answered before I could even open my mouth, smiling up at her husband.

“Well, let’s go get you some ice cream!” was his next attempt to try and play off his extended absence from the world.

“She’s already finished it,” she nodded to my empty cup of ice cream sitting on the floor beside my chair.

“Ah, shit… how long was I on the other side?” he finally gave up and asked, scratching the back of his head. The ‘other side’ was what they called wherever the hell it was they went when they seized up and spaced out. I figured that it was off in some other space and time, maybe the real afterlife was trying to get them back from the living world, but whatever unfinished business they may have had kept them here. Maybelle shook her head and told him “not long” before turning back to me.

After sitting in the shop with the two of them, chatting and keeping one another company I shifted forwards in my seat. I was getting antsy. “I’m gonna go out and have a smoke, be back soon.” I said, smiling somewhat gravely at them as I pulled the lone cigarette from my ear. Edward nodded back to me, a similarly moody expression on his face. Maybelle, on the other hand, was clearly a bit distraught, as she always was, by my habit. Every time was like it was the first she had heard of it, her brows knitting together in a look of concern and disapproval. “I really wish you wouldn’t do that,” she’d say, voice tinged with melancholy, always adding, “It isn’t good for you,” to make sure to get her point across.

To be fair my reactions were almost always exactly the same too. A childish sigh as if rolling my eyes at a parent, and a half-hearted, “I’ll quit eventually” were my go to responses. I never meant to be so standoffish, even if it was more passive aggressive than anything else, but sometimes I honestly felt like a child being scolded or warned by her mother. That day, as I stood outside exhaling the dancing wisps of ash, I sighed and frowned. I felt bad, knowing she was honestly just concerned for me. After all, when you’re already dead it’s probably much easier to worry about the living mistreating their lives. I finished my cigarette, stamping it out beneath my boot heel and sucking in the cool autumn air. It was one of those strange moments where you suddenly become more aware of the world outside than before, almost hyper focused on the distinct crispness and impossible to describe scent of a perfect breeze in October.

By the time I made my way back into the shop, the smell of tobacco clung to my clothing and hair, made sharper by the cold air outside. Edward was at the register this time, strong features with a weak smile as always. Maybelle stood in the far corner, the one opposite to where her husband had stood not long before, murmuring and crying at nothing in particular. “She on the other side?” I asked, by this point well-used to their departures from reality. I didn’t really have to ask, but it had become a sort of formality that I kept to. Edward gave a slow, low nod, as if every fibre of his being was easing closer to the floor. I silently walked behind the counter and sat back down, sighing heavily.

“I want to apologise to her,” I spoke, softly expressing my guilt to Edward.

“She’ll be back soon, don’t worry, kiddo,” he responded, warmth entering his expression as he walked over and took the chair closest to mine.

“I know, I know… I just feel bad for being rude and stuff. You guys are just trying to look out for me is all, I shouldn’t be so bratty.”

Edward chuckled and patted my shoulder, friendly yet somehow more intimate. Fatherly? I couldn’t tell. “Trust me, it’s okay. She’ll be happy to hear you thought about it at least. Maybe one day she’ll get through to you.” He said with a smirk, poking my forehead playfully. I felt like curling in on myself at that, like a child that had done wrong. I was always so indignant at home and at school, yet there I was feeling like I’d been a brat to the ghosts who ran the local ice cream shop.

“It’s getting a bit late isn’t it? Won’t Carla be worried?” Edward asked me, brows raising slightly to emphasise the question.

“Eh, she knows I kinda tool around. It’s whatever,” I responded, waving my hand dismissively.

“She should be cooking dinner right about now though, right?” he followed up, scrutinising me with his gaze.

“I’ve made it perfectly clear to Carla that I can’t stand her cooking… I’ll probably just grab a burger or something on the walk back,”

“Carla? It doesn’t hurt her feelings that you call her that?”

I sighed heavily, looking at the floor before facing him, “She’s not my mother, and she never will be. Carla and Paul just have to make sure I’m not dead until I’m eighteen and then I’m out of their hair.” Edward tried to respond, I could tell he wanted to say something thoughtful, but I cut him off. “I don’t expect you to understand how I feel… just like I can’t possibly know how you or Maybelle feel,” I gestured half-heartedly to the corner where she quivered, “but I can ask you to respect it okay? Things change when you find out you’ll never get to know your real parents. You’ll never know if they loved you. You’ll never hear their advice, or their fussing care…”

I didn’t realise that I had started crying until after the last few syllables escaped my lips, hung in the air for a moment, and dissipated. I suddenly felt like I was shivering, ripples of unsteadiness washing over me. In hindsight it doesn’t make much sense, how quickly my mood changed, how a simple exchange of words suddenly popped a bubble somewhere inside, but I guess that’s just how things are at that age. I’d brought my knees to my chest, hugging them close and avoiding eye contact, but I knew he was looking at me. They always made me feel so warm and welcome, so understood and comforted… I guess that was why I ended up lashing out in front of them. I felt like I could trust them.

