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  • Writer's pictureWriters In The Mountains

ICEBOX by Mick Benderoth

Memory. Icebox. I’m six. Nineteen fifty-one. Icebox. Ubiquitous, rectangular, white slab against the kitchen wall. Two doors. Top. Bottom. I love ice day. The iceman cometh. A massive block of ice between rusty tongs rests on his shoulder. Grandma opens the top door. The iceman slides the block in. Cold food for a week. I follow him out to the alley, his truck stacked with ice. He ice-picks me off a chunk, smiles, I smile back. Yum.

A big day. Our first refrigerator. The movers put the icebox on the back porch for the junk man. We all stand in awe in front of this big, white machine. Dad plugs it in. When it gets cold, food goes in. No more iceman. No more ice blocks. No more ice chips to slurp. Now, ice cubes. It makes me sad.

Out on the porch playing, I stop, stand at the ancient icebox, waiting to be picked up by the junkman. Get a bad idea. I open the bottom door, just big enough. I slide in, close it. Thunk! It's dark. Too dark. Quiet. Too quiet. Had enough. I want out. Feel around for handle. There is none. Outside only. I panic. Scream! Scream! Scream! Nobody. Isolated, me, totally isolated. My knees cramp up. Painful. Keep screaming, nothing. Hard to breathe. Gasp. Choke. Dizzy. Sleepy. Am I dying. Am I?. Then . . . nothing. Out cold in the ice box.

I wake up. Where? Groggy, monster headache. A big black rubber thing covers my nose and mouth. I hear the words "He's going to be all right." Turn my head. It’s a doctor in Baltimore General Hospital’s ER. I sit up. My mom, tears streaming, hugs tight. I cry too. Hug her tight back. Doctor says "They tell you to rip out the gaskets. Nobody listens. Five kids died last week. You’re a lucky boy.”

When we get home, the icebox is gone. Dinner time. The new white refrigerator dominates the kitchen. They call it the icebox. I shiver, quiver. I call it the fridge.

From Fiction Writing class with Thaddeus Rutkowski

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