Ernie Stevens had owned the ice cream parlor on Market Street for over 20 years now. He had built the business from the ground up. He had taken what had been the old dry goods store and turned it into a place where families and small children came for an ice cream cone. His father had scoffed at the idea when he asked him what he thought about buying the store. He wished the old man was alive to see it now.
Ernie looked proudly at the glass display case and the vats of ice cream and the counter with the soda and milkshake machines. Small tables and chairs covered the floor area in front of the counter. Ernie had laid that linoleum floor himself. It was a far cry from the dingy old dry goods store with its wooden floor and wooden shelves.
The bell over the door jingled as the door opened, and Ernie turned to greet his first customer of the day. It was a Saturday so it was sure to be busy.
“Look, Mommy!” Annelise cried out, as she ran in before her Mom who was pushing a stroller with the baby inside. Annelise’s Dad, who had been holding the door, followed behind. “They have chocolate, Mommy!”
“I think Mr. Stevens always has chocolate,” her Mom smiled, “Hello, Mr. Stevens!”
“Hello, and how are you on this beautiful day?” Ernie smiled back.
“We are well,” Annelise’s Mom said, “Robbie slept through the night last night so we are all feeling great!”
“Such a handsome young man,” Ernie said, as he came around the counter and squatted down beside the carriage to admire the baby, “Hello, slugger!”
Robbie kicked his feet and gurgled in response.
“I’m afraid that’s the best you’re going to get out of him,” Robbie’s Dad said, “Strong, silent type.”
Ernie chuckled and stood to go back behind the counter. “What can I get you folks?”
After they’d ordered their ice cream, Annelise’s Mom stayed to talk to Ernie for a moment.
“Does Annelise come in here often by herself?” she asked.
“Maybe a couple of times a week,” Ernie said, “I keep an eye on her. She usually buys a cone and then leaves.”
“She’s been taking the ice cream to an old man in the park.”
“Barney,” Ernie guessed, “Nice old man. Shame about the Alzheimer’s.”
“Yes,” Annelise’s Mom agreed, “I met him and his daughter the other day.”
“They are a nice family,” Ernie said, “Her husband, David, drives a city bus. I’ve known them for years. Barney used to run the hardware store before he retired several years ago.”
“Annelise sure seems to enjoy his company.”
“He was good with the kids and always had time to help out with repairing bicycle tires or just listening when the kids needed someone to talk to,” Ernie said. “I think even with the Alzheimer’s that he misses the company of the little kids.”
He excused himself and turned to go help the next customer as the bell above the door jangled again. He could see two more families crossing the street and heading his way. Yes, it was going to be a busy day.
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