A Tough Customer


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      The cool weather made for a slow day at my thirty flavours ice cream parlour. I was bent over behind the sherbet case when I heard an authoritative voice say, “Take your time, boy. Lots here to pick from.”
    When I stood up, the man looked over and added. “Kid’s not much one for fries. Wanted ice cream.”
     I smiled at what appeared to be about a five year old.        
     “Meet us over at the picnic tables when you’re done son,” said the dad, handing the child a few bills.
     He left the boy in the doorway.
     “Come on in.” I gestured, moving from behind the counters. I motioned to the four freezers.
     “This cooler has the ones people pick the most. This one has some interesting variations, and this one,” I pointed to the cooler marked EXOTIC, has some really different ones.”
    The boy, who appeared to be small for his age, was politely followed my instructions.
    “And if you like Sherbets,” (I could easily tell by the flash that went across his face that he did not), “there are some over there.”
     When he edged towards the first freezer, I saw that he was going to be too short to have a good look.
     “Here.” I said, grabbing the step-stool, “Stand on this.”
     After he was on, I went behind the counter.
     “Would you like me to tell you the names?”
     His large brown eyes told me ‘yes’ and an appreciative smile glimmered.
     “Well, as I said before, since these are the ones most people pick, I put them all together. Starting in the front row, that one on your left, is Vanilla. Then it’s Chocolate, Strawberry, and Butterscotch”
      I smiled. ”That’s my favourite.”
     The little guy showed no reaction, so I carried on.
     “In the second row it’s Banana, Double Chocolate Fudge and Orange. The four here in the back, are Maple Walnut….”
     “Don’t like walnuts,” he interrupted.
     “Well, okay. That’s fine,” I said, glad to have some sort of reaction. “Umm, then there is Mint Chocolate, Black Cherry and Butter Pecan.”
       “Don’t like pecans, neither.”
      “Yeah,” I agreed. “I’m not much for pecans myself.”
      I thought: the customer is always right, even if he is small.
      I waited while he surveyed the containers.
      “Anything interest you?”
      His eyes kept going back to my right.
      I came around to the front.
      “Maybe something in this next case will tempt your taste buds,” I smiled, easing him off the stool and sliding  it over to the next cooler.
     A ‘Hi Ernie.’ greeted me from the door, as Harold came in.
     “Must be one o'clock,” I answered. “The usual, double chocolate on the bottom?”
     “Yup. Just because it’s cool today, doesn’t mean I can’t have my cone.”
      As I scooped out a large ball of double chocolate fudge, I saw Harold looking at the boy.
      “Who’s your big customer?”
      “Don’t know his name, but he doesn’t like walnuts.”
      “I don’t ‘em either, kid,” bellowed Harold. “You’re not missing anything.”
      The boy turned and gave him a deadpan stare.
      “I don’t like pecans, neither.”
      “Hey, That’s okay.” Harold retreated from the look.
      Meanwhile, I completed his cone by putting a large scoop of chocolate on top.
      “You got a tough customer there, Ern,” he laughed. “See you tomorrow.”
      After he left, I turned back to the boy. The head didn’t move while the eyes surveyed the containers.
      “Would you like me to tell you what these are? They are a little more specialized.”
      The little head nodded.
      Well, down there in the front row, it is French Vanilla, Coconut Cream, Peppermint Stick, and Banana Split.”
      Not a flicker; so, I continued.
      “The middle three are Blueberry Vanilla, Cherry Cheese Cake, and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.”
      I had a feeling these weren’t his style.
      “And across the back,” I tried to add some flair, “are Cookies and Cream, Cinnamon Swirl, Pistachio and Chocolate Almond.”
      “Don’t like almonds.”
      Obviously, he had something against nuts.
      As I waited, a couple came in. I excused myself.
After serving one each a double of Strawberry and Butter Scotch, I returned to my small customer. The child hadn’t moved.
      “Perhaps you would like something more exotic,” I suggested. From the look, I knew it was the wrong word.
      “What I mean is, do you feel like trying something really different?”
      Receiving the usual non-reaction, I went around to the front and moved the stool to the front of the third case.
The boy looked at the wild colours with the same disdain.
      I was glad it was a slow day.
      “Finally, for your enjoyment,” I felt like a circus announcer, “are the exotic flavours. Starting at the front at your left are Bubblegum, Liquorice, M and M's, and Hawaiian Cherry Garden. The three in the middle are Smurf, Rocky Road and Peanut Butter. Oh sorry. You probably don’t like peanuts.”
      The deep brown eyes looked up.
      “I like peanuts.”
      “Oh. That’s great. Finally, in the last row, we have Moose Tracks, Mud Pie, Tin Roof and Kitchen Sink.”
      I could tell these were not making much of an impression.
     I wondered if there was a choice in the offering.
     “Well, what will it be?” I urged, trying to stimulate some sort of decision.
     Suddenly, he stepped off the stool, decisively kicked it over to the first case, climbed up and pointing said, “I'll want two big scoops of that.”
     I smiled, with calm relief, as my customer left with two huge scoops of Vanilla.


  © J. Graham Ducker