Laaaadies annnnd Gentlemennnn! Tonight! Live! On stage! For your delectation and viewing pleasure! We present to YOU! The blood pounding! Bongo congo drum beating! Bungle in the jungle tom tom of the heart! The lights, camera, sound and action It’s Showtime! thrill of your life! Clown cars! Flaming hoops! High-wire walking African elephants in pink tutus! Right here! Under the big top! The big tent! On the big stage of the Bolshoi On Broooadwayyy theatuh! In the land of milk and honey! The honey pot! Sweet spot! How I love you, how I love you, maaa-a-aaammmy. The suck-suck-suckling mammary gland of wealth and power! The dragon hoard! The capitalist swagger! The dance of finance! I mean m-o-n-e-y MONEY! Prestidigitated, pilfered and pixelated before your very eyes! It’s … daaa … SNOWBIZ!!
1 – Pushcart
An annoying on-again off-again squealing sound that could be a bad fan belt in the theater’s heating system is accompanied by a methodical slap, slap, slap, slap and on the screen we see a pair of feet shod in frayed and crumbling leather and tire tread huaraches striking the pavement. The camera pulls back and through the simmering, fried egg morning haze we see a man in a faded Hawaiian shirt (palm trees and—hula girls?) and worn khaki cargo shorts pushing a classic three-wheeled ice cream cart with a top-hatted Frosty the Snowman in an identical Hawaiian shirt (palm trees and, yes, it is—hula girls) painted on the side. He’s got a couple days of salt and pepper beard stubble. His dirty blond hair’s infused with a watercolor wash of gray. Polarized wrap-around sunglasses hide his eyes but you can tell there’s something weird about them. It’s only ten a.m. but the sun is already burning in the sky like an industrial heat lamp. Membranous waves of moist hot air swarm around him. Rivers of sweat pour from his body, soaking his shirt and trickling down his legs like embarrassing streams of pee. The slightly lopsided left wheel of his cart squeals at regular intervals. He’s been meaning to stop at the bicycle shop on Guadaloupe and ask Rick to have a look at it, maybe buy a new wheel if necessary. But instead of pursuing this idea in a logical fashion, like figuring how and when to fit this stop into his schedule, he drops down an etymological rabbit hole that begins with the word bicycle, which everybody and his grandmother knows is pronounced bisickle, even though we say motor-si-kel and uni-si-kel as in scythe or psychopath. Although, let’s face it, Snowman, bi-sike-al would sound kind of snooty, fucking Brits—‘scuse my English—especially to the American ear.
This distinction or, maybe better said, divide between British and American English a subject he might have delved into deeper if only it weren’t for these horrible shrieking sounds crashing against the velvet timpani of his eardrums like breaking glass, like fingernails on a chalkboard, like … Snowman! Snowman! Gimme a PoPoPop!® Me too, Snowman! It drives him fucking crazy, all this grabbing, all this gimme gimme gimme, all these painfully shrill cries of innocent childish glee shredding the finely veined membrane of his sanity. He’d like to throttle every single one of these little bastards with his bare hands. He’d like to slam the lid of his icebox down on their grasping, groping, filthy little fingers. He’d like to …
Why, helloooo little friends! Is everybody ready for a PoPoPop!®?
Arrrgh, I’m gonna kill ya little fuhhh … Here ya go, kiddos!
