By Clay Coleman
—Taking her hand, they run out in the street;
It was a high-pitched noise, almost like a shriek, but when it played a second time, I realized it was an ice cream truck, which surprised me because I wasn’t expecting that during a pandemic.
—Faster and faster over the bricks;
Since Gov. Mike Parson issued his “Stay Home Missouri” order earlier this month, Missourians have been told to avoid leaving their homes unless necessary. Limiting travel for essentials like food, medicine, and necessities, I wondered if ice cream made the list.
—Past the grey columns hungry to eat;
Currently, 4,686 Missourians have the COVID-19 virus. Audrain County is still reporting zero, but that will change as more testing sites becomes available. Dr. Sandra Hewlett from the Audrain County Health Department called me earlier in the day. “Keep telling people to stay home if they’re sick, she pleads with me.” I didn’t think to ask about ice cream.
—Past desperate faces taking their licks;
The music echoes through the town as I pass by the empty streets. Cars are in driveways; the people were hiding from something unseen.
There, parked near the grass, a white truck covered in decals that were fading fast.
—Faster and faster, they run down the street;
Looking at the most recent data from Missouri’s Department of Labor, new unemployment claims have climbed over 100,000 every week. Parson recently signed a supplemental budget bill allocating nearly $6 billion in federal stimulus money to help develop new medical facilities, purchase personal protective equipment, and assist hard-hit local governments. Still, right now, my only thoughts were on ice cream.
—Her ribbon falls off as she speeds up ahead;
My journey at an end, I walk up to the truck and start taking pictures. The music suddenly fades, as the driver steps into the back and starts wiping down wrappers, wearing black rubber gloves. Just then, a little girl races past me and goes up to the counter.
—A wave of her hand, a task is complete;
She hands her money to the driver, then turns and faces me. She poses, then smiles as I take her picture. Her mother, holding her son, hands the driver more money, then grabbing their treats, allows one final photo before they walk away.
—A sliver of ice for her sister instead;
As I stand there, face pressed against the viewfinder, I’m suddenly reminded about another little girl—a girl from Dogtown, who one day, during a great depression, raced with her sister to catch an ice wagon, past the gloom of the unknown, past the long lines at the soup kitchens, and taught a young grandson about the worth of a treat.