“I… I’m so sorry… I shouldn’t have said that…” I sputtered, my words tumbling out as if they would choke me if I didn’t spit them out fast enough. My hand came up to readjust my glasses and I could see the slight shaking, the vibrations of aftershock running through my system. Anxieties long ignored or oftentimes too briefly expressed had tumbled out at the slightest of stimuli, and left me sitting there looking like an unappreciative kid. What the hell did I know about having it rough? Carla may have paid more attention to her real kids, but I could never really blame her for that. I may never get to know my real family, who I really was, but it wasn’t like I was dead, constantly dragged off into some bizarre otherworld to face things that tore into the very fabric my soul. I knew no real suffering, I was just an angst-ridden kid who let herself wallow in loneliness.

“You don’t have to apologise,” came a sweet, lilting voice from behind me. My eyes opened at that, but almost bugged when I felt two slender arms wrap around me. They were cold, an unnatural sort of cool that I had never experienced before or since, and yet they were somehow comforting. Maybelle held me from behind while Edward walked over to tussle my hair softly. “H-hey…” I began to protest, but decided against it as he smiled down at me. “You’re all right, everything is okay. Just relax a bit.” I could hear Maybelle’s gentle words drifting from just behind my ear. I sucked in a breath through my nose, held it for a moment, then exhaled as if expelling all the gunk inside of me with the used up air.

Maybelle circled around to face me, smiling warmly and holding my shoulders. Edward stood beside her, supportive and unsure of what to do, as usual. They were like a television couple, a chemistry that seemed almost fake it was so pleasant… and yet I was fully convinced, no doubt existed in my mind that these two were partners for life, and for whatever the hell it is that comes after it. “Your feelings always have worth, kiddo,” Edward said, a firmness to his voice as if he’d finally selected the right thing to say out of the jumble in his head. Maybelle looked to him and then back to me, giving the slightest tilt of the head in confirmation. It felt so strange to feel accepted and cared for by two random ghosts that had come to town and, instead of haunting or possessing or whatever the hell it is you do as a ghost, serving ice cream to local kids.

I sniffled a bit and thanked them, feeling weirdly vulnerable, but not quite in a bad way. It took me a minute or two to regain my composure, muscles loosening in what felt like slow motion. “Thanks guys… you know I don’t usually do stuff like that.” I muttered, looking up almost apologetically at them. They both shook their heads and waved it off, “You’re fine! Everybody needs to let it all out sometimes, it’s human.” Maybelle spoke, kneeling and stroking my cheek. Again the cold felt soothing, as if there was a heat buried somewhere beneath.

Once I felt more composed I rose from the seat, hugging Maybelle close and whispering a simple “thank you” into her ear… extremely melodramatic, but it felt appropriate at the time. I gathered my things and patted my pocket to be sure my lighter was still resting safely inside. “I should probably get back home now, I think I need to get some rest a little earlier tonight,” I said, readjusting my clothes before starting for the door, holding it open and turning to offer them a smile and a “goodnight”. They both waved back to me from behind the counter, standing side-by-side. “Oh! Come back next month on your birthday! Whatever you want is on the house!” Edward called after me, grinning widely. I cheerfully thanked them and walked out, sucking a breath deep into my body.

I paused, my eyes slowly opening… I never told them when my birthday was.

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A Tribute to Stephen Hawking

He was here. We were better for it.

Rest In Peace to one of the greatest minds of our time. Most of us can only hope to contribute even a fraction to our human earth’s identity, knowledge, and culture as this brilliant man. Nobody knows how many almost-known secrets of the universe silently pass with him, and sleep for centuries until another generation rediscovers the paths he started — a legacy the icons of scientific discovery have continuously left before him, and surely will after. Condolences with his family and friends, to whom he was not a great explorer of the unknown or a symbol of resilience and excellence against all odds, but merely a man who they loved.

