It was beautiful, really. Pale yellow walls, bright orange shutters, and a big white door. I liked it. I called it the Creamsicle House. Even on those hot summer days, it never melted. It never dripped or drizzled, runny and sticky over your hand. It just sat there in the sun, day after day, looking sweetly delicious.
I remember sitting in the front yard of my childhood home. We had a simple brick house then, like many others on the street, and dreadfully dull compared to Creamsicle House. I would sit on the lawn, hands perched on the wooden fence along the sidewalk, peering over to look at the frozen treat.
I wanted to touch it.
I wanted desperately to trace my fingers on the yellow siding, swing the orange shutters open wide, and place my palms upon the big white door… and push it ever so slightly.. enough to open it… just a little so that I could squeeze through the crack.
I had to see inside.
I climbed over the fence and my bare feet hit the blazing concrete. I winced, but kept walking, entranced by the dazzling gleam of the house in the afternoon light. I made my way up the walkway and onto the front steps. The porch was creamy white, immaculate. There were no plants or statues or even a swing, just a blank slate of nothingness. I loved it.
I approached the door.
It loomed over me. A tall, magnificent entrance. I put my hand on it. I felt smooth wood, no cracks or splinters or chips. I felt the milky center that I had gazed upon for so long. There was no doorknob, no bell or knocker. It was a naked piece of paper.
I pushed it open.
It was dark, I could tell. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me.
It was so cold, almost freezing. Outside it had been the middle of summer, but upon entering the house I was immediately shivering. I felt my hot breath in front of me.
Just like a nice, cold Creamsicle, I thought. Perfectly frozen, a perfect treat for a summer day.
It was also exceptionally dark. I could make out a large foyer before me, and maybe even a staircase behind, but there were no lights on. I felt for a switch on the wall but found nothing. I moved a little further inside.
For years my mother and father had warned me about Creamsicle House, just as parents do, I suppose. They told me it was a bad place with bad people, and to never cross the street. I obeyed, yet I remained fascinated with the structure. I never saw anyone come or go into the house. No mail ever came. No one trimmed the lawn. No one ever even acknowledged its existence. The house was a mystery, one I needed to solve.
And here I finally was.
In the darkness, my feet found the bottom of what was indeed a staircase. I placed my hand on the railing and began my ascent when, suddenly, I saw a light.
There was a light at the top of the stairs.
It was small, and flickering, but I was thrilled to see some sort of life. I called out to it.
“Hi, up there!” I yelled.
I wasn’t afraid. Why would I be? Why would such a beautiful, sweetly sugary looking house be scary? I think mother and father were jealous of it. I think everyone was. It was the nicest house on the whole street, and everyone else’s were so boring. They wanted to keep me away because life was better here. It was sweeter.
The light began to move down towards me, slowly. It was a grand staircase, with several spirals. The light bobbed and danced until stopping just a few feet above me.
Behind the flickering, I could make out a silhouette. A shadow. Something was there.
“I can’t see you,” I said, hoping to get a better look at the figure. Maybe they lived here? Maybe I would meet my new best friend?
The shadow moved closer and in the light, I saw the body of a man. I saw a pair of hands come out of the dark and grip the railing. And then a face came forward into the gap between the bars.
I saw his face. He had thick, greasy stubble and a big, raw scar on his chin. In fact, his whole neck was raw with red scabs and scratch marks.
“Hello, down there!” he flashed a smile with almost no teeth, just a rotten blob of gum. He licked his lips with a slimy, pale tongue and his eyes were a sickly yellow that constantly shifted side to side.
“Do you live here?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” he said. “Do you want to come upstairs?”
I struggled to contain my excitement. I could not express how badly I wanted to climb the stairs, up to the tippy top of the Creamsicle bar. I wanted to taste the wonder of its secrets. I wanted a bite of the creamy, gooey, orange goodness.
I stepped forward.
“What’s your name?” the man asked.
“Jack. What’s yours?”
He licked his lips furiously.
“I’m the Ice Cream Man,” he said.
Of course! He was in charge of Creamsicle House. He had it all to himself. I was so jealous. I wanted an ice cream house too. I didn’t want to ask how to get one, because then he would know I wanted it. I kept it to myself, and started walking upstairs.
As I got closer to the Ice Cream Man, I began to see his clothes. He had on torn blue jeans that were very dirty and stained with what looked like red paint. He wasn’t wearing any shoes, just like me! His shirt was long sleeved and unbuttoned, and I saw his chest was red and scratchy just like his neck.
He held out his hand.
His fingers were long, way too long. They were silly. He did not know how to clip his fingernails and there was red paint under them, too.
“I know why you’re here,” he said, his tone turning dark and almost mean.
He was on to me. I realized that I was now incredibly warm, and sweating. I felt the sweat on my armpits and hoped that Ice Cream Man couldn’t see through my shirt.
“You..you do?” I whispered.
“Oh, yes, Jack, I’ve seen you staring,” his expression lightened. His eyes were glowing bright yellow. “I know you want a taste.”
My eyes widened. Yes, it was all I wanted. A bite of the frozen deliciousness.
“Come upstairs, Jack, I have a treat for you,” he said with a wet smile. He was drooling a little, I thought it was funny.
I grabbed his hand.
I felt a piercing sting all the way up my arm. My body was on fire. I tried to pull away, but I couldn’t. My hand was stuck, clasped into his grip, his nails digging into my skin. I felt blood pool out of my palm and run down my arm. It was cold, like freezing rain.
He pulled me closer.
I saw his face more clearly now. The snake-like eyes were fixated upon me, his forehead and cheeks burning bright red. He opened his mouth and I saw the flick of his tongue and his dirty, slimy gums. And when I felt his breath, it was cold. And sweet. It smelled of sugar, of fresh milk, and of undeniable orange. I felt a wave of nausea and my body collapsed to the floor, my hand still firmly grasped into his.
And then I blacked out.
When I awoke, I felt cool grass on my arms and feet. I was staring up at a cloudless sky, bright blue and sunny. I lifted my head and looked around, finding myself on the front lawn of our little brick house. My head was pounding and my body ached.
I turned toward the fence and looked out, between the wooden gap, across the street, and over into the lot where Creamsicle House should be.
What I saw was heartbreaking. Instead of the orange and white mansion that I knew for so many years, there was the decrepit, burned remnants of a house. The wood was charred and blackened. Beams and door frames had fallen over and disintegrated into ash. There had surely been a fire, sometime long ago.
I stood to get a better look at the ruins, and felt my mother come up beside me.
“You okay, Jack?” she asked, visibly concerned.
“Yeah I just hit my head,” I responded.
“Be careful, sweetie,” she said, “and don’t go near that house. It’s dangerous.”
I stood looking at the lot for a long time. After a while, the wind began to pick up. It was a pleasant, summertime breeze. And there was a faint odor in the air.
It smelled of oranges.
Credit: A.E. Madden
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