Finally, some fucking sunshine. As if things hadn’t been bad enough this summer, it’s been the wettest June since records began. Since records began. Un-fucking-believable. Maybe that’s why it’s all kicked off the past few weeks. When the sun’s shining and everybody’s out and about, then there’s enough trade for everyone, but when it’s day after day of cold, shitty grey days then the market for ice cream gets a little bit more limited.
Today’s good, though. Today’s pukka. I’ve got through a box and a half of cones and it’s not even two o’clock. If it carries on like this, I’ll have to restock, just so I don’t run out when the schools let out at 3.30.
Speaking of which, shouldn’t these kids be in school? Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact they’re out here, but you probably don’t see the Germans or the Japanese letting their kids bunk off a Strawberry Mivvi, do you? Come to think of it, I’m not even sure they’ve got ice cream in those places. Germans probably do, but I dunno about the Japanese. If they do, it’s probably all raw fish and hot green mustard. Still, for better or worse, there’s nothing more British than an ice cream cone on a sunny day. We might not have an empire any more, but you can still rely on the ice cream van to turn up and make things just a little bit brighter. It’s not like driving an ambulance or raising money for charity, but I like to think I’m doing my bit in making people’s lives a bit better. I mean, look at that little bleeder there. Ice cream all over his face, but he couldn’t be happier. Like a pig in shit, he is. Smiles like that make it all worthwhile. I’m not one of those people who goes too soppy over kids – some of them are right little arseholes and no mistake – but selling ’em ice cream’s probably the best job I’ve ever had. Better than working the rigs and, let me tell you, the money’s almost as good. I thought Terry was exaggerating when he told me about it, but if anything he kind of understated it. Hopefully the weather’ll hold for a bit and I won’t have to start looking around for something else. What happened to global warming, eh? We’d better get a good summer from here on out, because otherwise me and Lisa won’t be going to Florida in September. She’s a fucking nut for rollercoasters, Lisa is, and I’ve been promising her that we’ll go over to Disneyworld and Universal Studios and that. But if this weather don’t pick up, I don’t know whether we can afford it. It’s bollocks, but what am I supposed to do? I can’t control the clouds in the sky, can I? I’m doing everything I can, for fuck’s sake.
Ha. Some stupid posh tart just complained that I sold her little boy a cider flavoured ice lolly, as if it had real cider in it or something. Daft cow. Felt like telling her about some of the other stuff that gets sold out of ice cream vans, but that wouldn’t do no good. No-one outside the firm needs to know about that. Anyway, she was making all sorts of fuss and insisted that I swap it for an orange one. Don’t nobody want orange lollies anymore, so I had to rootle around in the bottom of the chest freezer. Found one right at the bottom, just underneath the Two-Ball Screwballs and just next to Frank’s head. That’s been in there since last night, when me and Tel took it off Frank’s shoulders with a chainsaw. It was supposed to be a negotiation, but me and Tel didn’t have any intention of doing business with that fat wanker, so we did what we had to. Part of me wants to tell the stuck up mum about Frank’s head, but I don’t think she’d see the funny side. I do, though. I think it’s fucking hilarious. Maybe that’s why I’m in such a good mood. That and the sunshine. I was supposed to get rid of Frank’s head yesterday, but I didn’t have a chance. I’ll do it when the after-school rush dies down. Won’t be a problem – I’ll chuck it in the incinerator in Bexleyheath. In the meantime, I’ve got to keep an eye out – not just for Old Bill, but also for any of those Mr Freezy cunts. We told them before – the park and everything south belongs to us, but will they listen? ‘Course not, cheeky fuckers.