To the people like me, the bullied childhood nerds relentlessly assaulted with accusations and otherness with their only crime being relentless curiosity, the overambitious kids from less-than-promising backgrounds, the very-flawed very-human questioners restlessly Wondering and wandering and longing to understand Everything, the ones so used to being underestimated they can’t tell which inner voice is self-doubt and which is a memory... people like Hawking have always been bright shining lights in the dark.

I want to ask note, briefly, with respect to my own privacy - as someone like me, who was told at a young age I was going to die, and felt at a young age that my body was trying to, and was surrounded by open-ended evidence that a diagnosis would define me and put a loud limiting countdown on my life, Hawking’s defiance of medical odds mattered. He did it for himself, not for all of us, but it mattered.

And as someone who watched her own mother be diagnosed with a short life expectancy, plagued with excruciating pain, and told to expect decay of quality of life and function for as long as Time was endured... Hawking’s story mattered. He outlived a death sentence with shining colors - how man can say that?

My mom being told over and over she had less than 6 months rings in my ears all the time. The first time was 5 years ago, when I was just 17, and I’ve never stopped feeling lost. I’ve never stopped feeling like another shoe is about to drop. I’ve never stopped feeling like at any minute, I could lose everything. I’ve never stopped feeling on edge. I’ve never stopped having the thought creep in as fall asleep at night, like we are all counting the days of borrowed time. Any missed call freaks me out. Any time away from home freaks me out. Any conversations not spent laughing and distracted freak me out. Silence and stillness and seriousness freaks me out. Doctors, hospitals, sickness, closeness, rain-checks, the list goes on.

But I’ve also understood a lot of things in mortality that you can’t have a theoretical knowledge of. You have to feel it. Optimism. Emptiness. Stillness. Grief. Preparatory grief. Dread. Inevitability. Shutting your mind off consciously just to enjoy a moment. Enjoying the moment. Sunlight on your skin. Hugs you don’t want to let go of. Voices you’re scared to forget. Looking at the world around you to see what is missing in you. What it means to memorize the way an ocean sounds, or what the air feels like. What it means to run. What it means to heal. What it means to need someone, and to need something. To take an internal audit of your own life and know what you’ll sacrifice for what or who, what your life-or-death priorities are. What it means to hope. To seek a purpose. To cling to stories like fables and religious anecdotes. To collect examples of people who have Survived This as proof you can present to the other side of your own mind that’s crippling itself with What Ifs. To see someone do something and start to believe you just might make it.

I don’t remember when I latched onto Hawking’s story, or others like him. (I’m a girl with campaign quotes from Jared Padalecki tattooed on both wrists, so clearly I’ve seen some stuff, and clearly I’ve felt some stuff, and clearly I’m not above or averse to shamelessly finding my own heroes).

I know SH didn’t seem the type to appreciate a certain brand sentimentality, especially the spiritual kind. (If I had ever written a letter, and I didn’t, I wouldn’t have dared mention my private convictions about destiny, unwavering as they’ve been - especially the last decade, and the last 5 years.)

Instead, I’ll say this: he got his diagnosis and his sentence, and he said “not me” and went on to live, ferociously, a full lifetime. And that was enough. And it wasn’t enough. He made a business out of the extraordinary. He went on to change the whole world.

Who laughs now? Who doubts in looking at his legacy, as we all think in eulogies, that he did exactly what he set out to do?

I don’t know if he was happy, if he had regrets, if he was troubled by his quality of life. All I know is what the people said, and his rejection of that, and that he did it on his terms.

And when you’re laughed at, and maybe feeling cursed by whatever idea of God or Universe or random chance you believe in, you feel out of control until you take control. No one gives your life back until you take it back. If you do. He did.

You stare death and agony in the face, and if you beat that - what can stop you? He made the Universe confess to him with a hand and a mind.

Imagine what’s possible when you decide “impossible” can always, always be followed with “until now”.

RIP Mr. Hawking. I didn’t know you. I don’t understand half of your work, though I’ve tried. I don’t know if you would have laughed at me, and my silly ideas about things, and the false equivalencies I draw between our lives under the loose justification of “heroes” and “inspiration.”

I don’t know if you loved having a world of witnesses in your struggle, or if you even packaged fame and life-with-challenges that way in your worldview. But for what you did, what you shared, how you lived, and how you allowed so many eyes on your legacy, I thank you and I honor your memory.

