Look, is it so terrible I can't make up my mind which flavor to get?
We're at the shore. I accidentally made a hotel reservation for a place in Ocean City. I prefer Cape May but I phoned a hotel in Ocean City. Fortunately before we set out Scott remembered, Hey that's Ocean City! You wanna call up and cancel?
Nah, I said. Ocean City is closer. Let's go there.
We're on the Boardwalk. Half of Philadelphia is there. A few New Yorkers. You have to look both ways before crossing from one side of the Boardwalk to another.
Hey, look! I say. There's no people at Kohr's Frozen Custard.
A teenage girl is behind the counter. I threw myself at her mercy. "I don't know what to get," I said. "I love them all."
"My favorite is strawberry," she said. "Wanna taste?"
"Sure, a teeny tiny taste please."
"Omigod," I said. "This is fantastic. I'll have it dipped in chocolate."
Scott and I shared it. The hot chocolate crunched in your mouth. Hmmm, I wonder if the local Dairy Queen has the same thing. I would not be surprised.
When we got home, we stopped at the Giant Supermarket so we could fulfill our tradition as Americans and grill out on Memorial Day. Scott already had hot dogs from Whole Foods - that's right - healthy hot dogs. No cancer-causing nitrates or extra sodium to puff up your veins n arteries.
We invited "Maria" over from the support group, a peppy woman who hears voices. The three of us sat on the front porch. If her drunken father hadn't abused her and taken all his self-hatred out on her, that woman would be another Dr Daniel Fisher or Elyn Sacks. Super smart. Notices everything. I drove her home. "What's that noise in the back of your car, Ruthie?" she wanted to know.
It was one of my innumerable bottles of water lost under the back seat.
Earlier, Scott made an announcement to Maria and me.
I have good news, he said. I think I'm a father.
I wondered who the proud mother was: me or Maria?
Ahhh, I said, I think I hear the babies now.
Yes, the mother is feeding them, said Scott. Delicious worms. Yummm!
Maria wanted to go look right away. And Scott wanted to show her. So they softly crept to the back porch where the nest hung on a high lamppost sheltered from the rain and the wind. They heard the birds chirping but couldn't see a thing.
Maria shared a sad story about a dead baby robin in her driveway. Did that happen recently? I asked. No, she said, when I was a child. Sorry for bringing it up.
Well, I said, it's good to get these things off your chest. Here's my dead baby robin story.
I closed my eyes and remembered. There was a storm, I said. One of those great midwestern thunderstorms that knocks everything about. The wind howls and if you're a kid you just wanna go outside and stand in the drive a few moments till the rain starts pouring down.
After the rain, you go outside to look at all the dead worms on the driveway and all the tiny sticks and leaves blown all over the place. But - hey! - what was this on our driveway. Little me, little Ruthie, playful nature-lovin little Ruthie ran over only to find an entire nest - twigs sticks gum wrappers and all - right there on our driveway in Cleveland Heights, Ohio - with four tiny naked baby robins howling for mama right there on the pavement.
Carefully, o so carefully, I put the little darlings back in the nest and brought them inside.
Thinking clearly, I went and got a wad of cotton to keep the little darlings warm throughout the night. The next morning I would feed them with an eye-dropper.
When morning came, I leaped out of bed only to find each and every one of the baby robins dead.
My father was upstairs getting ready for work, lathering his face.
Dad, I said, my baby robins died.
You smothered them to death, Ruthie, he said, pulling the razor over his stubble.
They were so darn cute.