Mr Freezy. Honestly. What sort of name is that? It just shows them for what they are: Johnny-come-latelys who don’t know the first fucking thing about the ice cream game. Whippy, Softee, even a Creamee’s ok, but Freezy? It just don’t sound right. Ice cream’s supposed to be friendly and inviting. Freezy sounds like a brutal winter. It don’t make you think of summer days, you know what I mean? But, truth be told, that crew have been a bit fucking brutal. I mean, not so bad that we can’t handle, but the cocky bastards came on to our patch and have been nicking our customers for months. Another year, we might have let it go, but with the economy the way it is and all this shitty weather, well, there’s only room for so many noses at the trough, you know what I mean? So, yeah, things have got a little bit out of hand, but to be honest it was them that started it. The young one, Keith, he come in The Wheatsheaf the other week and starts giving it the big ‘un, saying that him and his uncle are taking over. Me and Tel were just having a quiet pint, but that mouthy sod wouldn’t let it go, so Tel smacked him one. Since then, it’s all been kicking off. Started off harmless enough, just slashing tyres and that, but on the Jubilee weekend it all got serious and that’s how come bits of Frank ended up in my chest freezer. It’s not just his head we put in there. We’ve got fingers, toes, the bits of skin where his tattoos were – anything that could be used to identify him. It’s my job to get rid of these bits, so we can’t be tied to it, but then the sun come out this morning and, well, I’ve got to make a living, haven’t I? Maybe it’s a bit of a risk, but I don’t give a fuck. I’m not letting Lisa down. Not again.
I know I’ve got to take Frank’s bits to the incinerator, there’s part of me that really wants to take his head and leave it on his wife’s doorstep. She must be wondering where he is by now and I’d love it if I could tell her. I’d drive up to that mock-tudor shithole, drop the head on her doormat and ring the bell, before hopping back in the van and driving off. I’d make sure I played the chimes, so they know who done it. (We use “Greensleeves”, because we’re a proper ice cream van. Those cunts use “La Cucaracha”, which is just stupid.) Imagining her expression as she sees Frank’s frozen head looking up at her is keeping me going through the day. Truth be told I’m kind of on autopilot as I’m handing out cones, lollies and drinks. That’s one of the perks of the job, really. Even the most complicated ice cream is a simple formula. Cone, squirt, nuts, sauce, flake, £3 please. I could do it with my eyes closed, which allows me to concentrate on what the blowback’s gonna be for offing Frank. I’d like it if they all got the message and fucked off back up north, but I reckon that’s just wishful thinking. It took some balls to come down to an area they don’t know, with no backing, and try to make a name for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate the fuckers, but you’ve got to admire their entrepreneurial spirit. That Keith’s a mouthy one, but the older one, Patrick, he’s the one most likely to get nasty. I’ve got a feeling that if any one person gets the blowback, it’ll be Tel. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fucking diamond, but he’s getting on and he ain’t got the same fire he used to. He’s got weaker since his operation and everyone knows it. If they do come for him, do I have his back? Few years ago, there wouldn’t have been any doubt, but everything changes and once they’ve had their eye-for-an-eye, we might be able to sort out a deal. One less mouth to feed means maybe I can take on the vans single handed and that would sort out a load of my problems. Tel got me into this game, but that don’t mean I’ve got to put up with his skimming off the top for the rest of my days.
I’m wondering what it would be like to be in business for myself when a kid in front of me starts bawling his eyes out as I hand him his ice cream. Not that unusual, but it snaps me out of my thoughts.
“What’s the problem, sonny?” I ask him. “Did you drop a bit on the floor?”
He just keeps on screaming and I can see a concerned mum in the background making her way over.
“Come on,” I say, not wanting to deal with another stuck-up yummy mummy who thinks every geezer around wants to lick her fanny, just cause she can get back into her yoga gear. “Don’t be like that. What’s the matter?”
I glance at the cornet I just handed him and I suddenly see what the problem is. Instead of a flake sticking out of the top, there’s a stubby finger with hair on the knuckles and a gold sovereign ring.
Exactly where the chocolate flake’s supposed to be. “Oops!” I say, reaching over and snatching the cone out of the little bleeder’s hands before he has a chance to say anything. “That’s for adults only.”
I chuck an ice lolly at him and slide the window shut, just seconds before his mum steps up. Time to call it a day, I think. Sun or no sun.