Infanticidal tendencies disguised by a crocodile growl of affection, he hands around half-a-dozen frosty, cone-shaped confections to the waving hydra of nose-pick, thumb-suck, sticky little digits, in exchange for which stay-at-home Mommy (but don’t even begin to suggest she doesn’t work) forks over a handful of Daddy’s hard-earned but rapidly devaluing shekels, her ever wary mama tiger eyes searching behind this disheveled pirate of the pavement’s opaque shades for any signs of genuine madness that might actually threaten harm to her precious, special and probably gifted (even if there’s no quantifiable or qualitative evidence to back up such claims) little princes and princesses. Not that he, the Snowman, would ever in his wildest imagination do anything to cause the least reason for doubt in Mommy’s double X chromosome-configured brain given the pair of pearl-handled Colt .45s she’s wearing on her childbearing hips over a slightly faded chocolate brown cotton shift that reveals a surprisingly fit mommy body toned by 24/7 cross-training (i.e., child-rearing), or the very pointed toes of her fire engine red, ostrich skin Tony Llamas, which could certainly add a new dimension to colorectal cleansing. After a final socializing admonition—say Bye-Bye, Snowman, Bye-Bye, Snowman—Mommy dearest and her brood, tail-wagging Gala Poochie Pup included, wander off in their discrete family unit, followed by yet another chorus of gleeful screams as they give their PoPoPops!® a quick cha-cha-cha maraca shake and pull the paper tabs and pop! pop! pop! out pop these rainbow-colored mushroom clouds of tangy, brain-numbingly cold, fresh fruity sweetness they eagerly plunge their plump pink tongues into and lick and slurp with the exact same canine exuberance Gala Poochie Pup would if only—oops! Half a block down the street little brother drops his PoPoPop!® on the sidewalk, splat, poochie dives in, lap, lap, lap, junior’s bawling, boo hoo, Mommy, I want anudder PoPop!
Too late. Even if the harried momster were willing to backtrack and hand over more loot to this drooling, depraved and most likely criminally insane reprobate (don’t think she didn’t notice those creepy eyes crawling over every inch of her voluptuous mommy body), who, surely due to some clerical error, has been licensed by the city (she read the permit on his cart) to extort money from already cash-strapped parents to satisfy the whiny whims of their (to be perfectly honest) spoiled little brats, he, the so-anointed Snowman, pockets full of grimy quarters, dimes and nickels and damp, wrinkly paper currency, is already off again, slap, slap, slap, slap, in fact, he’s practically running, slap!slap!slap!slap! his face twisted in the desperate grimace of an escaped down-by-law convict, his cart tilting dangerously, the lop-sided left wheel squealing non-stop, the right wheel making a peculiar squishing, sticking sound as its tread grips the hot asphalt and releases again, and no wonder, he sees now. There’s a wad of chewing gum stuck to the tire. Fucking pigs can’t place their refuse in an appropriate container? Where’s their goddamn sense of civic duty? Look at this shit!
Eyes on the ground, the vigilant citizen itemizing the detritus of society, cardboard and Styrofoam food boxes, plastic, aluminum and glass cups, cans and bottles still containing the root beer brown or neon orange or raspberry red dregs of coffee, sports drinks, diet sodas, craft beers, teas and designer waters, hopelessly out of date newspapers, cigarette butts, crumpled cigarette packs, big fat green and yellow loogies, pink pristine wads of bubblegum like little undeveloped fetuses, soggy, fully loaded diapers, unscooped doggie poop, bloody tampon applicators, surgical masks. Disgusting slobs! That’s the problem with goddamn society today! Nobody gives a shit about fuck! And what’s this crap? He sends out a sideways kick, a vestigial reflex from a year of karate in his freshman year in college, giving the boot, so to speak, to a row of electric scooters some fucking moron has left blocking the sidewalk and whoa! over they topple in a clatter of plastic and metal alloy uttering angry buzzing, beeping, flashing androidal cries of complaint. Murder! Mayhem! Help! Police! Take this scofflaw into custody! Slap him! Beat him! Teach him a lesson he won’t forget! Fuck you, machines! he growls with bone-deep gratification that immediately evaporates because, well, he wasn’t wearing one, a boot, that is, and, ow! ouch! ow! the overdue bill from his offending and offended foot has just now arrived at the central pain station in his brain where a chronic ache in his lower back has already filed a complaint. Goddamn it to hell, that’s all I need is a broken fucking toe, probably have to go to the goddamn hospital and get a fucking cast or something.
And, yes, glancing left and right to see if anyone has noticed, he does realize that he has been muttering and cursing out loud not entirely unlike one of those scabrous, drooling street people you pray to God doesn’t choose you as the object of his affection and, who knows, start licking or even eating your face. Although, really, Snowman, who gives a shit about some loony talking to himself when the whole fucking world’s talking to themselves. Look at this asshole yakking on his EyePhone®. No fucking idea where he’s going, who’s listening in on his conversation. No, I don’t wanta hear about your big score down on Sixth St. last night, asshole! Brrrinnng! Jesus fucking Christ, another one! Answer your damn phone, dickhead! Oh, shit … he reaches into the left front pocket of his cargo shorts, extracts an antiquated EyePhone® the size of a hardbound King James Bible, hoists it to his ear, and Iago’s voice, tinged with a micro-measurable dose of radiation, penetrates his brain. In the second or two it takes for him to comprehend what is being said his blood pressure soars like the mercury in a thermometer stuck up the butt of a boiled lobster. Fifty thousand?! Are you fucking crazy?! Tell that sleazebag to go fuck himself! SLAM! (beep?)