I know that this sounds as if I have made this event somehow about me, which it is not. My intention is rather to say, this is a life he has touched, and utterly unremarkable in an army of admirers but completely remarkable all at once. Like each of us in our momentous insignificance in Sagan’s pale blue dot.

We are better for his presence and lesser for his absence. What more can each of us hope the world will say at the end of our lives?

He was here. We were better for it. May he find peace.

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7 Golden Reasons To Watch 'Tangled: The Series' No Matter How Old You Are

Does a really enticing mystery not already make you want to watch?!

Before I even start, I want to get something out of the way: I am not too old for this show. Literally no one on this good green Earth is too old for this show. No matter your age, gender, or if you're even one of those heathens who didn't like "Tangled," Disney Junior's new show "Tangled: The Series" just finished season one, and I'm constantly googling when season two will hit the TV.

I don't care it's a Disney Junior show! It's well done, has a great cast and a fabulous story line! I love it! Die mad about it! Because there's literally no possible way I won't stand on a soap box and defend my position, here are seven reasons you should catch up on this show before season two comes rolling along.

1. They solved a diversity problem.

One of the few complaints "Tangled" got was their utter lack of diversity. The entire cast was white, with absolutely no people of any other ethnicity or color.

"But wait!" you cry. "Surely there wasn't any other race in this most likely European country at the time?"

Well, my uneducated friend, while Europe was almost entirely white, there were people of color there. We just don't like to talk about it because it was a pretty ugly scene for those unlucky few because you know, racism.

But now we got Lance, a black man who was Eugene's childhood friend and honestly, one of my new favorite characters. And one little thief girl who is Asian and her adopted ginger sister. This sounds bad, but it's actually an adorable episode.

2. The new characters don't suck.

One problem with shows like these is that the introduced characters are often just god-awfully cringe. But not in this case!

There are three new characters that are really important. Cassandra, Rapunzel's lady in waiting/bad-ass warrior woman and the adopted daughter of the Royal Guard captain. (Who quite honestly, is kind of a better girl power model than Rapunzel. Her hair is dark, cut short, often messy, she doesn't have perfect blue eyes, plus she doesn't have a perfect hourglass figure like Rapunzel. Best of all, she doesn't need no man to be happy and a bad-ass.)

Lance, who I discussed before, is Eugene's childhood friend. Though at first annoying and kind of a jerk, Lance becomes endearing and quite hilarious as time goes on.

Finally, there's the 14-year-old alchemist, Varian, who...well, I'll have to explain him somewhere else...

3. The old cast plays the characters.

A problem that often comes up with shows that continue on from movies is casting. However, here it's no issue, because the people who played the original cast return for the show! It's amazing to hear Rapunzel and Eugene back just as they were.

4. Good music

While we of course need our basic cheesy songs, the music of "Tangled: The Series" is actually really, really good!

5. A legitimate, interesting mystery

Those who only see the commercials may wonder "Wait, why is Rapunzel's hair back?"

Well, my friend, that's only a small part of this large, intertwining Gravity Falls-style mystery. Yeah, you heard me. This mystery is comparable to "Gravity Falls."

Who is the secret society bent on finding the Golden Sunflower? Where are these scary black rocks coming from? What is Rapunzel's dad hiding?

Buddy, we're through the first season, and we got way more questions than answers!

6. The show is actually really funny.

What? A Disney Junior show with actual humor?

Yes! I know! There have been several times where I snicker, and as the jokes go along, turns into actual gut-splitting laughter. And let me tell you, TV shows, especially cartoons, have to work hard to make me laugh.

7. Varian

Yep, we're back to the 14-year-old alchemist who gives this show a dark, foreboding feel more reminding of "Gravity Falls" than "Sofia the First."

Without major spoilers, the best I can tell you is that while Varian at first starts as a happy kid who's just eager to meet Rapunzel and her friends, an incident sends him down a dark road to revenge, which spirals quickly into a dark insanity.

Let me tell you: there's actual risk of death by impalement in several scenes. There's even been several implications that not everyone is going to make it out alive.

Despite this, it's impossible to hate Varian. He's just a kid, after all. In the episode "Snow Day," we see his strained relationship with his father and the hole left in the family from his dead mother. And no, we don't know how she dies. But let's just say if you saw the final episode of season one, you might be with me in thinking rumors of her death have been greatly exaggerated...

While many may scoff when they see commercials for "Tangled: The Series" just know that I'm probably the harshest critic of everything I watch. And if I'm bouncing up and down in anticipation...

Well, chances are so will you.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedias Common

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