Stella Ridley Nine

09

Ice Cream Murder Man

 When Baby Robert came along and our Little Mama duties began to include him, we had ready access to a male specimen, and our attention in the man department turned to the issue of physical equipment.  “It looks like a little Vienna sausage!” Molly shouted the first time we changed his diaper, but her shout scared him and he began to wail, so he became our baby and not an example of a little man.  Still, we had some wild speculations about male anatomy and how it might be related to procreation, and we loved to be outraged by our own imagination.  We felt sorry for what would happen to Bobby as he grew up.

Long before puberty, we began to cast about for sources of information. At the drugstore, while Matu was occupied with the pharmacist or the perusal of beauty products, Molly and I would cruise the magazines, delighted that we could read and thus learn things that Matu didn’t want us to know.  Once we flipped through a magazine to find an article titled “What Men Really Want” and we had just run across the phrase “hand job” when Matu snatched the magazine from us, crammed it back into the rack, and gave us that raised eyebrow look before shepherding us out the door.  “What do you think it means?” I whispered to Molly in the car.  “Maybe it means manicure?” she said.  “Well, that’s stupid,” I said.  Molly said, “Well, why do you think it’s called a man-icure?”

Given the things we associated with men and the cockamamie information that we possessed, we spun out between us a cartoon universe of sex.  But we knew, too—although grownups tried to shield us from it—that Strange Men could be dangerous agents of death.  Just before school let out for summer one year, a ten year-old girl was kidnapped, driven to a secluded spot near the lake, and raped and murdered—the paper said “violated.”  The man who did this was the Ice Cream Man who had been in every neighborhood and knew every child.  He ran over her with his car before he left the scene.  I would not have known any of this had it not been for a girl in my class named La Rue Jones.  At recess, she related, with great relish, many details of this inconceivable and frightening occurrence.  She said that her mother had forbidden her to look at the reports in the newspaper but she had sneakily clipped them out (probably with the blunt scissors we were still using in school) and kept them hidden in a shoebox in her closet. We weren’t exactly sure what “violated” meant, or rather, I wasn’t sure—I think La Rue knew everything there was to know, some of it firsthand.  Even if the paper had said “rape,” however, I wouldn’t have known what it meant.  All I knew of rape was the rape of the Sabine women, which I took to be a massive raid in which women were carried off to be made into slaves.  La Rue said that “violated” meant that having sex killed you.

The Ice Cream Man, The Murder Man, had a family—a wife and two young daughters of his own.  He had raped and beat the girl and then run over her with his car—back and forth, back and forth, over and over before driving away to get home in time to have dinner with his family.

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