By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans bounced up and down on her toes while she waited for her mother to answer.
“What? You want to walk over to the drug store and have ice cream cones now?” Mom asked, her eyebrows raised. “In this rain?” She glanced at the fat raindrops chasing each other down the kitchen windows.
“We can wear our raincoats and hats!” Mac pleaded. “And boots! And take an umbrella! We won’t get wet!”
“It doesn’t seem like ice cream weather to me,” Mom commented. “It’s much too cold.”
“What’s ice cream weather?” Hannah asked.
Mac giggled. “She means summer. People like to eat ice cream in the summer when it’s hot.” She giggled again. “The weather, I mean. Not ice cream. But truly,” she looked at her mother, “I think winter is a much better time to eat ice cream. It doesn’t get all melty before you finish it. I don’t like melty ice cream.”
“You like any kind of ice cream,” Mom said with a smile.
“Not melty!” Mac insisted.
“OK,” Mom decided. “You may go. It can be an almost-the-end-of-Christmas-vacation treat.”
“Be careful! Don’t forget to watch out for cars when you cross the street and in the drug store parking lot!” Mom reminded them.
“It’s a good thing you brought your rain coat this afternoon,” Mac said to Hannah as she pulled on her bright yellow waterproof boots. She reached for the big black umbrella on the hook by the back door. “This isn’t exactly a pretty umbrella, but we’ll both fit under it,” she said.
Mac opened the big umbrella outside on the porch, and she and Hannah carefully went down the steps, arm in arm. The steps could be really slippery when it rained—as Mac had discovered on more than one occasion.
“Isn’t this fun?” Mac exclaimed as they strolled along the sidewalk, the rain drumming on the umbrella over their heads. “I just love walking in the rain!”
“Me, too,” Hannah assured her.
In two short blocks, the walk was over. Mac pushed open the drug store’s heavy glass door.
“It’s hot in here!” Hannah said, pulling open the snaps on her raincoat.
“Yeah!” Mac agreed. She stopped to take off her coat too.
The girls headed for the old fashioned soda fountain in the right half of the drug store. Their boots made squeaky sounds on the black and white squares of linoleum.
A group of high school boys talked noisily at one of the little round tables. Two moms with babies in strollers sat and visited at another. The red stools in front of the marble-topped counter were empty. Mac and Hannah grinned at each other. Sitting on the twirly stools was better than sitting at a table any day!
“What can I get for you?” a cheery girl with short black hair asked. The name tag pinned to her blouse read, “Mary Lynn.”
“We want ice cream cones,” Mac answered promptly. “Do you have peppermint ice cream? That’s my very favorite!”
Mary Lynn grinned. “It’s my very favorite too,” she said. “And you’ll be happy to know I haven’t eaten it all yet. One scoop or two?”
Mac sighed. “One, I guess. I mean, I’d really like two, but my mom would probably be proud of me if I just got one. She always says I need to practice good judgment now so I’ll have some when I grow up.”
Mary Lynn laughed. “OK. One scoop it is.” She looked at Hannah. “What can I get for you?”
“One scoop of strawberry, please,” Hannah answered.
“Coming right up!” Mary Lynn grabbed the ice cream scoop.
Mac and Hannah twisted their stools side to side. They watched the teenagers joking with each other. One baby began to cry, and his mother lifted him out of his stroller and cuddled him.
“Here you are,” Mary Lynn said.
“This is only one scoop?” Mac asked. There was more ice cream in her cone than she had expected.
“Yep,” Mary Lynn answered, her eyes twinkling. “It’s the one scoop size for people with good judgment.”
“Wow!” Mac exclaimed.
“Thank you,” Hannah said.
Mac and Hannah sat on the stools, licking their cones. “Look at this,” Mac said. She gave her stool a push and twirled in a complete circle.
“I can do that too,” Hannah said. She pushed with her foot. Her stool also twirled in a complete circle. Her ice cream cone kept twirling. It flew out of her hand and landed up-side-down in Mac’s lap.
“Oh!” Hannah gasped. Her face turned bright red.
The teenagers looked up to see what had happened. They snickered.
“Oh, dear!” Mary Lynn said. She leaned over the counter and picked Hannah’s cone off Mac’s lap. She grabbed a handful of napkins and gave them to Mac. “I don’t think strawberry ice cream will stain your clothes,” she said. “Have your mom rinse it out when you get home.” She glanced at Hannah’s horrified face and smiled. “Let me get you another cone,” she said kindly.
“I’m sorry!” Hannah whispered, her eyes downcast. She wished she had never come to the soda fountain. She wished she had never come to Mac’s house that afternoon. She wished she had stayed in bed all day!
“Don’t worry!” Mac whispered back. “It’s OK.”
“Thank you,” Hannah said softly as Mary Lynn handed her a new ice cream cone. She slid off the stool. “Can we go home?” she asked.
“Sure!” Mac answered. “I’ve never walked in the rain and eaten an ice cream cone at the same time before. It’ll be fun!”
The big, black umbrella sheltered the girls as they picked their way across the puddly parking lot. “Those boys shouldn’t have laughed at you!” Mac said indignantly.
Hannah felt her cheeks grow hot again.
“But that Mary Lynn was so kind! She didn’t laugh at all. She just fixed the problem like it was no big deal,” Mac went on. “I want to be just like that when I grow up! Maybe I’ll even work at a soda fountain too. In between my fire fighting jobs, I mean.”
“Me, too!” Hannah agreed. She had definitely appreciated Mary Lynn’s kindness! She licked her cone. Strawberry ice cream tasted really good in the rain.