Mr. Whimple’s Big Surprise

“‘… and after all that, no one bought any ice cream.’”

“Is that what Mr. Whimple said to you?”

Sandy sat at the kitchen table, kicked off her green flipflops, and put a neon pink straw into her protein shake. Her mother Janine wore a loose-fitting sundress and was eating some chips with veggie dip by the sink.

Sandy said, “Yeah, I felt bad. I went up to his truck just for a napkin once the parade was over, but he looked upset and talked to me about how his business would never be the same. I would’ve gotten something from him, but I wouldn’t’ve had enough calories left for the day.” Sandy sipped on her straw as she took out her phone and added her shake to her fitness app.

“Come on,” replied Janine, “do any of my girls know how to live a little? Everyone is obsessed with looking like a skeleton and poor Mr. Whimple’s not getting any business.”

“I just wanna be healthy.”

“You’re healthy enough,” replied Janine after she licked the salt off of her fingers and put the lid back on the veggie dip. “You know, Mr. Whimple has had his truck by the beach since I was fifteen. He just wants the kids to have a good time outside and have a nice snack to cool down with when they’re done. But soon he’s probably gonna have to shut down his business. Nobody gives anyone else a chance to do any nice things for another nowadays — everybody thinks they can live in their own little bubble and take care of themselves.”

Sandy was still messing around on her phone’s fitness app and said, “Mom, don’t be so dramatic. Whatever, it’s sad, but I think people would rather just buy their food at the store. It’s cheaper.”

Janine was putting away her snacks as she said, “That’s not the point. Where’s the community in that? Isn’t it nice to be around people and have someone help you that calls you by your name? And sincerely asks you how you’re doing? You kids complain when you have to go shopping, but shopping wasn’t a chore when I was your age — shopping was fun. You got to meet new people, make new friends, and catch up with the people you met last time.”

“I already have enough friends. And that’s creepy, I don’t want any guys at the store knowing my name.”

Janine said, “Oh please… say… you know what? Sandy, what are you and your sister doing tomorrow afternoon? Are any of your friends free?”

“We’re still deciding. Why?”

“If you help me out, your friends can come over after and use the pool and basement. And I’ll get you guys whatever food you want.”

Sandy looked up from her phone and said, “Wait. Really? Help with what?”

“I wanna do something nice for Mr. Whimple…”

On Friday afternoon it was particularly hot, and Mr. Whimple was steaming inside his ice cream truck. He often had to take off his glasses to wipe the sweat from the lenses.

A long time ago, days like these would be the busiest for Mr. Whimple. He’d drive to the end of each road and a crowd of children would be waiting by the beach boardwalk, even before he rang his bell to let everyone know he was around. He loved learning the names of the children, hearing about their favorite movies, and listening to them talk about what they were doing that summer. Sometimes Mr. Whimple’s son helped and walked a cart along the beach, selling ice cream to the people resting underneath their umbrellas. And after a few busy hours, Mr. Whimple would meet his son at the last street in the late afternoon. Those were the good ol’ days.

But these days, Mr. Whimple could take care of business himself. He only stopped at every other street. Sometimes he didn’t bother ringing his bell at all. It was hard to see him frown behind his bushy, black mustache.

It was three o’clock, and Mr. Whimple sighed as he turned off the chiming music in his truck two hours earlier than he normally did. He listened to the waves of the ocean, which used to be difficult to hear past the cheers of the children and their parents talking and laughing on the beach. He also heard seagulls squawking about the bits of food they found in the trashcans. A plane flew over the ocean and advertised a good place to eat by the shore.

Mr. Whimple sat in the driver’s seat and started the engine. While looking out of the window, he said under his breath, “It’s a different world now…” He got up and went to the back of the truck to break down and wrap up everything for the day.

As he was locking up the freezers, Mr. Whimple heard the sounds of musical chimes and people clapping to a song approach. He stopped what he was doing and reopened the side window of his truck. It was hard to see him smile behind his bushy, black mustache.

Mr. Whimple saw a crowd of fifteen, maybe twenty, people cheering, clapping, and walking towards his ice cream truck. In front of them, Janine and her daughters were holding a huge banner that said Thanks for all of the ice cream, Mr. Whimple! A blonde guy in the back of the crowd was holding up a radio which played music of an ice cream truck with a dance beat behind it.

“Mr. Whimple,” yelled Janine, “come out here and dance!”

A circle formed in the middle of the crowd and everyone started boogying with Mr. Whimple. Everyone started chanting “Whim-ple! Whim-ple! Whim-ple!” and shouted something nice into the ice cream man’s ears.

“We love you, Mr. Whimple!”

“Here’s to another forty years!”

“No one’s sweeter than Mr. Whimple!”

When the song ended, everyone was laughing, smiling, and clapping. A surf-rock song started on the boombox and Mr. Whimple went back into his truck. As he began to unlock his ice cream coolers, Mr. Whimple wiped a little tear from his eye and smiled as he heard someone outside shout, “It’s time to party!”

When he looked out the window, the music faded away as the crowd shuffled down the street.

“After all that, no one bought any ice cream…”

Mr. Whimple had a big surprise that day. His landlord was fed up with him being late on his rent all of the time, so when he got back to his place, Mr. Whimple found out he was evicted from his apartment.

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