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Authors: Jenny Mounfield

The Ice-cream Man

BOOK: The Ice-cream Man
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The Ice-cream Man

Jenny Mounfield

The Ice-cream Man

Jenny Mounfield

One summer afternoon three boys play a prank on the ice-cream man. This one decision sets into motion a chain of events that will forge a life-long bond, testing each boy as never before. Three boys united by fear and their need for friendship. Three boys united against the ice-cream man.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of two published junior novels as well as a number of short stories and articles for both kids and adults.

Her many hats include: children’s book reviewer, wife, and mum to three teenagers and numerous pets.

Also by Jenny Mounfield

Storm Born

The Black Bandit

For Daniel, always an inspiration

First published by Ford Street Publishing, an imprint of

Hybrid Publishers, PO Box 52, Ormond VIC 3204

Melbourne Victoria Australia

© Jenny Mounfield 2008

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

This publication is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction should be addressed to Ford Street Publishing Pty Ltd, 2 Ford Street, Clifton Hill VIC 3068.

First published 2008

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in- Publication data:

Author: Mounfield, Jenny 1962-

Title: The Ice-cream Man / Jenny Mounfield

Publisher: Ormond, Vic. : Hybrid Publishers, 2008.

ISBN: 9781876462680 (pbk.)

eISBN: 9781925000863

Target Audience: For readers aged 10-12 years.

Dewey Number: A823.4

Cover design and Illustration © Grant Gittus Graphics

Text © Jenny Mounfield 2008.

Ford Street website:
www.fordstreetpublishing.com

In-house editor: Saralinda Turner

Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

Electronic Version by Baen Books

www.baen.com

1

Marty flicked sweat out of his eyes as he hurtled down the path towards the bike compound. Where was Rick? He’d better not keep him waiting long. It was too hot to be hanging around. Marty swerved to avoid a kid with a terminal overbite and skidded to a stop. Scanning the faces of the kids crowding the gate, he quickly backed up. The last thing he needed was some smart alec ramming his legs for fun. As he did so, he caught sight of a scuffle at the back of the compound.

‘What? Got nothing to say, gay boy? Don’t he look pretty with his new hairdo, Robbo?’ A senior, his cheeks stained red with zits, loomed over a fat kid with all the menace of a speeding train. The kid’s red and blond striped hair flew as he was flung into the wire. Zit-face grabbed a handful of the kid’s designer hairdo and gave it a good tug. The kid squawked.

Robbo laughed. Then he hawked up a wad of phlegm and spat it at the fat kid’s boot.

‘Yeah, sure does, Stevo. He’s a real mamma’s boy all right. Bet he wears frilly knickers, too. Let’s have a look, eh?’ Robbo grabbed the top of the kid’s shorts and yanked. The kid let loose with a scream that could strip paint.

As one, the bike collectors turned to gawk, causing a major jam at the gate. Curses and cheers flew. Marty frowned. This could get messy.

With the waistband of his shorts halfway down his ample backside, the kid tried to make a break for it. Steve caught him easily and swung him into the corner of the compound. He bounced off the chain- link, eyes rolling. Marty remembered the rabbit his uncle had trapped last Christmas – a rabbit that wasn’t quite dead yet, but knew it was only a matter of time.

‘Leave me alone, Steve, or I – I –’ the kid said. Steve leered at him. ‘Or you’ll what, A-A-Aaron?’

‘Hey, Marty.’ Rick barrelled through the crowd at the gate and, ignoring the fight, ambled over to the last rack. He frowned down at his rusted ten-speed as though trying to figure out what to do with it.

The crowd dispersed, no doubt deciding there were better things to do on a Friday afternoon than stand around in the sun watching some loser get a butt-kicking. The last of their number wheeled past Marty, followed by Rick hauling his bike along by one handlebar.

‘C’mon, whatta ya waiting for?’

‘That kid . . .’ Marty said.

Rick turned to see what Marty was looking at. He barked out a laugh. ‘Y’mean Aaron?’

‘You know him?’

‘Sort of. He’s in my English class. Always copping it from someone. Not surprising when you look at him.’

‘What’s how he looks got to do with anything?’ Marty’s eyes darted back to the compound. Quick as a cobra Steve punched Aaron in the gut. As he yanked his arm back Aaron folded neatly in half and then with a grunt, fell onto his hands and knees. The top of his bare backside bulged from his shorts like newly risen bread dough.

Robbo parked his boot in Aaron’s butt crack and shoved him face-first into the dirt.

