Chet figured he should either stop consuming so much of the product or find another line of work. Raj, his boss, was a sharp guy about many things, including tracking the inventory, and he took any discrepancies out of Chet’s paycheck without comment. Chet needed the dough and missed it, but he could not help himself. A van full of snacks, especially the ice cream treats with chocolate chips or nuts with their satisfying crunch, was too much to resist. He craved them all, and they were right there to be taken.
A steady stream of bathing suits rose from the beach, stirred by the sounds of X102.3 “The Wave,” which Raj had decided should be played at the boardwalk instead of the creepy, carnival-style music the other vans in the fleet went with—the old-time tunes that made Chet feel like a serial killer when he slowly approached a playground or cruised a suburban neighborhood. This bouncy dance stuff, on the other hand, lifted sunning women right up off their towels.
A new one his age arrived in a lime-green bikini, her bare belly pale like licked vanilla, and looked him in the eye while she asked for a rainbow popsicle. College girl, he bet, here with her parents. She nodded her pony-tailed head to the chorus as though she knew it: “Shame on me/to need release/uncontrollably,” and smirked, her eyes on his soda-jerk hat.
“You have to wear that?”
“I like it.”
“No, you don’t.”
She giggled, took her change—her painted nails scraping his palm—and walked away, unwrapping her treat without another word for him. He knew she’d never look back, never think about him again.
He opened the freezer, grabbed a Nutty Buddy, took a big, desperate bite and chewed, the ice cream chilling his teeth and aching his head. For a moment, he felt relief, the best he could hope to find.
About the Author: Tom Gresham’s short stories and poems have been published in Day One, Third Wednesday, the Apple Valley Review, Seven Days, Aethlon, the Grey Sparrow Journal, and the Timber Creek Review. He is the co-author of A Baseball Guy: Former Kansas City Royals Farmhand, Scout, and Major League Coach Takes You Inside the Game He Loves.