The Ice Cream Thief
by Cherie Reich
The musical tinkling of the ice cream truck shattered the quiet, hot and humid summer day. Children's screams and shouts of pure joy and excitement replied to the song as they gathered their money and sprinted toward the truck.
"Ice cream! Ice cream!" The truck slowed to a halt, and the ice cream man opened it for business.
"I'll have a grape push-up pop!" Timmy insisted and handed the man his dollar.
"What will you have, little girl?" the ice cream man asked.
Amie bristled being called a little girl. She was nine-years-old! "I would like a strawberry shortcake bar, please." She paid $1.50 for the ice cream.
"I want a sundae cone," Julian said, and he, too, paid $1.50 for it.
The three up-and-coming fourth graders trailed off to Amie's house and bounded up her front steps.
"Wash up first, kids," Amie's mom called out from the screen door.
"Okay," the children stated.
"We can leave these out here," Amie said. "We'll only be gone for a minute."
They put their ice cream upon the small metal table and entered the house.
"Do you think we can get to the pool on Saturday?" Timmy asked.
"I can come," Julian said while he washed his hands.
"I'll have to ask." Amie dried her hands on the dish towel.
Once finished with washing, the three left through the screen door. Timmy stopped and Amie bumped into him, followed by Julian.
"What's going on?" Amie peered over Timmy's shoulder.
"It's gone." His voice was hollow as Timmy pointed at the empty table.
"Where did it go?" Julian asked, looking along the wooden porch and up and down their block.
Amie searched, as well, for the culprits. "Someone must have stolen it." The ice cream truck had vanished, and the children were back in their homes. Anyone on the street could have taken their ice cream.
"Let's ask Mrs. O'Malley if she saw anything." Timmy pointed two houses over to a two-story house with light blue trim. Mrs. O'Malley was kneeling over in front of her flowerbed.
The trio hopped down from the porch and ran over to the O'Malleys' house. "Hi, Mrs. O'Malley," they chorused.
"Oh, hello, kids." Mrs. O'Malley straightened up and fanned herself with her large straw hat. Sweat beaded upon her forehead, and her knees were dirt-stained. "What can I do for you?"
Amie smiled at their neighbor. "We were wondering if you saw anyone around my house. Someone took our ice cream."
Mrs. O'Malley pursed her lips in thought. "I've been busy with these flowers. I didn't see anyone at your house, but there were a lot of children out." She pressed the hat back on her head. "I hope you find your ice cream, kids. It's mighty hot out here. A perfect day for it."
"Thanks anyway, Mrs. O'Malley," Julian stated while the three turned away and walked down the street.
"Who would have taken our ice cream?" Timmy pondered aloud.
"I dunno." Julian's shoulders drooped, and he kicked a rock along the sidewalk.
The trio continued down the street, and each child peered at the houses as if the ice cream thieves would reveal themselves at any moment. "There," Timmy called out, spotting Michael, Andrew, and Jeremy on Michael's porch eating ice cream.
"Oh, no," Amie groaned. The three up-and-coming eighth graders enjoyed bullying all the children on the block but especially Timmy, Julian, and her.
Julian's eyes narrowed. "I'm going to get our ice cream back."
"Julian, stop," Amie said.
"Yeah, don't, Julian," Timmy added.
Julian ignored them and marched up the sidewalk. "Give us back our ice cream. We know you took it." He crossed his arms over his chest and stood as tall as his 4'10" frame would allow.
Michael stood up and took a large bite of his chocolate éclair bar. "You mean this ice cream? It's ours."
Andrew ate half of his ice cream cone, and Jeremy slurped up his cherry push-up pop. "Yeah, this is our ice cream," Andrew echoed while Jeremy nodded.
The three moved closer to Julian. "You got a problem with that, Julie?" Michael loomed over Julian and pushed him.
Julian stumbled backward and landed hard on his behind.
Amie and Timmy ran over to Julian, and Timmy helped him up while Amie glared at the three bullies. "We made a mistake. Sorry. Just leave us alone." Their ice cream was different than the others, and she knew it was time to leave.
"Not so fast, pipsqueak," Michael said before finishing off his ice cream. The other two did the same and tossed the wrappers on the ground.
"You shouldn't litter," Timmy spoke up through a quivering voice.
"What did you say to me?" Michael growled at them. "We'll give you a little head start. 1…2…3." Andrew, Jeremy, and he lunged toward the fourth graders.
"Is that as high as you can count, Mikie?" Amie taunted while running with her friends. The bullies yelled at them and chased them.
"This way," Julian yelled, yanking on Amie's arm. They raced toward Mrs. O'Malley's backyard and climbed up the chain-linked fence. The bullies were right behind them, since they were tall enough to catapult themselves over it.
"Hurry," Timmy shouted while sprinting to the oak tree. Jumping up, he snatched the lowest branch and pulled himself up. Then, he helped Amie and Julian up. The trio climbed the branches and dropped down into Mr. Henderson's backyard on the next block.
"Run!" Amie landed with a roll and ran toward Ellington St.
Their shoes slapped upon the pavement. Amie glanced back, noticing the bullies still chasing after them.
"Come on!" Julian reached the manhole cover first. He lifted it, and Timmy and Amie dropped in, followed by Julian. The cover slid back with a metallic sound, and they had to hope the bullies didn't notice.
Amie reached around and caught the flashlight. She clicked it on, and the golden beam sliced through the darkness. "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," the other two agreed, and they navigated the sewer system to come out in Julian's backyard.
"We really got to stop using this thing. It creeps me out." Amie brushed herself off, finding two spiders in her hair. She shivered and spun around. "Did I get them all off?"
"Yeah, you did," Timmy said.
"Let's go back to your house, Amie. Maybe we can still find the ice cream." Julian plucked a beetle off his shirt.
"Okay." Amie still ran her hands over her arms like bugs were crawling all over her while they went back to her house. The table still sat empty, and she sighed. "I really wanted some ice cream. It's so hot today."
"Me too," Julian and Timmy lamented.
She plopped down onto the porch and let her legs swing over the side. "Ew," she cried out and pulled her hand away from the boards. "Yuck." A sticky, purple substance covered her palm.
"Hey, that's grape." Timmy grabbed her hand and sniffed it. "Yep, grape."
"And, there is a trail!" Julian pointed to the grape droplets on the porch.
The trio followed the tiny purple splatters to the backyard.
"Butch!" Amie ran forward and snatched the sundae cone from the ground. The grape push-up pop and her strawberry shortcake bar were gone. Nothing was left but the wrappers. "Ugh, I'm so sorry about this, guys." She sighed. "I don't suppose you want this now, Julian?" She held up the leaking sundae cone still in the wrapper with teeth marks in it.
"Um, not really, I guess," Julian commented.
"At least we know who stole our ice cream," Timmy said.
"Yeah. Bad Butch! You little ice cream thief!" Amie patted the bulldog's head before scooping up the wrappers. "Let's go inside. I think we might have some ice cream in the freezer."