Rick threw back his head and guffawed. ‘Man-oh- man, if that isn’t the funniest thing I ever seen.’

A cold sickness rushed up through Marty’s chest. He gulped back bile. When the words came they tasted metallic. ‘Don’t you reckon we ought to do something before they kill him?’

Rick mounted his bike. ‘Like what? I’m not dobbing on them two. See the knuckles on Pizza Face? Man, he’s got hands like a gorilla.’

Balling his fists, Marty said, ‘What about all those martial arts lessons you reckon you had? You could help him if you wanted.’

‘You mad? Look at the way that guy’s shaking him. He could crack a watermelon in half if he wanted. No way I wanna be on the end of that.’

‘Well, I can’t very well do anything, can I?’ Martyregretted the words the second they left his mouth.

Rick stared down at him with a look that was a close relative to pity.

Aaron squealed. Marty’s head snapped around. Robbo was pinning Aaron’s arms behind his back while Steve slapped Aaron’s cheeks, back and forth, back and forth, with an open hand.

‘Stop that!’ Marty yelled.

Steve looked over, his hand paused mid-slap. His zit-streaked cheeks glowed.

Robbo looked too, and when he spotted Marty his raisin eyes widened until the whites showed.

A sneer crossed Steve’s face – the sort of sneer you get when you’ve just stepped in something the dog left behind. ‘Get outta here, cripple, or I’ll come over there and let the air out of your tyres.’

An angry heat exploded in Marty’s belly. Being stuck in a wheelchair always attracted the wrong sort of attention – attention Marty was heartily sick of. With effort he held the anger in check. These guys weren’t messing about. If he went over there he’d only get his head punched in, and that would have his mother and every other adult on the planet fussing over him. He didn’t want to abandon the kid, but he wasn’t stupid. That was another thing about being in a wheelchair: everyone thought you were a retard.

Marty spun around. ‘Let’s get out of here,’ he snapped.

Rick rode ahead, backpack swinging from his shoulder by one fraying strap. With a squeal of protest from the ten-speed’s worn brakes, he stopped at the school gate and waited for Marty to catch up.

Pulling up behind him, Marty turned his head and threw a parting glance at the bike compound. Steve and Robbo were shoving a limp-limbed Aaron back and forth between them. Why didn’t Aaron do something – anything? He was just taking it. And where were the teachers? Someone should have heard all the yelling and come running by now.

‘C’mon, Marty, whatta ya stuffing round for?’ Rick said, snapping through his gears.

‘I think we should wait a sec, you know, make sure the kid’s okay.’ Marty blotted his sweaty forehead on a shirt sleeve. He fixed Rick with a hard stare.

Rick rolled his eyes. ‘Geez, what for? I wanna go for a swim.’

‘Because he needs help,’ Marty shot back. He could understand Rick not wanting to mess with Robbo and Steve, but his total lack of sympathy for the kid was a worry. Had Rick always been this way, or had his attitude only changed after his dad died? Rumour had it Rick’s old man had been cut clean in half when his four-wheel drive hit an old ghost gum on Riverbend Road last Christmas. A thing like that could change a person. It was only after the accident that Marty had met Rick. When the new school year began he started hanging around the Special Education Unit where Marty went three days a week for physiotherapy. Before Marty knew what was happening, Rick had latched on and he had a new friend whether he wanted one or not.

Finally Robbo and Steve had had enough. It was little sport when the victim wouldn’t fight back. They slouched off, leaving Aaron slumped in the dirt. Marty waited until the older boys had disappeared behind the science block and then swung his chair around.

‘Geez, don’t tell me you’re going back over there,’ Rick said.

‘All right, I won’t tell you.’

‘It’s none of our business. One of the teachers’ll find him.’

Marty took off down the path.

Rick’s bike clattered to the ground. His feet slapped concrete. ‘C’mon, mate, give it up. Seriously, it’s none of our business.’

Marty leaned forward, arms pumping.

Aaron was on his feet and rummaging in his backpack by the time Marty reached the compound. Aaron pulled out the key to his bike chain and with fumbling fingers unlocked it. Blood streamed from both nostrils and one side of his jaw was ballooning. When he heard Marty’s tyres in the gravel, he jerked and threw a nervous glance over his shoulder. ‘P- Please, leave me alone.’

