Elizabeth was six years old. She liked all sorts of things but she really, really liked ice cream. Rainbow flavored is the best. It really doesn’t taste like rainbows though. She wondered how a rainbow really did taste. She loved dogs too, but thought that rainbow flavored ice cream should win some sort of an award on one of those TV shows. Dogs should win too; Maybe rainbow ice cream should be full of sparks and fluffy marshmallows. She wondered if dogs liked rainbows. She didn’t know how sparks tasted, and didn’t want to eat firecrackers. She knew how marshmallows tasted. Marshmallows are yummy. She licked the ice cream on her fingers. Ice cream was great. This was the best ice cream in the world.
“Not with your tongue sweetheart” her mom said. “Use a napkin.”
“Why? I’ll lose it that way! Plus, it makes my hand sweet for when I pet Patches.”
Her mom scowled and put the napkin down. Their dog, Patches, would make sure that her hands were clean. Elizabeth really, really loved that dog. Her mom sighed and ate more Butter Brickle. She said it reminded her of when Granddad used to take her for ice cream. Elizabeth thought Butter Brickle tasted like wet socks. She didn’t really know what that meant, but it sounded funny. It was something that her friend Jennifer’s dad said all the time.
“Why couldn’t dad come too?” Elizabeth asked, her thoughts on her own dad.
“Uh. Because he doesn’t live with us anymore, remember honey?” Her mom said. That was still so confusing. “Now eat that side before it falls off.” Her mom said.
Elizabeth sighed. Her mom thought she was still just a baby.
Elizabeth didn’t care about all the things her mom had told her about being a good little girl. She knew she wasn’t a baby anymore, because baby stuff was silly. She really wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. Her bottom two teeth had fallen out. Besides, she could eat ice cream all by herself. She missed her dad. This really was the best ice cream in the whole world.
Her mom said it was time to go. “Time to go.”
“One more scoop?” Elizabeth asked. Her mom frowned. “We can save it for later. Put it in a cup!” She knew her mom would do it.
“No honey, we need to get going.” Her mom gave a stupid excuse. Her mom always had stupid excuses.
“But I want a scoop for later for when I’m tired and hungry.” Elizabeth said, mournfully.
“When you’re tired and hungry, then it’s probably time to go to sleep.” Her mom said.
Elizabeth didn’t want to go. Elizabeth wanted more rainbow ice cream. More ice cream. More! She wanted it now, and she would get her way.
“No!” She threw her unfinished cone on the ground and slammed her palms on the table. “I want more Rainbow ice cream for later!” She screamed almost at the top of her lungs.
Her mom’s eyes went really big and all the color left her face. But right at that instant Elizabeth didn’t care. She wanted this so badly, like she’d never wanted anything in her entire life… Ever.
The people at the little ice cream shop inside heard her scream through the glass, and the other couples sitting outside really, really heard her. She looked at her mom with the biggest frown she could make. “Right now mother.” she said.
That really worked. She had never called mom that word before, but her mom went inside and almost threw money at the man behind the counter, and brought out a little bag.
“Grab my hand. We’re going home and we’re going to have a nice discussion.” Her mother had her purse and her bag in her left hand and stuck her right arm down with her fingers way out. She reminded Elizabeth of the pelicans at the zoo.
“Fine,” Elizabeth said, grabbing her hand. Her mom almost dragged her to the car, the way Elizabeth sometimes did with her dolls.
Neither one spoke on the way home. That was fine with Elizabeth. She kept looking over at the white bag with the ice cream inside. She wanted it so badly, it was like it was Christmas morning.
When they got home, she ran into the house and ran to her room. She knew that’s what her mom would say to her anyway, she just didn’t want to hear it. She slammed the door and started walking around in circles. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Her brain was on fire. She wanted more of that ice cream.
Very slowly she opened her door to listen. Her mom was outside smoking but she was on the phone with her friend Jennifer’s mom. Usually she didn’t care when her mom talked about her, but she shouldn’t talk to her friend’s moms. That was mean.
She went downstairs as fast as she could, and went to the freezer. No ice cream? What? She looked on the kitchen table. No, it wasn’t on the table. Where was it? Where was…
Her mom had thrown it away. It was in the trash.
