Edge of the Frame

We often capture strangers in photos we take in public. Open your photo library, and stop at the first picture that features a person you don’t know. Now tell the story of that person.

Just two more hours of this. God, people, there are like five more ice cream stands a foot from here, why are you all coming to me?

“Have a nice day,” she said through her practiced smile as she plopped the dripping ice cream cone into the little boy’s hand. He sped away with that cone like his life depended on it, but Melissa just prayed he wouldn’t drop that ice cream. It would probably fly backwards and splatter on his shirt before he even stopped running. There was a large crowd that day because of the weather, and everyone was bumping into each other this way and that. The significant portion of the teenage population, who were either drunk or stoned, were not helping the situation.

This was the worst timing for the Maryville Festival ever. 

Melissa served two more cones out to customers whose faces she couldn’t recall two seconds later, then shoved the ice cream scoop into Larry’s face before finally taking a seat on the stall’s only chair. In exhausted abandon, she threw her face into her hands and ran her fingers through her hair, forgetting for a moment that her fingers were covered in Blackberry Crunch and Mean Vanilla Bean, among other flavors. 

Larry looked over his shoulder after finally serving the last customer in line and knelt down in front of Melissa.

“Is there something going on here?” he asked. Melissa looked up to meet his gaze and to her utter lack of surprise, he seemed much more annoyed than sympathetic.

“I need to be somewhere.” There was a long pause. “…boss.”

“Yeah, well that somewhere had better be here. Now come on, I see another wave coming. No way you’re leaving me to do this shit all by myself,” Larry said, offering Melissa a hand. 

They scooped ice cream to hungry customers for another half hour. Many of the customers came back still licking the remains of their last cone, which only made Melissa more angry. Don’t you people realize I have better things to do?

The first time Melissa messed up an order, Larry gave her an annoyed side glance. The second time, he sighed and shook his head. The third time, he simply waited until the line died down again.

“Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing, trying to get yourself fired? Is that how badly you wanna get going?” he fumed.


“No. Can’t someone cover for me? Look, Larry, I wasn’t even supposed to be here; I’m covering for someone else. It’ll only be an hour now and I really need to be somewhere right now. Somewhere not here.”

Larry’s mouth tightened up so much Melissa thought it would disappear altogether. Melissa checked her watch. I’m an hour and a half late now.

“Whatever, I was gonna fire you anyway.”

Wait. What?

Blank stares everywhere. Blank stare from Larry, blank stare from Melissa, even blank stares from customers who had overheard. 

“That’s right, you heard me. You’re fired. Go and do whatever stupid thing you thought was worth being fired for.”

For a minute, Melissa didn’t know what to do, other than process the information she had just received. Fired? Me? No.

Just leave. Think about it later.

Melissa slowly backed up, dumped her ice cream scoop in a bucket, took off her apron, and stumbled out of the little stall, ducking her head down and slipping into the crowd. It wasn’t long at all before she reached her car, and in a haze she turned the car on, buckled up, and just sat there. 

Did I just get fired? I think I did. I just got fired.

She slowly shook her head, cranked that old reliable wheel, and headed home, where she would finally, finally be able to help her husband control the chaos at her son’s fifth birthday party.

Thank God.


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