‘Sure, if you want,’ Marty said. ‘Just thought you might, you know, need a hand.’ He eyed the pile of books that had fallen out of Aaron’s pack. A dog- eared copy of
Wheels
magazine poked out of his maths book. Marty reared onto his back wheels and turned to go.

Rick idled over, looking bored.

‘Hey, look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean . . .’Aaron said.

Marty grinned. ‘Forget it. I’m Marty. I guess you know Rick.’

‘I’m Aaron.’ He smiled lopsidedly. It looked painful.

‘Yeah, right.’ Marty glanced at Rick, wondering what to say next. It was pretty awkward being around Aaron with his face turning six different shades of blue and his shirt covered in blood – especially since they’d done nothing to prevent it. Marty decided it would be better not to mention what had happened. Better for all of them.

‘Them guys really did a number on you, hey?’ Rick said.

Aaron licked his lips, eyes darting towards the road.

‘Get off his back,’ Marty said.

‘What’d I do?’

Aaron scooped the books into his pack and slung it over his shoulder.

‘You live near here?’ Marty asked. ‘We could walk with you if you want – just in case those guys come back.’

‘Gimme a break. I’m no friggin’ babysitter,’ Rick said.

Aaron grimaced. ‘Thanks, but there’s not much point. Steve’s my step-brother.’

Marty moved aside as Aaron wheeled his bike out of the compound.

Rick threw Marty a relieved look and shrugged. Marty didn’t know what it was exactly, maybe the

defeat he’d seen in Aaron’s eyes, but he couldn’t leave it at that. Aaron looked as though he could use a friend. Spinning his wheels, Marty went after him.

‘Hey, Aaron, wait up.’

Aaron, about to throw a leg over his bike, turned.

‘You like cars?’ Marty said, skidding to a stop. ‘I, ah, saw the
Wheels
mag.’

Aaron licked his lips and wiped a blood-spattered hand on his shorts. ‘Yeah, I guess.’

‘Well, I know this place where there’s an old VW Beetle, if you want to check it out.’

Rick grabbed the back of Marty’s chair and wrenched it around. ‘Hey, what’d you have to go tell him that for?’

Marty forced Rick back. ‘Don’t mind him; I saw the car first.’

‘Liar.’ Rick glared at Marty and gave his wheel a kick.

Before Rick could get out of the way, Marty swung around, front wheels off the ground, and charged.

Rick yelped and fell backwards as the chair’s footplate connected with his shins. Cursing, he scrambled to his feet. ‘Geez, Marty!’

Marty ignored him. Aaron grinned.

‘So, want to come down to the billabong? How about tomorrow?’ Marty said.

Aaron frowned. More blood leaked from his nostrils. ‘Billabong?’

‘Yeah, the car’s kinda stuck in a waterhole,’ Marty said.

‘And where is this billabong?’

‘Don’t worry, it’s not far,’ Marty said.

Rick snorted. ‘What, scared you might get a bit of exercise?’

Marty threw him a dark look. ‘So, what do you say, Aaron, wanna come?’

Aaron studied Rick the way a rat studies a cat.

‘That is okay with you, isn’t it, Rick?’ Marty said without taking his eyes off Aaron.

‘Like you care what I think.’

‘How about we meet up, say, nine o’clock at the footy field?’ Marty said.

Aaron licked his lips. ‘So, this car, it’s actually in a waterhole?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And you’re, like, sure it’s safe to, you know, be hanging out there?’

Rick sniggered.

‘Course.’ Marty frowned. Maybe Rick was right about this kid after all.

Aaron seemed to think it over. His tongue darted in and out and his forehead wrinkled. A dark clot of blood oozed from his nose. ‘Well, morning’s out. I’ve got to work in my mother’s shop.’

‘Your olds have a shop?’ Rick said, suddenly interested.

‘It’s nothing fun like pizza or fried chicken, just a convenience store.’

‘Whereabouts?’ Marty asked.

Aaron shuffled his feet in the dirt. ‘Over on Fifth

Avenue, near the bowling alley.’

‘Yeah, I know the place,’ Rick said with a curt nod.

‘So you can’t come then?’ Marty said.

‘Well, I could maybe meet you after lunch,’ Aaron said hopefully. ‘I’m supposed to work all weekend, but my mum will probably let me have the afternoon off if I promise to work a night or two to make up for it.’

Marty cracked his knuckles and then ran his palms over his wheel rims. ‘Good, ’cause I reckon it’s going to take at least three of us if we ever want to get that wreck moving.’

BOOK: The Ice-cream Man
9.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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