With blue sky above and green grass below, Daniel and I spent most of our Sunday afternoon working on the yard. I took care of the edges; mowing the outside pattern then handing the lawnmower over to Daniel to cut within the lines. I rolled out a knotted pile of bright orange power cord and used the trimmer to lop off the tall thin line of grass growing between the fence posts. We wrapped up as the shadow of the house stretched all the way to the swing set. I was sweaty and tired. Daniel looked like he had personally fought every blade of grass in the yard. We owed ourselves a trip to Dari Ripple.
Every small town in America has a place like the Dari Ripple. At least, every small town should. They specialize in soft serve, but have the “hard packed” stuff as well. There’s no drive thru window. There’s not even an inside. We parked the car and got into the line waiting on the sidewalk. I think some of the folks had been waiting there since the stand first opened in 1952. Daniel killed fifteen minutes reading over the menu printed on the side of the building, even though he already knew what he wanted: a banana split. I watched the moths flopping around the long fluorescent tubes hanging on the eaves above the order windows. It was a welcome distraction from the clouds of mosquitoes sucking me dry.
I was surprised by the blast of hot air pouring out from behind the screen window where I placed my order. I just wanted a small shake. That was two scoops of vanilla ice cream, milk and some malt powder crammed into a steel cup and placed under a mixer pole the size of a light saber. I watched as a young woman worked on Daniel’s banana split. The banana was quickly lost under ice cream, half a can of whipped topping, cherries and a liberal dose of rainbow sprinkles.
There are a half dozen picnic tables behind the Dari Ripple to seat the approximately fourteen thousand customers. Daniel found us a place at the one covered in about fifty coats of bright red enamel. We shared it with a family of six. Except for a quick mumbled greeting, no one said a word. We were all too absorbed with our ice cream. Daniel had picked a flavor called “Blue Moon”; his favorite, he told me (though I didn’t remember him ever ordering it before).
“What does it taste like?” I asked. Daniel slowly rolled a spoonful of turquoise colored ice cream around his mouth, from one cheek to the other and swallowed.
“Blue,” he replied. That wasn’t much help. I asked if it was like blueberry. Daniel shook his head. I tried again.
“Grape? Is it like a Bomb Pop?” Daniel shoveled up a big scoop and handed it to me to taste. It was candy sweet, sort of fruity, but totally unlike any natural flavor I could think of. Daniel was right. It tasted like blue. The sun was low in the west and the whole world was bathed in a golden light. I sipped my malt slowly; not wishing to get a headache, not wishing to race through a perfect moment.