A Nickel’s Worth of Ice Cream

ice-cream-barOne of the scariest experiences I had as a military brat involved the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel.

The seductive serenade of the ice cream man’s music blasted over a public address system mounted on his truck’s roof. One large speaker pointed forward with the music mystically announcing, “Here I come, get your parents to give you some money.” The second positioned to trumpet to the homes and people he had just driven past letting them know, “Hurry, it’s not too late.”

Like the moth drawn to the flame, I started dancing and crying out, “Oh please, mother. It’s the ice cream man. Can I have a nickel?”

Ice cream bars on a stick were only five cents.

“Jim, a nickel’s a lot of money,” mother said.

“He’s passing our house! I’ll take out the trash,” I pleaded and bargained at the same time. “Can I? Please?”

She quickly pulled a quarter from her purse. “Get four of the fudge ones,” mom said as she tossed me a quarter. “Bring me back the nickel he will give you in change.”

I raced out the front door, jumped on my bicycle and pedaled fast to catch up with the white truck carrying the sweet treats.

I quickly made the purchase, clutched my four ice cream bars in one hand and my nickel change in the other. That is when I realized I had a problem.  I was two blocks from home with my ice cream in one hand, a coin in the other and a bicycle to ride back home.

I knew I had to get back fast as the temperature was 110 degrees at Luke Air Force Base where I lived. I thought fast and had what I believed was a solution.

I put the nickel in my mouth, climbed on the bicycle, and clutched two ice creams in each hand holding their wooden sticks tightly. Somehow I made it home okay. I tossed down the bike, ran into the house carrying my four prizes.

Then it happened. As I started to speak, I gagged on the nickel. Well, I started choking on it before I swallowed it.

Mother yelled at dad and my little brother. She grabbed me and next thing I knew I was in the emergency room at the Luke Air Force Base Dispensary. As she arrives explaining what had happened, I was taken for x-rays. I still vividly remember the picture where it looked like the nickel was sitting on my rib.

The doctor explained the nickel may pass through my system during routine bowel movements in the next one to three days. He explained how I would need to squat over a newspaper when I had a BM. That way I could use a stick (he handed me a handful of tongue depressors) to check the feces for the nickel.

If I hadn’t passed the nickel in four days, they would do surgery! Yikes.

For the next three days, every time I went to the bathroom my then five-year-old little brother would come with me looking at my bottom as I did my deed. On the third day, he started screaming, “There it is, there it is!” as he could see the nickel.

I was relieved as were my parents that I wouldn’t have to face surgery.

What about the fudge bars? They melted on the kitchen counter. In my parents’ haste to get me to the ER, no one thought of putting them in the freezer.

Whenever I see an ice cream bar, I frequently remember the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel. And I never put coins in my mouth. I know where they have been!

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, The Dead Mule School for Southern Literature, Poetry & Prose Magazine, and vox poetica. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his literary habit working as an IT application support engineer. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. Amazon.com.

Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter

As a military brat, the end of the school year always meant Little League Baseball. As an eleven years old boy in May of 1965, three things occupied me life. They were Boy Scouts, baseball, and a little garage band I had just joined.

Spring and the start of the baseball season never failed to give me dreams of playing professional baseball. “Tryout Saturday,” as we called it back then, was a day when coaches and managers could see your talents. They woul have us field ground balls, catch pop flys, and take batting practice.

I could catch or knock down any baseball hit my way. My father had taught me to get in front of the ball and let my body help knock it down if it missed my glove. I could then pick up the ball and throw out the runner. I could hit the cover of a baseball in 1965. I was the only kid my age that was a switch hitter. When batting right-handed I could hit the ball over the fence with regularity. When hitting left-handed I was more a contact hitter. I would knock the ball to all fields hitting for a high batting average. I was good. I knew it. My dad knew it. The coaches and managers knew it.

Selected second overall, I went to the Cardinals. Also on my team was Bobby Mars. He was in the band that had recently asked me to be their rhythm guitarist. Bobby could do something I could never do consistently. He could sing lead. I’m talking about a pop star, rock idol, lead singer quality voice. He had a voice that the girls swooned over.

Bobby got all the boys on the team to sing. The song of choice was Herman’s Hermits (featuring Peter Noone on lead vocals) “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” I started bringing an acoustic six-string guitar to baseball practice. I put my handkerchief close to the bridge of the guitar body to mute the sound. It gave an almost banjo-like sound. We would sing “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” over and over.

The first time we would sing using the correct lyrics. Then we would begin substituting the last name of the every boy on the baseball team like “Mrs. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” instead of “Mrs. Brown”. We would always end with Mrs. Mars You’ve Got a Lovely Martian and giggle. We sang the tune with a heavy, fake British accent.

One of the things that made the song, so appealing was Peter Noone. He was barely five or six years older than me and the boys on the team. Many had brothers his age. When we watched him on Shindig, American Bandstand, Hullabaloo and Where the Action Is. Peter had a charisma that we only saw elsewhere in The Beatles.

The musical summer of 1965 was special. The music of Herman’s Hermits “Mrs. Brown” and The Beatles “Ticket to Ride” captured our imagination. The Beach Boys “Help Me, Rhonda” and The Byrds “Mr. Tambourine Man” blasted from our little AM radios. The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” became the first rock anthem our lives. Herman’s Hermits “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” had us singing along once more with Peter Noone.

We also followed the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball teams in the newspapers and on the radio. After all, El Paso where I lived on Biggs Air Force Base, was about halfway between Houston and Los Angeles.

Music filled the summer days. Baseball filled the summer nights.