Hmm, well, that’s certainly interesting. Fifty thousand what—bucks? That’s a lotta moola for an ice cream peddler. Is the Snowman up to dirty tricks? Dealing in a little sideline, i.e., dealing? Good fucking God, how did I get sucked into this shit? And, hmm, that too sounds ambiguous. Exactly what is this shit he’s referring to? Given the circumstances one might guess it has something to do with this: the guy’s gotta be near sixty and he’s pushing a fucking ice cream cart? And you think that thought doesn’t occur to him at least once every day of his life? But, oh no, you shouldn’t have said that, Snowman, you’re not supposed to think that. No negativity, remember? Unicorns and fields of fucking daisies? Too late. Psycho become somatic, a deep throb has started at the base of his thumbs, not quite as opposable as they once were, the various osseous and cartilaginous connections gone stiff and arthritic from years of gripping this damn push bar. His lower back feels as crunchy as car tires on a gravel road and yeeoow that spot in his hip feels like somebody’s digging around with a rusty screwdriver. He won’t have to get a fucking replacement will he? Maybe there’s some kind of natural herbal thing. Well of course there’s a natural herbal thing. Keeping in mind this is Texas and in this great freedom-loving state taking a toke can still pull a life sentence if you ain’t the right kind (white, money) or your ma (black, brown, yellow, white trash) isn’t sucking somebody’s dick. Oh, but Snowman, Snowman (glancing left and right again before taking a quick toke from the baked clay chillum in his pocket), let’s not be so harsh. There are fucking ladies in the audience. Okay, okay! I’m sorry.
This bitching and complaining more or less his morning mantra when he’s still ironing out the kinks and hijinks, the aches, pains and ancient scar tissue in muscle, bone and gray matter. Only, Jesus Christ, just when he was really starting to dig in and, c’monnn, admit it, Snowman, enjoy this darkness, here’s this little girl sitting on a bench at the bus stop, shiny black pigtails tied with red, blue and green rubber bands, little matchstick arms and legs sticking out of a faded, threadbare in places, but otherwise clean and starched pink dress with ruffles at the knees, bashful brown puppy dog eyes looking up at him out of puddles of uncried tears. Her poor mama sitting next to her works standing on her feet six days a week behind the lunch counter at Moiphy’s Five and Dime and the same six nights a week with her aching back bent over a mop and pail cleaning the third floor of the Saddz Building while her daughter’s at grannie’s whom she loves dearly but … Mama looks so tired she could probably fall asleep right here on the bench but she knows if she does sure as shootin’ some concerned citizen’s gonna call the authorities (child neglect, abandonment) and they’ll take her to jail and her daughter away, and besides she clearly doesn’t have a penny extra to spend on whatever nonsense this grubby old ice cream man is selling. Oh damn it all to hell, he growls (inaudibly) as he extracts two PoPoPops!® from his ice box, gives them that quick maraca shake, shake, shake, and presents them to the little girl with a theatrical bow and an affected Liverpudlian accent (who knows why—all you need is love?). Here you go, Miss, one for you and one for yer mum, knowing full well the lady would never accept them herself, in fact, the little girl’s already so well-trained by her mother’s own stoicism and pride she’s on the verge of saying, no thank you, Mister, in her little tiny peep voice when he gives her an encouraging nod and in his best Bogie as good guy (Sabrina? The African Queen?) says, Go on, little Missie, we’re doing a free promotion today. But what’s this, a sentimental streak in our grouchy old Snowman? And even a grizzled smile as he hears pop! pop! and sees the mother’s and daughter’s faces light up with glee as the rainbow-colored mushroom clouds pop out of their cones like frozen cotton candy?
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