Monday, August 15, 2016

Best in Town

(Note: This story was my entry in the 31st round of the Microcosms contest.  My prompts were: Ice Cream Vendor [character], Thunderstorm [setting], and Mystery [genre].)

            The sky octopi were doing their dirty work as the line began to form.  A few raindrops fell to the sidewalk beside my cart.
            I counted each of the women as they approached.  Ten.  Twenty.  Thirty.  They were all gorgeous, and almost all of them ordered vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone.
            Lightning split the skyline, but none of the customers bothered to look.  They kept their eyes locked on my face.  I shivered.  Crowds attract crowds, right? I thought.
When the storm opened up, I expected my line to rush away in a frenzy; instead, the women all pulled umbrellas from behind their backs, opened them, and resumed their staring.  I adjusted my waxed mustache.
            A few of the women ordered novelty items or chocolate cones, just frequently enough to keep me in stock of vanilla while my wife brought over two more tubs from our apartment down the block.
            “What is going on?” my wife whispered to me, leaning in close.  She smiled at the growing tendril of patrons.
            “I really wish that I knew.”  I turned to my next customer.  “And what can I get for you today, ma’am?”
            The woman took a small brass statue out of her jacket and set it on my cart.  It was shaped like an ice cream cone.  “I would like to congratulate you.”
            Some of the tension left my shoulders.  “What is this?” I asked.
            “It’s an award,” said the woman.  “Your homemade vanilla ice cream has been voted the Best Ice Cream in Portland by the Portland Coven.”
            “By the Cov—”  I coughed.  Witches.  Huh.  “Thank you very much.”
            The witch set a second, smaller statue in front of me.  “And this one is for Best-Looking Cart Vendor.”  Fifty witches winked at me in unison.  I blushed.