David had babysat John and Mary many times over the years. And many times they demanded one of his wonderful stories, often made up on the spot, before they went to bed. Some of the stories had scared John and some of the stories had frightened Mary but that was all right, as none were too scary and David told them with great energy.
They knew too that David was notoriously cheap. Even though their parents left money behind for treats they found it very hard to get David to give the money over to them. He held it like a sacred trust and secretly they suspected that David pocketed the cash after they went to bed.
Mary said as much this night when they heard the familiar chimes of the Ice Cream Truck waft into their neighbourhood. There wasn't much time, there never was, for the Ice Cream Truck never stuck around long enough for them to get the cash and make it out. "You'd think", thought John, "He was paid by the mile or something".
So Mary challenged David, risking that this might get the money from him quicker. "You get to keep the money we don't spend, don't you?" she asked brazenly. "No." he replied, "I don't." "Then why not give it to us?" queried John. "Well…" began David, "a lot of that has to do with two other children, very much like yourself that I used to know, and what happened to them." "What happened?" asked John now curious enough to suffer through the jabs to his ribs that Mary was giving him to warn him off asking. But it was too late and David began...
Mary stopped him, "We know this one, there's a witch and a gingerbread house and they get eaten!" "Nope that's not this one" said David and with a glare from John Mary grew quiet and David continued...
"On an ordinary day, Hans and Greta would play, they'd frolic, and some would even say they'd cavort.
On an ordinary day, their mother's would call out, "Dinner's ready!" and they'd hastily say their good-byes to one another, as they'd darted for home and the meals their mother's had so lovingly thawed out for them.
On an ordinary day, there would be no truck, no metal toned music echoing beyond the hills and certainly no possibility of ice cream.
But this was not an ordinary day, as you shall soon learn.
The chimes of the treat wagon sifted into their neighbourhood with the wind. Hans and Greta were at once taken by the promise it heralded.
But both were beset with the same problem, "I have no money" said Hans. "I'm tapped too" added Greta. And realising it would not be long before the truck and its precious cargo were gone, they came to the point, the source of their problem, the root cause. "We need cash!" they both exclaimed and with an unspoken agreement they were off.
It was still early and her mother could not be found. "What to do?" thought Greta as she burst through her front door.
It was still early and his dad wasn't around. "What to do?" thought Hans as he raced into his house.
With a tap and a slam Greta pounded her piggy bank, to no avail for it was metal and unyielding of its loot.
With a toss and a heave Hans rifled through the cushions of a couch which had been too recently cleaned.
On the verge of defeat they both were, when Greta saw, on the clean kitchen counter, her mom's change purse, and with a sideways glance and a lunge, she made for the coin pouch, taking not one but two dollar coins.
Across the street, in his parents bedroom, was where Hans went first, in the drawers of the chest there had to be coin he thought, but without luck he found none, and flopped on their bed in defeat, until he heard the rattle of change in a jar.
A scurry and a bounce and to the headboard he went, finding the treasure laden glass. Quarters and dimes,
Nickels and pennies, he counted and then off the bed he made a mad dash.
Out the door after Greta he charged joining her toward the cool bounty they sought as the vehicle slowly headed on.
They leaped over bushes, and leapt over rocks, they dashed through gardens, knocking plastic gnomes to the ground like weekend warriors in a football game, and they weaved through unmentionables strung on Mrs. O'Leary's clotheslines in their quest for the cones of ice cream. And with each disaster, with each dirty walkway, they left destruction behind them, to their neighbour's dismay.
But the van kept eluding them, as they raced all around, until finally, in desperation, as their target kept on, Greta did something I don't recommend, she got the truck to stop, by jumping in the Ice Cream Van's way.
The driver, so young, could he be old enough to drive? And his eyes, so clear and blue. He exited the cab and came to the magical door at the back and smiled at them like a viper with his prey.
They drooled and they bounced and kept showing their cash thinking, "oh boy, we're having ice cream today". The Ice Cream man said, "I've got fudge ripple and sandwiches and scoops of all kinds, frozen bars of chocolate and cherries! Just name what you want and I'll find it inside, I have 33 flavours of Dairy!"
They squealed and they jumped as one "Holy cow, what a choice!" they both exclaimed as they read from his board, all the flavours and varieties of ice creams and desserts. "If we only had more money" thought Hans, "Oh then, oh what a buffet we'd enjoy!"
But Greta struck first "a peach ice cream sandwich" she squealed and thrust her cash at the man in white.
"And for you, little boy?" said the ice cream guy with a gleam his eyes did alight.
"A double chocolate ice cream bar, that's what I want." Said Hans, and he added so meekly a "please" as the whole upper half of the Ice Cream guy disappeared inside the cold cavern of his truck and somewhere nearby a compressor did wheeze.
It looked to them both like he moved something out of the way, certainly that would make sense, but "Was that an arm?" thought Hans, "pale and blue?" "Was someone in there?" Greta, next to him, thought. No, it can't be, it's just food.
And when it happened it happened almost too fast as the man in white grabbed them and tossed them inside his mobile igloo and with a slam of the door they were stuck. They heard the engine start as the truck began to drive off leaving Hans and Greta inside and the music returned, muffled and haunting as their eyes began to grow wide.
For all around them they saw, as they began to shiver, hardly visible as their vision adapted to the dark.
A horrible sight, other boys and girls frozen solid, with rings of chocolate around their mouth. In their hands they each held their money, but on their faces, held still in the cold, they reflected the same expression both Hans and Greta now had at the ugly truth the Ice cream van told.
Somewhere behind a parent did call out "Dinner's ready" but no one came and the neighbourhood was frozen in fear. With the money gone both parents we're led to believe that their children had run away. When in truth the small thieves got exactly what they deserved, a date with a lot of sundaes."
David finished his tale betting now they would hesitate to ask for the cash to get some ice cream but Mary stepped forward and held out her hand for the money while the chimes of the truck continued to play. David looked at them both, alarm on his face he exclaimed still following the rhythm of his tale. "Did you hear nothing I said, are you not scared to death, don't you worry the Ice Cream Guy might try to pull the same stunt on the both of you and steal you away out of sight?"
"Naw," replied Mary, as calm as can be, "we're not stealing this money, we've done nothing wrong, hand the cash over if you please! Hand it over while we still have time and you might just warrant yourself a treat." And so went over the cash and the two sprang off and out the front door of the house and the last thing anyone saw of them was the truck rushing off with the muffled screams of freezing children coming from within.
So the children got their just desserts in the end while the reader moaned before turning the page.