“Okay guys, who wants ice cream?” I asked. In my family you don’t have to ask about ice cream more than once – it’s an immediate attention-getter. We pulled off the street into the parking lot next to the ice cream store at about 8:45 in the evening.
Do you remember the ice cream shops from your childhood? These were the ones with white walls, pastel pink and blue alternating wall panels, and more fluorescent lights than your local Home Depot? They always had a certain smell; kind of a ‘Lysol’ meets ‘Mr. Clean Mainlining Sugar’ aroma.
With only a few tables and uncomfortable chairs along the glass-lined front of the building, it was designed to move you in and out before your dipped ice cream cone has enough time to drip. This was one of those places -- the kind I remembered from my childhood.
What I didn’t remember from my childhood was the fog that formed around the front door every time someone entered or departed this ice cream shop. As we walked closer to the entrance I discovered the cause of the ‘mist’. The night air was alive with Mayflies beating their bodies against the windows and doors in an effort to get closer to the lights, the lights of joy, the lights of salvation, the lights of eternity. Thousands of little ‘light addicts’ were looking for their fix from my local ice cream store.
“Kids, we’re going in – close you mouths, pinch your noses, keep your heads low, and walk fast – we’re getting ice cream and we’re having fun!” I advised.
Once inside, I realized that the ice cream store had been under siege for some time. There were almost as many Mayflies inside as there were outside. They threw themselves at illuminated menu boards and lighting fixtures above, and around us.
The kids working behind the counter looked as if they had been on a bloody field of combat all day. The teenager in the middle came over to take our order while his two buddies stood back, bleary-eyed, against the rear wall.
“I’ll have five medium chocolate-dipped cones with vanilla ice cream please” I said.
“You want to do that?” the kid asked.
“Sure thing – we love dipped cones, don’t we kids?!” My kids had begun to look warily up at the swarm around the lights above us. They made no discernable reply; but looked nervously around the store.
“Okay” he said, as he looked at the other two teens against the back counter. "Okay, he really wants the dipped cones..."
I realized what was wrong when he pulled the first cone out of the sleeve and started filling it with ice cream. In order to make a dipped cone you have to dip the ice cream into this warm chocolate goo that gets hard once it sits on the ice cream for a minute or two. The air was full of Mayflies. If he dipped it and a Mayfly happened to land on the cone before the shell had hardened, he’d be there ‘forever’, or at least until eaten.
My stomach lurched. Not wanting to alarm my family I accepted each cone, and after looking each over I handed it to my wife and she passed one to each of my kids. Four cones and no visible wings or legs yet – the kid behind the counter was on a roll. He served me the fifth, and final cone – mission accomplished! I paid what I owed and put a couple of bucks into the “College Fund” cup at the counter.
As we were leaving, my 16 year old son looked up at me and said, “I know you were worried about Mayflies getting into the ice cream.”
“Was I? I didn’t even think about it,” I lied.
He went on, “You don’t have to worry about Mayflies too much.”
“Oh yeah, why’s that?” I asked.
“Because the spiders on the ceiling are catching, and eating them... See, look up there in the webs,” he said, pointing to the ceiling. Spiders raced along the ceiling to meet and eat their latest victims. In fact, the ceiling looked eerily like a ‘reverse image’ of the view you see out of a plane window when you’re flying at night. The tendrils of web were connected by dust, dead bugs, and scurrying spiders. There were signs of life everywhere, and nowhere, above our heads.
“That was a very good thing you did; you know, not upsetting your brothers with the spider thing,” I said.
“Well Dad, if I made a big deal out of it they wouldn’t eat their cones and you would have thrown your money away – and I know you work really hard to make it,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, not knowing where this was going with this.
“And if I said something about the spiders, Jonathan wouldn’t have finished his cone, you know how afraid of bugs he is.” he continued.
“Yeah. And…?” I asked.
He grinned his best grin and said, “Dad, I know four of us that didn’t have a mayfly in our cone tonight.”
"But, there were five of us..." I muttered.
"Yeah, I know."