Commission on the Sale of an Ice Cream Whore

(Heads up, friends.  Though I’ve tried to be delicate, there’s some adult stuff in this one.  Like most of my work, it’s a true story, just a bit more literary in nature.  Tread lightly.  Sacred territory here.  Thanks for the nudge, Marie.)

IceCream_LI

From my second floor office window I see her waving to the ice cream truck as it rounds the corner.  It slows and pulls to the curb.  With an excited hop she breaks into a sprint, off to collect her special treat.

Like a comet’s tail, her flaming red hair trails behind, flowing in the wind.  Wide eyes.  Mouth agape.  Both betray a child’s joyous heart.  Alabaster skin covered in a constellation of freckles.  Tube socks worn from summertime adventures are bunched around her ankles, revealing bruised shins and scabby knees.  Telltale trophies of kickball, hopscotch, and double-dutch jump rope.

In my sanitized office space, I watch with an odd mix of humor and sorrow.  I miss childhood.  There are many things I miss.  And missed.  Growing up isn’t easy—not for any of us—but you’d never know it by looking at me.  I ooze with success.  Intelligent.  Witty and charming.  Got it all together.  And pretty darn sharp in my crisp suit and silk tie.  Wingtip shoes.  See my overflowing day-planner?

I’ll be meeting a client for lunch in a bit.  We’ll go somewhere nice, surrounded by the beautiful people, and I’ll charge it to my company’s expense account—a small investment for them if I close another deal.

To be honest, a part of me hates the whole deal-closing sales shtick.  It makes me feel like a whore—telling people whatever they want to hear just to get a signed contract.  We have a giant bell in the office that we ring whenever one of us closes a deal.  I wonder for whom the bell tolls.

My boss says, “Don’t think of it as not being real.  Consider yourself a chameleon.  In sales and marketing, you have to adapt to your environment.”

Watching that ice cream truck, I’m not sure I want to adapt to my environment.  It betrays something deep inside of me.

Maybe I’ll skip the lunch meeting.  Maybe I’ll just quit.  I hate this job.

I have a sudden craving for ice-cream.  Or maybe it’s something else.

The ice-cream man pulls away and the little girl is gone.  Just gone.  He’s driven off and I realize that she’s locked away somewhere inside, buried among the frozen delights, never to be seen again.

Oh well.  I’ve got my lunch meeting.  My commission is all that matters.  Gotta ring that bell.

I have kids to feed.  One of them is my 2-year-old little girl.  She loves ice cream.

Her name was Wendy.

She’d come to town to attend the university.  Smart, pretty teen with glorious red hair and a future spread out like an uncharted universe.  She would end up going places.

Indeed.  Don’t we all?

Became mixed up with the wrong crowd.  Tried drugs.  Got hooked.  You know the story.

The company I worked for had leased an office building on Sixth Avenue.  At the time, Sixth had become the runway for dollar store prostitutes.  They once kept to the alleys of 6 ½ and 4 ½, but despair was becoming more mainstream in our little hamlet.

It’s amazing what you get used to.  Tom was prophetic:  We really do adapt to our environment.

Twenty-four hours a day the hookers walked mindlessly up and down the sidewalks.  It was like watching The Walking Dead long before there was such a show.  Pasted on, phony smiles.  Vacant eyes buried under layers of cheap mascara.

However, the dead liven up at the sign of a potential john, whether or not he’s actually a Baptist makes little difference.

The dead are driven only by a deep hunger that is rarely understood … by any of us.

One morning my coworker had been offered oral sex for five bucks outside of our building.  Of course he turned her down.  Our daily meeting started at 7AM.

“No thanks,” he’d answered politely, as if declining ice cream.

The girl had turned and crossed to the other side of the street.  Ruddy hair hanging in matted clumps like tangled up Christmas ribbons in a dumpster.  Long and tall.  A usual suspect.  Everyone knew her as “Big Red.”

“Guess what Big Red just asked me,” my buddy said as he walked through the office.

Someone made a jab about the early bird getting the worm.  Awkward laughter.  And then we started our meeting.

Let’s focus, people.  Sales.  Commissions.

I suspect Big Red hated her job even more than I hated mine.

Her name was Wendy.

__

 

When I saw Big Red promenading toward the ice cream truck that day, it was like watching a dark comedy.  Surely this was a scene from Seinfeld—a hooker getting picked up by an ice cream truck.  That has comedy written all over it.  Whenever I share this story, people laugh at first.  It’s the perfect premise for a joke with a frosty punchline.

I watched her climb in.  Then the truck pulled away.

I think of her nearly every time I watch my teenage daughter eating a bowl of ice cream … and my heart breaks.

Her name was Wendy.

I didn’t know it at the time.  To be honest, I didn’t care enough to ask.  There’s so much brokenness in the world, we become numb to it.  I worked in sales.  I was driven by commission.

Big Red and I had a lot in common, though I didn’t know it then.

Commission.

Powerful word, that is.

A few years after seeing her disappear into that ice cream truck, Big Red was found dead.  Murdered.  Some drug dealer had put a hit out on her and somebody took the job.  Amazing what we’ll do for money.

It wasn’t until I read in the papers about her death that I learned Big Red’s real name.  I remember an interview with her mother who shared some of her daughter’s story.

Wendy.

I wish like hell I’d known her name.  But I never asked.  In many ways I feel like I helped pull the trigger that killed her.  That haunts my soul.  I think we all bear some guilt in the ways we fail to reach for the broken hearts we encounter.

It would’ve cost me nothing to simply ask her name.

As I said, my daughter—now a teenager—loves ice cream.  She always has.  I think all little girls do.  I rarely eat the stuff.  Sometimes the thought of it turns my stomach.

It reminds me of Wendy.

Of a little girl lost, hiding somewhere deep inside of an ice cream truck.

And our great commission:  Love God and love others.

At times that can be inconvenient.  We’re busy people.  On the run.  Things to do.  Deals to sign.

But what if we all took just a moment to engage that lost child, even if only to ask her name?

We have to.  It’s our commission.

I wish I’d thought more about ringing that bell, Wendy.

It tolls for thee.

 

Friends, if this touched your heart, please share with others.  I’m humbled by your kindness.  Thank you.

 

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9 thoughts on “Commission on the Sale of an Ice Cream Whore

  1. The Gospel lectionary text this Sunday is “The Woman at the Well”, yes that woman. The one whose name we don’t know. The samaritan woman, from that hamlet. Well, I don’t know if I will tell your story in some form (credited to Fulks from Foulk). But it makes me think of that woman on that day and Jesus conversation with her. Ice cream / water – we all need some of both and a whole lotta love. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HI! Mr. Bert Fulks! Your article is great and amazing!
    I’d like to invite you to do a guest post for me. Are you interested in this? Could you please kindly give me a PM? Thank you so much!

    Like

  3. Hi Bert,
    A cousin (named Wendy) here. I am not that Wendy in your story but, without God’s grace, I could have been. We all think this would never have happened to us but there are thin threads that save us and thin, broken threads that can lead us to despair. Thanks for writing. Thanks for doing what you can to repair some of those thin, broken threads.
    Wendy Treash

    Like

  4. WOW!! What a powerful message and something we all are guilty of, just passing by. Even when my heart is telling me to engage, sometimes I just don’t “feel” like it for one reason or another. Sometimes those simple presenters is all a person needs to keep moving forward. Thank you for sharing, definitely something I needed to hear today☀️

    Liked by 1 person

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