Kane Jackson had a name that was considered cool. Where Vernon Punch was from, “Kane Jackson” meant “a wart that causes embarrassment”. Kane was a philosophy professor at a college; he stood in front of a room full of people for hours and talked while the people listened. Such a position was considered enviable on earth, and punishment where Vernon was from. Kane used to speak with uncontainable passion; now he spoke with barely concealed resentment. He wanted to tell people that his class was useless and they should study something else, but he knew his employers would not have paid him to do that.
Eighteen months ago, Kane’s six-year-old son died. He drowned in a pool while Kane and his wife were inside screaming at each other. Soon after that Kane started drinking toxic quantities of alcohol. Soon after that his wife left him and moved interstate.
Kane drove his blue BMW to the end of Sunrise avenue where there were no houses, and pulled over. He sat motionless for twelve minutes, staring ahead at nothing, then turned off the car’s engine. He looked on the passenger seat beside him, and then went back to looking ahead at nothing. A saxophone played.
Kane looked across the street in the direction of the saxophone. It was coming from a vacant block, through the crackling speakers of Vernon’s ice cream van. Huh, thought Kane, Milo always liked ice cream. Milo was the name of his deceased son, and still is. It seemed to Kane that finding an ice cream van there at that moment was a coincidence. It wasn’t. It seemed a coincidence to Kane because he had been thinking about his son, and his son had liked ice cream. Nearly all sons liked ice cream. The truth was, Kane had a reason for being there at that moment and so did Vernon. Since their reasons were closely related, it was natural they should both be there.
Kane reached to the back seat of his car and retrieved a local newspaper. It was eighteen months old. The yellow tinge of the paper’s front page reminded him that as a baby, Milo had had jaundice. The article filling the right-hand column of the paper’s front page reminded him that Milo had drowned. He would have remembered without the article, but he kept it anyway, as reading it was part of his elaborate self-punishment routine. He placed the folded paper on the passenger seat and then got out.
Walking across the road to the ice cream van, Kane noticed something. He didn’t notice the grass was rough and dry on that block despite recent rain, he didn’t notice the odd-shaped bottle sticking out of the rubbish tin beside the van, and he didn’t notice the pale and shirtless young man sitting like a zombie on the van’s roof. What he noticed was the ready-made ice cream on the counter. A generous swirl of vanilla, adorned with blue sprinkles and a drizzle of chocolate fudge, towered in a waffle cone. It was the exact kind of ice cream that had been Milo’s favourite. Kane approached the van and examined the treat. He didn’t notice the blackboard on the inside wall of the van, bearing a long list of names in chalk. About half the names had a strike through them. The next name due to be struck through was his own.
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