The ice cream truck
sat by the side of the road, music cranked low, the ice cream cone on its roof spinning
and flashing a kaleidoscope of colours against its dark purple. Up close like
this, the cone didn’t look like plastic with a light bulb inside. It glowed all
over like it was made out of white-hot rock, with a spiral of dark red lava
from top to bottom.
The door slid open and
someone jumped out. The driver. There was something spidery about the figure,
something not right about its proportions.
it said, in a voice that sounded like an amplified buzz. “Come on, you
lurched. Was it talking to them? If Doof hadn’t been there, for sure he would
have run away.
But no, the spidery
figure was turned away from them. “Get busy!” it buzzed. “I feel
The service window in
the side of the ice cream truck clattered open. Red lights showed a menu board
and a couple of employees getting ready to sell whatever kind of ice cream and
treats the truck had on offer. The employees must have been short; only their
heads showed above the counter.
kids. Let’s go see what they’ve got.” Doof stood but Will pulled him back.
kids, but that other guy isn’t. Didn’t you see him? He’s really weird looking.”
A gang of teenagers
jostled down the road and stopped in front of the ice cream truck, yelling
orders for Frosty Flamesicle and Sulphur Surprise. Just like the cone on top of
the truck, the treats glowed like hot coals. The teenagers waved their
popsicles and ice creams, tracing lines of light, laughing and daring each
other to eat them. One took a lick and then another.
“Oh man, that
smarts! Love it!”
“I’m gonna catch
fire, but I can’t stop eating!”
“This one’s wild!”
“Look, I’m a
faded away as they moved down the road. “See, it’s okay,” Doof said,
jumping up. “Say, have you got any money?”
Will didn’t want to
get any closer, but Doof was more than halfway across the street.
“Doof! Wait, come
back!” Will’s voice felt as though it was being sucked away. Doof didn’t
stop but slowed, his shape blending into the dusk. I’m scared. Will stomped down that thought and ran after Doof.
“Look, there’s a
dog!” said Doof. A black form near the truck unfolded into a dog shape and
turned its head toward them. A big head on a big dog. Really big.
Dogs loved Doof. He
was always making friends with random dogs. But this was no ordinary dog. Dark
orange flames floated behind it. Sparks shot from its studded collar.
Doof started toward
the dog. “Hey, boy,” he said. “Come here.”
It shambled toward
them. Its eyes glowed and little sparks popped out from its fur, like one of
those happy birthday sparklers.
Will grabbed for
Doof’s arm, but he was too far away. The dog came closer. He didn’t look mean,
just weird, with the cloud of little lights around him, like dust.
boy!” said Doof. “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.”
Then the spidery guy
looked over at them.
heya! Dog!” The voice rose to a buzzing screech that hurt Will’s ears. It
did something to the dog too. He stopped and whined.
heya! Boys!” The tall black figure glided toward Will and Doof. It looked
like it was put together from pieces, arms and legs snapped into the body, head
bobbling on top. Its movements were both smooth and jerky, like it was worked
heya! We got treats for you!” Its voice twisted like wires, wrapping
around Will’s head.
“Doof, let’s get
out of here! Let’s go!”
Doof looked back at
Will. Will could see he was scared too. “But the dog—”
“Never mind the
dog. He’s their dog. Come on!”
The dog lurched toward
them, jaws open and dripping fire.
“Run!” Will yelled. But Doof just
stood there, watching the dog.
Then the guy moved,
snapping a whip that shot purple sparks. The dog shambled slowly toward him. Doof
finally turned and ran. The dog howled, a sound of empty loneliness that froze
Three blocks later,
Will sneaked a glance over his shoulder. No one there, just a faint glow of
departing lights. The ice cream truck was gone. So was the dog.
Neither of them said
anything until they were back at the corner of 12th and Maple, where
a streetlight shed its cold light on the pavement.
it?” asked Will. “It’s not really an ice cream truck. Who was that…
guy? And that dog came after us.”
Doof had been looking
at his shoes while Will was talking, but now he jerked his head up. “The
dog was trying to get away. I’m going to go back and help him.”
stupid! He was helping that weird guy. They were trying to catch us.”
“No, he wasn’t.
That dog needs help.” Doof sounded a lot older, almost like a grownup.
“You’d better go home, Willy. You’ll get in shit for being late.”
“I’ll be in sh— shit
for being out at all,” said Will. “Don’t your parents mind you being
out late like this?”
“Parent. Just my
dad. He doesn’t care much.”
Will thought about
Doof’s weird lunches and frequent absences from school, his lack of concern
about being late for meals. “Where’s your mom?”
Doof. “Since last summer.”
“You mean… she
died?” Will found himself whispering the last word.
Doof jerked his head
up. “No, Willy, she didn’t die.
She’s just gone.” He shrugged. “I dunno where.”
breathed. He couldn’t think what else to say.
“Okay, now you
know. So how about if you go home.”
“But you can’t
stay out all night! Come home with me. You can sleep in my room. Mom won’t
Doof made a sound that
wasn’t really a laugh. “Maybe not, but what about your dad?”
Will didn’t say