Elise Cheats Death
As she approached the ice cream van, Elise suddenly had an odd feeling that the middle-aged man leaning on the counter in the van and leering his gold-and-green toothed grin at her was someone she knew a long, long time ago, long before she was born, she felt, seven years ago.
"Hello there, my pretty lady," he kept on saying. His voice, deep with a melodious flavour, did sound familiar to all her cells. "Why do you keep hesitating? I'm Mr. Shady! What would you like? Vanilla or strawberry or peppermint? Perhaps you'd like choc chips? Come on, don't be afraid, what can I get you?"
She looked up at the man's dark unshaven face and saw a fierce glint in his eye that might have come from a distant plane of existence. She looked at the ground again but her ears, or maybe it was just her mind rather, that could not shut out the deep velvety tones: "After all this time, I have found you, my dear queen, I have found you...come back with me, come back and we will reign together again..."
A gaggle of boys rushed past her and knocked her over onto the grass. By the time she got back to her feet, the vendor was already busy with the children's orders. Quickly she stepped away and hid behind a tree so he couldn't see her.
The boys' voices were very loud: "Hey, I was here first!...No, I was!...I want the chocolate one!...Wassat you say? I want the same!...Gimme that one!..." In this constant babble, the vendor laughed. "Calm down, fellas! You'll all get yours soon enough!" He looked up quickly and realized the little girl had disappeared. "Blast!" he muttered, "gone already!"
Elise was already skittering back into the park where her parents were playing tennis with friends. She stopped by the bench in front of the courts. Already her mother was sitting there, a bottle of mineral water in one hand, a cellphone in the other, staring into the distance with a misty glaze over her eyes. As though she would rather be elsewhere than here with her family. Elise moved in front of her and she jumped, dropping the cellphone.
"Why, Elise," she exclaimed, "you're back already – did you get an ice cream?"
"No, Mum, the ice cream man didn't have what I wanted".
"Well, just play on the swings then and when your father finishes his game, we might go home", was the reply. As Elise sidled away, her mother picked up the phone and started dialling a number. There was a pause, then swearing and Elise heard the phone being banged on the bench.
"Hell! I can't phone Dean! How the fuck am I going to see him tomorrow? I have to make the date for Wednesday!" she heard her mother mutter.
As it turned out, Elise's mother never did manage to meet Dean or whoever it was she was trying to phone because the next day when Elise got home from school, her mother was already home and in tears because Dean - whoever had left a phone message to say a child had got severe food poisoning from eating tainted ice cream and was in a coma at hospital.
Later when they turned the TV on and a bulletin appeared with news that two boys had died and several others were in a coma from eating ice creams, Elise's mother began to cry and had to leave the kitchen.