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The Ice Cream Guy Keeps on Truckin'

By Jerry Zezima

If you want to impress the children in your life — in my case, that would be five grandkids who all have a sweet tooth — break the exciting news that you have arranged for them to own, free of charge, the coolest vehicle ever:

The neighborhood ice cream truck.

That’s what I recently did for my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly, who would eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner if only their parents, who sadly don’t know the health benefits of vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles, would let them.

The ice cream truck in my neighborhood is driven by Mr. Mike, a terrific guy who’s as sweet as the stuff he sells.

“Permission to come aboard,” I said to Mr. Mike after he stopped his truck in front of my house.

“Hop up!” he chirped, mercifully turning off the monotonous jingle that plays over and over while he rolls down the street.

“Doesn’t that song drive you crazy?” I asked.

“I don’t even hear it,” said Mr. Mike, who has tuned out the tune, “Turkey in the Straw,” in the 23 years it has blared from his truck. “But at home, the TV bothers me.”

Not much else bothers Mr. Mike, who was born in Turkey.

“But not in the straw,” he noted.

Inside the truck, I beheld a treasure trove of treats.

“You have enough to feed an army,” I told Mr. Mike, who served in the Turkish army before coming to the United States in the 1990s.

“And I sample it every day,” he said. “I taste the chocolate, the vanilla, everything. I even taste the milk to make sure it’s fresh.”

“I guess you like ice cream,” I said.

“I love it,” said Mr. Mike, who is 49 and has a slim physique. “In fact, my whole family is crazy for ice cream. My wife, my daughter, my niece, my nephew, my sister, my niece’s kids — they all eat it.”

“My grandchildren love it, too,” I said. “Two of them are sisters and we go out for ice cream all the time.”

“How old are they?” Mr. Mike asked.

“Chloe is 9, and Lilly is 5,” I said.

“When I retire, I’ll give them the ice cream truck,” he said. “They can take over the business.”

“They’d probably eat the profits,” I noted, “but I’ll tell them what you said.”

Until then, Mr. Mike will continue working hard, although he intends to take time off in September so he and his wife can celebrate their 30th anniversary.

“I’m going to take her on a trip,” he said.

“In the ice cream truck?” I asked.

“No, on a cruise ship,” Mr. Mike said.

“I hope there’s ice cream on the boat,” I said, adding that my wife has a cup of ice cream every night after dinner. “She puts it in the microwave.”

“What’s your favorite?” Mr. Mike inquired.

“I like toasted almond bars, but I can’t find them anymore, so I go with vanilla,” I said.

“Coming right up!” said Mr. Mike, who gave me a cone of soft serve that he dipped in toasted almond topping.

“What a combo!” I exclaimed as cream and crumbs lodged in my mustache.

After I inhaled it, Mr. Mike let me pour a cone of vanilla soft serve that he dipped in cherry topping.

“Here’s a magic trick I do for the kids,” he said, holding the cone upside down and swinging it back and forth like a pendulum.

“The ice cream isn’t flying all over the place,” I said in wonderment.

“The secret: fresh milk,” Mr. Mike told me.

“I won’t try that in the house or my wife would kill me,” I said.

Speaking of which, Mr. Mike once made a special delivery to a cemetery.

“A customer told me that his father loved ice cream,” he recalled. “The father said to the son, ‘When I die, I want everyone to have ice cream.’ So I delivered ice cream to the funeral.”

Then there was the guy who washed Mr. Mike’s truck in his driveway in exchange for free ice cream.

“My customers are the best,” Mr. Mike said. “We always joke around. They say to me, ‘You’re crazy, but we love you.’ ”

The following weekend, when Chloe and Lilly came over, I told them what Mr. Mike said about giving them the truck.

“Wow!” Chloe gushed. “That would be great.”

“You can drive,” Lilly told me. “And don’t eat all our ice cream.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of six books, Leave It to BoomerThe Empty Nest ChroniclesGrandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent AdventuresEvery Day Is Saturday and One for the Ageless, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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