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Mr. Bingo's Ice Cream Shoppe by Steve Carr

My story "Mr. Bingo's Ice Cream Shoppe" in Quail Bell Magazine. (I just found out it had been published on 1/29) …

2:52 PM - 24 Feb 2018

Mr. Bingo's Ice Cream Shoppe by Steve Carr

Mr. Bingo came out of the walk-in freezer carrying a large carton of pistachio-lime ice cream. He placed the carton in the display case, then adjusted his hat that resembled the top of a swirled vanilla ice cream cone. He went back into the freezer and brought out a carton of chocolate-potato chip ice cream and placed it in the display case. By the time he had filled the display cases it was 10:30. He looked around the shop, and satisfied that everything was in order, he turned the open sign hanging on the front door to face outside. ​

John Norbett, the mail carrier, entered the shop and looked up as the small bell above the door tinkled. He took a red bandanna from his pants pocket and wiped sweat from his forehead. “It's gonna be a hot one today,” he said. “But stepping in here is like entering a refrigerator.” Mr. Bingo glanced out the front plate glass window. A small eddy of dust blew across the sunlight drenched street. Visible waves of heat rose up from the pavement. “Hot weather used to be good for business.” John put several letters on the counter by the cash register then stepped up to the display cases and gazed at the different cartons of ice cream. He pointed at a light red ice cream with cherries and popcorn in it. “That looks interesting,” he said tapping on the glass. “Would you like a taste?” Mr. Bingo said. “Just go ahead and give me two scoops in a waffle cone,” John said. “You sure have a way with ice cream. Every day you have something new. Mr. Bingo lifted the glass shield on the back of the display case, then took a scooper and scooped out two balls of ice cream and put them in a waffle cone. He closed the shield and handed the cone to John. John grasped the cone and licked the ice cream. “My god, this is great. You're a genius with ice cream.” “It's all I know,” Mr. Bingo said. John handed two dollars for the ice cream. “Stay out of the heat,” he said as he opened the front door and walked out with the ice cream in his hand. Mr. Bingo put the money in the cash register, then sorted through the mail. He put the other envelopes aside as he opened the one from his bank. With trembling fingers he took out the pink sheet of paper. It was what he thought it would be, a notice of foreclosure on the shoppe. “I've only had four customers today,” Mr. Bingo said. Jenny Fillmore dipped the spoon into the glass dish filled with orange-peanut ice cream and lifted out some ice cream and a piece of kiwi. Before putting it her mouth, she said, “You serve the best ice cream anywhere. Why do you think no one is coming in anymore?” On the other side of the display counter, he crossed his arms and placed them on the top of the glass, then rested his chin on them. Preceded by a sigh, he said, “I'm part of the past.” Jenny put the spoon in her mouth, and in near ecstasy, closed her eyes as she swallowed the ice cream. She opened her eyes and looked around the shop. Brightly painted murals on the walls and ceiling were of fantasy lands where the landscapes were made of ice cream. The Dr. Seuss-like creatures the frolicked in the ice cream pastures all wore hats like Mr. Bingo's. “What will you do now that you'll be closing?” she said. Mr. Bingo walked to the window. Late afternoon sunlight bathed the facades of the stores and shops on the other side of the street. “I would like to travel the world.” Jenny scooped the last of the ice cream in her dish into her mouth. “Then that's what you should do,” she said. Hesitatingly, she said, “We've known each other for many years, but I know so very little about you. Do you have a family?” Mr. Bingo turned away from the window and went to the cash register. “None but my ice cream. Every different flavor I've created has been like a child to me.” Jenny rose from the chair and carried the dish and spoon to the counter next to the cash register. As Mr. Bingo picked it up, consolingly she patted his hand. “My, your hand is so cold,” she said. “Are you coming down with something?” “Just a slight cold.” She opened her change purse and took out three dollars. “It's on the house Miss Fillmore. I've enjoyed your company,” he said. “Thank you Mr. Bingo,” she said as she put the money back in her change purse. Before she opened the door to leave, she said, “I'm a widow. Perhaps you could come to dinner at my house some time.” “Perhaps,” he said. The bell above the door tinkled as she left the shop. Mr. Bingo raised the glass shields of the display case, then went to the door and flipped the open sign around to the closed side. He locked the door and turned off the air conditioning. He then raised the temperature of the walk-in freezer to 78 degrees. He went into the freezer and removed his clothes, placed his hat on the bench and sat down beside it. Within a few hours he and all the other ice cream in the shoppe had turned to liquid.

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