Her mom would pay.
Grabbing a spoon from the drawer, she ran upstairs as fast as she could. As she was at the top of the stairs she heard the pool gate door slam shut and then the sliding glass door opened and her mom’s voice… Like it was her regular voice. Her mom was still talking.
“And the thing of it was that she never acts like this, ever! And guess what? Huh?… Yes!… No!… She called me: ‘mother’ of all things! Has Jenny ever said that before? Ever… Yes… Oh! I know!” But Elizabeth didn’t hear any more. She was in the room with the Rainbow ice cream from the trash.
She had a strange idea to lock the door, but she had never done that before. She tried the little button and it clicked when she pushed it. There, she was locked in the room, and her mom couldn’t stop her. No one can open locked doors. Still, she felt like she should also do something else. She got in the closet and shut that door as well. It was dark, but there was a little light from under the door. She opened up the bag, opened up the little container and plunged the spoon in.
Mary hung up with Alison and put the phone down on the table. What in the world had come over her daughter? She has never acted like this! Never! The whole thing was surreal. Not in a million years would she have thought that her daughter could have acted this way… Especially in a public place!
She put the phone down on the table, reluctant to talk to Elizabeth after the fiasco she had caused. She wondered what her grandfather would say about that. Probably give her some Inuit advice about little children behaving in evil ways and being taken away by some watery monster. She laughed at that. There was that one story she remembered about some water demon. Callipoo… Something? Was that it? She picked up her phone and googled it. “Qalupalik.” That was it. The green skinned long haired monster that would drag bad children off to sea. She didn’t need her grandfather now that she had google, but she still missed his voice.
She sat down, phone still in hand. Qalupalik. Qalupalik. Call-oo-pail-ek. Interesting. She googled some more and found another article about it and still another and then even another one that talked about northern children and their psychological build remaining normalized while trying to break away from tradition. The viewpoints from the US Department of Education were funny though. That they would even care about the indigenous were unsettling. They stole everything and now wanted to help? The topic made her furious. Yuck. US government stuff. Thanks white people.
Still, it was an insightful reveal into her own childhood. She and Elizabeth had moved away when Elizabeth was still a baby, leaving Tim alone in the snowy wasteland that was Barrow, Alaska right after they renamed it. God, she had hated that place. Leaving and taking her daughter with her had been the best decision that she had ever made. God bless Tim, whatever he may be doing now… He’s just not doing it with us. She needed another cigarette.
Out on the back stoop she retrieved a pack of Misty Menthol Green 120’s from her little hidey-hole. She took one out and lit it with her green Bic. “Green, green, green,” she thought to herself. Green is all I want now. Screw Alaska. I’m so done with that place. I hope grandpa lives to be 120 so I don’t ever have to go back.
There was a splash out by the pool. Probably one of the neighbor’s dogs. She couldn’t see the pool directly from the back porch, you had to go out through the gate and round the hedges to get to it. But it was nice that the condo complex was designed in such a way that all of the back doors had access to one of the many pools. She put out her cigarette in the little ashtray and went back indoors.
She shuddered. Qalupalik. Her grandfather had raised her by himself and had told her that story. The green skin really scared her and made her behave. Was it right to lie to children like that? To tell them something wasn’t true to frighten them into good behavior? It had worked on her… Until she was seventeen and got pregnant, that is. Tim had been a hotshot snowmobiler, and he had whisked her away with attention and time that no other boy had shown her, and she had let him in her pants.
“Ugh” she said out loud, and hopped on the phone again. She had gone to get ice cream with her Elizabeth to have a good time. She knew about the place from Gloria, a friend she had here in town from Sitka, Alaska. Even though it was southern Alaska and had only half the problems Barrow did, they had become besties very quickly. Talking about winter while you were literally three thousand miles away was refreshing. She laughed. Having another Alaskan friend here in town was a miracle that she could never have prayed for.
Gloria and her husband Lennord were the owners of the ice cream shop. They made everything in the shop by hand from Lennord’s family recipes. They were both from Alaska. Lennord was from Kodiak, or maybe farther down the chain, where your whole life is at sea. She called Gloria.
