Izzy’s Blue Bell Ice Cream
Mama Lou strolled back under the tent. She joined Ethel Mae at the buffet table and automatically pitched in with the set up of the potluck offerings. Delilah had retreated to the back of the tent, sitting alone at one of the banquet tables, her body and face rigid as she observed the scene, gnawing on her thumbnail.
“Delilah,” Mama Lou called out then waved her over. “Come on over here and help me out.” She thrust a pair of latex gloves into Delilah’s hand and directed her to set up the dessert table. Mama teased the younger woman, at first coaxing only a small smile. By the time that table was organized and they’d moved on to putting out paper plates, cups and plastic ware, the dimple next to Delilah’s mouth made frequent appearances and Ethel Mae was struck about how lovely she was. Several of the other young mothers pitched in. One of them plugged their iPhone into a small speaker and soon, the group was singing along to a diverse playlist that included The Canton Spirituals, the Mississippi Mass Choir, Tye Tribbett, Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams.
Charlotte, Pastor Griffin’s wife, gathered closer but stood apart. She kept a watchful eye on Mama Lou and several times, looked as if she were going to approach the older woman but something held her back. Ethel Mae wondered what that was about but figured they would find out soon enough.
“Ms. Earline,” said Ethel Mae. “What say we go over and join the fun? This is supposed to be a party, a time of fellowship. We can worry about business later.”
Ethel Mae assisted Ms. Earline to her feet and they held hands as they approached the tent. The kid-chatter and streaks that had been nothing more than white noise suddenly amped up to excited screams and the adults turned to see the cause of the disruption.
A tall, dark-skinned young man, a neon pink polo-type shirt tucked into low-riding jeans. As he made his way across the lawn, his oversized boots crunched and crushed the grass. Behind him, children, ranging from two through late teens trailed after him. A pair of wraparound sunglasses were perched on the top of his head, within the folds of his thick dreadlocks. His lean,sharp features were off-set with dark eyes that were appeared to be constantly seeking but settled nowhere. His movements made Ethel Mae think of a shark cutting through the ocean.
“Who’s baby is that?” asked Ms. Earline.
Ethel Mae shrugged her shoulders. “I have no idea.”
The new arrival pulled a large wheeled cooler behind him. Despite his burden, he still managed an exaggerated swagger, thin lips pulled down in a slight sneer. He parked the cooler with a slight grunt in front dessert table.
Mama Lou said, “What’s this, young man?”
His shoulders did a quick up and down. “For the potluck.”
“I gathered,” Mama Lou’s tone was wry. “What I meant was, what’s inside?”
In lieu of an answer, he threw back the lid and stepped aside. Inside were boxes of Blue Bell Moo Bars, single-serve, pint and half-gallon size containers of the South’s finest – mint chocolate chip, buttered pecan, homemade vanilla, and cookies and cream. There was even sherbet and lowfat yogurt for the waistline conscious.
The congregation gave a collective inhale at the bounty and then several of the kids let loose, “ICE CREAM!”
It was like a signal and the crowd pounced. Before they could dissolve into a feeding frenzy, Mama Lou’s klaxon voice cut through the cries of ecstasy. She scooped up the Moo Bars and single serve containers and thrust them into Delilah’s arms. “Pass these out to the younger kids.”
Mama Lou directed one of the men to set up another table. Several of the mothers went back inside the tent and then re-emerged with styrofoam cups and bowls – someone had even remembered to bring an ice cream scooper – and a new table cloth. The bid for order soothed the crowd somewhat and as the kids snatched their treats and ran off, the remaining adults were content to form a line.
As Ethel Mae snagged a cup of the mint chocolate chip for Ms. Earline, she noticed that the young man had drifted to the back of the crowd. The sunglasses now covered his face, his thick, muscled arms folded across his chest. His head suddenly turned in her direction, as if he sensed her regard. As their eyes met, his arms dropped to his side and he walked away.
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