The Emperor of Ice Cream
by Lydia Ship
The Voice Box Bandit, back again, blindfolds them with their blankies and ties their ankles together with tube socks and fills their hands with toothpaste, props open their young jaws, and snips out their voice boxes. We arrive on the scene with our dash and our bark and our cursed need to be Authorities--yawping GPS coordinates to our pawky tagalong resident doctor--to see the child faintly smiling (the bandit administers anesthesia), a thin dribble of blood in the corner of the cupid-bow mouth. Never fear, Child! Resident Doc assures, wiping the child's mouth with a quick wrist comma. Voice boxes can be replaced quite easily, though after a quick skip back to dreamland, do let's play the quiet game for a tiny month as you must while your new voice box cozies in... and if you have zippered the lips and locked them tight, and promise not to speak for only a month, you will receive all the ice cream you can eat! Remember, silent as a mousey teacup, and all the ice cream will be yours! The children gape and grin, imagining a month of ice cream. (Initially, the parents gape as well, imagining a month of silence.) Off go the children on an ambulance ride with Doc for quick surgery. For their part, the children don't remember much--the man with a magic trick, the smell of peppermint, nice dreams, waking up with ice cream in the hospital--but it is their parents who are traumatized. Who is this man who has stolen their children's most precious voices, their innocence, their individuality and freedom of expression, their constitutional right to speak, their childhoods, and when can he be taken outside the gates and stoned? Technically, we tell them, though he did a horrible thing, the Voice Box Bandit did not steal their children's literal or metaphorical voices because the children barely remember the event and they're talking again within the month, but the child advocacy groups have gotten involved and the PTA and the Mothers Against Youth Outside and the hum and drum of parenthood has descended like an alarm-clock cloud upon us with protesting in our offices, endless phone calls, and picketing outside round the clock (we gape and gasp, hoping the parents themselves will shout so much they will voice-box-burn, god-bandit); while the rapists rape and the murderers murder and the robbers unnecessarily shoot people in the kneecaps before stealing their possessions and the remaining masses of nonsensers nonsense, we must now handle the ice-cream-hating Wipers of Small Noses, who feel so terribly guilty to be relieved for some peace and quiet in the house for once. Wonderfully, though, Doc himself continues to provide unlimited ice cream not only for the children as they mutely wend home from school, but, with a genial smile, for the police as well; as he says, "Lassies and Laddies, ice cream be the absolute good."
About the author:
Lydia Ship is a Contributing Editor at The Chattahoochee Review. Her stories have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Night Train, PANK, Staccato, Quick Fiction, Requited Journal, and Hobart; find links to these stories and others here.