The Mystery of the Boy with the Popsicle

Once we had found the great white whale of summer, it was hard to unfind it. Apparently a parking lot full of excited children was not an easy temptation to resist, so that darn ice cream truck has been frequenting our neighborhood ever since I inadvertently lured it right into the heart of Kiddie Shangri-La. I mean, it just wouldn’t go away! And every time it popped up, playing that terrible music, I would have to buy more ice cream for the kiddos. I mean, you don’t see an ice cream truck and not buy ice cream! That would be cruel! Except on the third day in a row of that truck pulling into our parking lot, I did the unthinkable. I said no.

The children were not happy with this decision, but we had plenty of frozen treats in our own freezer, so my wife and I held firm in our position that the ice cream truck was going to have to learn that it could not come every day and still sell out the truck every time. Ruby stayed upstairs with us until the music was gone, but Edward ran off somewhere, and when he returned he was holding a non-parentally-approved popsicle in his hand, on his hand, on his face, in his mouth, and dripping down his arm.

“Where did you get that?” I asked stupidly, as if I did not already know the answer.

“The ice cream truck,” he replied with no small measure of pride.

“We told you no to the ice cream truck today!”

He had no answer for that excellent point.

“How did you get that? Did you pay for it?”

“Yes…” He looked a little worried now. Were we getting to the part of the story that we were really not going to like?

“How did you pay for it?”

“With my piggy bank!”

At this point I am imagining him walking up to the ice cream truck, handing the guy his piggy bank, and then taking off with a popsicle. “Where is your piggy bank right now?” I asked slowly.

“Downstairs!” he shouted defensively. He knows from a previous incident that the piggy bank does not leave the building, so at least he obeyed that rule. I ran downstairs to make sure anyway, and yes, there on the couch was his piggy bank.

“How much money did you give them?” I asked carefully.

“I don’t know!” he said cheerfully. This was not good. I had no idea what had happened out there. How did he get the popsicle? Had he just gone out and asked for one, and then taken it and run off? Not a good scenario. On the other hand, had he somehow found, say, a twenty, and then handed it to the guy and run off with the popsicle? Also not a scenario I was enjoying contemplating. I needed more information. I had to hit the streets.

I stepped out into the courtyard where several small children were still playing and enjoying their frozen confections, so I selected the one I thought would be the most likely to talk. Swash was his name, and he, out of all the stool pigeons in town, was the oldest one out there at the time, and the one most likely to use full sentences. “Swash!” I called out to him from my doorway. He looked up, wondering why I would be out there in broad daylight, talking to him in front of his associates. It went against procedure, but I had questions I needed answered, and I needed them answered fast.

“What?” he said, still not sure why I was calling out to him. Swash put the giant ball down that he had been playing with and gave me his full attention.

“How did Edward get that popsicle?” I inquired. “Did you see him buy it? Did he pay for it?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention,” he said, and I believed him. Swash and Edward don’t always run in the same circles. If I knew my son, he had been with his best friend Bone at the truck, but Bone isn’t much one for small talk. If I was going to get any information out of Bone, I was going to need his speech and language pathologist, and she wasn’t there. Damn toddlers.

But then, in a stroke of luck, I heard the one other person who might be able to translate Bone’s secret language: his sister. She was an informant of the very willing variety, and she came bounding towards me, clearly having heard that I was looking for information. “I saw Edward get the popsicle,” she told me easily, maybe a little too easily. “He paid with money.”

“Where did he get the money,” I asked, a little too roughly.

“His piggy bank,” she said, and then clammed up. Had I scared her off? Had Edward gotten to her first? Had he told her to corroborate the piggy bank story? Were they in cahoots? This was all very suspicious. That was when her father walked out the door. Now here was an actual adult I might be able to trust. This guy was tall as a tree and covered with tattoos, and he usually wore a jacket with someone else’s name on it, if you know what I mean, but we had an understanding and I knew he would tell like it was.

“Do you know how Edward got that popsicle?” I asked him, and he just laughed. We had been down the road before. He didn’t have the info, but he knew who did. I needed his wife. She controlled everything in the courtyard. Mulch removal. Toy cleanup. Everything. Technically, on paper, she didn’t exist. We don’t say her name. But she came out that day to tell me what she saw.

“I wasn’t close enough to hear,” she said to me, “but I saw Edward at the truck. He had two quarters, and he kept pointing to things on the truck, and it looked like the guy was telling him that he didn’t have enough money, and after a few minutes of this he ran back inside and came out with some more money, a handful of change, that looked like less than a dollar. Not enough for any of the $2.50-$3.50 things that the ice cream guy sells. But I guess after a while he wore the guy down, because he came back with a popsicle.”

Ah ha! It was the bread seller incident all over again! Somehow my son had scammed/charmed his way into getting something for next to nothing. He’s lucky he’s so cute.  I went back inside, thanking all of my contacts, and I re-examined the piggy bank. Edward has a special bank with four compartments: save, spend, donate, and invest. We have gone over what each one means, and I think it actually sunk in. Invest and donate were untouched, while his save and spend compartments, each of which had contained 1-2 quarters each, were empty. I couldn’t even be mad. This kid was out there in the real world, taking what he had and making something more out of it. Even though he had gone against direct orders from the chief, he had done alright out there in the courtyard that day. And maybe even done some good in the process. After he spent 5-10 minutes scamming the ice cream guy, well, let’s just say I haven’t heard “It’s a Small World” in the courtyard a single day since.

Posted in Children, Edward, Ice Cream, Mystery, Parenting, Popsicles, Trucks.

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