“Hey Gloria.” Mary said.
“Hey girl, what’s new?” Gloria said.
“Oh nothing. Hey, we were just at your shop and Elizabeth threw the most God-awful fit over your Rainbow Ice cream. It was really weird.”
“Is she sick?” Gloria asked.
“Sick?” Mary said, not sure where this was going.
“Yes. Dammit. I told Lennard not to sell it. We get in stuff all the time from his family. They made their own vanilla from the Slender Spire plant and sent it to us. Lennord used it in all the batches of Rainbow.”
Slender Spire was technically an orchid, so it could be done. Most people don’t know how to extract vanilla, but the Inuit are resourceful. Having a natural plant from Alaska here in Arizona was weird enough, but to have been eaten by a child who was from Alaska… What were the odds?
“Wait.” Mary was a little dizzy. “They made vanilla?”
“Yes!” Gloria said. “Honey, check on Elizabeth and call me back.”
Mary was already going towards the stairs. “I’ll just keep you on the phone. Hold on.” she said.
When she reached the top of the stairs she heard a thump and breaking glass. It came from Elizabeth’s room. Going to the door, she tried the handle. It was locked.
“Elizabeth!” Mary yelled. “Open this door at once!”
“What’s going on?” Mary heard Gloria yelling on the other end of the phone.
Just then, Elizabeth started screaming.
Try as she might she could not open the door. “Elizabeth!” She screamed at the top of her lungs but all she heard was more screaming and a crash that sounded like her dresser being knocked over. Then Mary heard more glass shattering and Elizabeth’s screaming sounded like it was coming from outside.
“Elizabeth!” she cried desperately, working the doorknob back and forth, slamming her shoulder into it. But the glass? Why would Elizabeth have broken glass? Did she break out the window? Was she outside? There was only one way to find out.
Mary raced down the steps at full speed, and out the sliding back door. She looked up at the window. It was broken out and there was glass all over the ground. Why would she go out of the window?
The pool gate clanged shut behind her, behind the bushes. She missed Elizabeth by seconds. Why is she going to the pool?
“Elizabeth!” she screamed.
“Mommy!” Elizabeth screamed back. “Make her stop!”
What the fuck?
There was a large splash.
She rushed out the door and turned toward the pool.
Empty except for…
The briefest glimpse of Elizabeth’s legs going into the deep end.
“No!” Mary screamed and rushed towards the pool’s edge.
She had seen where Elizabeth had gone in. Right here. Hang on honey, Mommy is going to save you, she thought. Without thinking, she jumped in feet first, hopefully over her daughter. Elizabeth couldn’t swim without floaties.
When she hit, the shock of the water and the strange sensation of having clothing on disoriented her for a few seconds, but she was underwater grasping…
At nothing. She came to the surface and looked around.
There was nothing there. No Elizabeth. Nothing.
She went down again. Turned. Nothing. Turned again… Nothing.
She couldn’t see properly here. She got to the edge and pulled herself out and stood looking at the empty pool. She raced around the edge in disbelief.
She had seen her daughter go in! What in the world? She flipped her hair back and wiped her eyes scanning the pool back and forth. This was not possible.
She went back to the deep end. She hadn’t noticed it before, but there, just at the edge, was Elizabeth’s ice cream cup. It was on its side. Mary picked it up. It was still cool. It was also covered in long gray hair.
At the shallow edge of the pool, a lime green floaty sat in the water. Just now being hit with the ripples, it bumped the side of the pool.
Pauly Hart is a public speaker, actor, painter, singer, poet, and story-teller. His main focus today is writing. His latest works have involved novellas in the vein of “Classical Horror” from the Christ-centered world-view. The Horror story is the story where the character has to survive until the end. What better chance for survival than in Christ? Pauly writes not for the churchy types, but for those who would pick up a Stephen King book, giving them an alternative to the spirits. Pauly writes so that the Holy Spirit will have room made for him in modern day literature. He runs several websites all bent on leaving the mind of the atheist awash with the glory of heaven. You can find him at PaulyHart.com