Briar DeHaven is a poet, writer, and tech head who hails from the South Dakotan prairie. She is Digital Marketing Executive for the Asheville Citizen-Times, assistant editor for...
The wind across my skin cools me as I pedal faster on my huffy. I’m in a race against my friends to the turn at the back-alley where we park our bikes before counting our change. Depending on the day, whether I had been paid for my paper route (or in desperate times was able to recover change from the couch cushions), I can afford various nominal-costing treats. Today, I have two dollars and fifty cents. I’m nearly a god in these times.
After leaning our assortment of unlocked bikes against one another, the six of us enter through the sliding glass doors of the gas station. Air conditioning blasts us as we walk in. This is the coolest we’ve felt all day. Rows of crinkly packages greet us, filled with all manner of sweet and savory bites that crunch or goo or both. We walk the aisles like mad wolves waiting to savor these treats–we middle-schoolers, whose only June day mission is to ride the neighborhoods in speed with a lollipop filling our cheeks.
On the far wall, past the cash registers on the left and the coolers of beverages on the right is the most coveted station of all—the slurpee machine. Four units of cola, blue raspberry, mellow yellow, and the glory of our youth, cherry, spin their flavors as in a Willy Wonka kaleidoscope daydream. And at a penny per ounce, we can suck down slurpees every damn summer day we are free.
I walk to the cups and choose the mid-weight thirty-two ouncer. A classic slurpee size. I don’t do anything whimsical with my slurpee selection, but fill to the brim the pure flavor of cherry. Some friends might do half coke, half cherry, alternating every two-inch layer. Other, stranger kids might create asuicide—the haphazard mixture of every flavor in a crackpot, taste-fusion melay. But I stick to the tried and true. Call it slurpee aristocracy. Call it flavor favoritism. Call it what you will. I stand by the old standby.
I plunge a straw into my future brain-freeze and begin consuming. Now, this next confession will likely solidify my place in the history books of bad kids, but truth be told, we had a method for getting more slurpee than we paid for. We’d troll the store for a good ten minutes, gazing at all the delicious junk food in beautiful packages, slurping our slurpee as we perused. Once we had selected other candy accompaniments like blowpops and airheads, snickers bars and sour gummy worms, we’d head back to the slurpee machine for a top off. We usually drank a good five ounces for free.
At the cash register, it was nickles and dimes and the occasional dollar being counted by the frustrated cashier. Transactions complete, we file out of the bright, air-conditioned room to the steamy day outside.
We mount our bikes like kings with our loot filling our pockets and mouths. Balancing without cup holders, we ride one-handed, the other hand keeping that chilled 32 ouncer to our lips, the righteous red slush sliding down our summer throats.