It was like a diabolical nightmare that set in upon waking.
My coffee pot was gurgling, the scent of
toasted English muffins was tugging at my stomach as
I stepped onto the porch in my bathrobe to collect
the morning paper. Turning back to my door, I found
the treatise, folded in half, tacked under the
I opened it as I entered my home. It was
a photocopy of a handwritten letter with frequent
cross-outs, occasional misspellings, the lines of
text angling down, not straight. In large printing
at the top of the page, the author had written, "A
Terrible Menace Threatens Our Community: A Call to
Action by The Asp."
I stopped in my tracks. Even as the odor of
burning muffins reached my nostrils, I stood
motionless in the hall, absorbing the bizarre content
of the treatise:
"As if crack wasn't enough, as if heroin and
alcohol weren't enough, as if marijuana and cocaine
weren't enough to dissolve the fragile moral fiber
of our humble, vulnerable community, a new chemical
demon has appeared to threaten our honorable
lifestyle and our relationship with God."
The letter began with these foreboding
obscurities, then dove into a rather unlikely
"It seems that the new menace can be purchased
freely -- by any age group -- in supermarkets,
convenience stores, at stands in shopping malls, and --
worst of all -- in the so-called `parlors' devoted
to this wretched, mind-ripping comestible. What is
this horror of which I speak? I speak of what might
aptly be called a sixth element, the scientifically
elusive, highly injurious substance called ICE CREAM."
The letter described ice cream parlors -- of
which there were three in our small city -- as
"ice cream refineries" -- and accused them of trying
to conceal the true, inedibly foul nature of ice
cream with fruits, sugars, nuts, and colorful dyes.
The letter explained the scientific nature of ice
"ICE CREAM is found in rock-solid mines
underneath swamps, marshes, and bogs. Its fibers
seep up through the soft terrain into pastures and
fields, where a species of crazed, brutal mammals
called `cows' consume and become pregnant with the
fibers. Some of the fibers condense in monuments
on the cows' heads, forming solid, deadly horns.
With the cows' multiple stomach-chambers, some of
the ice cream fibers are converted into hot liquid
ice cream which is dispensed through unseemly,
dangling pouches on the undersides of the cows. The
human agents of ICE CREAM -- hopelessly addicted,
derranged thugs known as dairymen -- collect the
molten ice cream and distribute it throughout world
in a global scheme to undermine God's will."
The Asp argued in his psychotic treatise that
the proof of ice cream's evil lay in its effect on
people: Ice cream eaters seem unusually -- even
suspiciously -- happy; they are often affectionate with
each other; they are usually overweight, and often
The Asp quoted Genesis, 2:29: "And God said,
Lookit, I gave you every herb bearing seed on the face
of the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of
a tree yielding seed; to you it'll be meat." Herbs,
seeds, fruit, yes -- but nothing, nothing about ice
cream. Ice cream was not something intended for a
Did not the ice cream refineries flaunt their
unlimited greed? The Asp noted that one nation-wide
ice cream racket, Haskell and Roberts, flaunted
sixty-nine flavors of ice cream: they sought, through
cunning market research, to meet every possible flavor
preference that human genes could produce.
Staring at the tubs of ice cream arrayed in the
refrigerated display cases of ice cream shops, an honest
man could easily be hypnotized by all the colors and
textures. But careful -- that is, un-beguiled --
customers, not yet seduced by the smooth, evil treats,
might detect the subtle motion of the unserved ice cream:
its writhing, coiling movement before being scooped onto
cones. ("Is it any coincidence," the Asp asked, "That
ice cream cones resemble the deadly horns on the heads
of the sinister cows?")
To further emphasize the paganistic aspect of
ice cream, the Asp observed that in Hinduism -- a
blatantly non-Christian excuse for a religion -- cows
are holy. They are worshipped, like New Age people
worship tarot cards, pentagrams, and crystal balls.
They wander, dazed with ice cream fibers, across
pastures, eating constantly -- never satiated --
swatting aimlessly as imaginary flies with their
tails, moaning sorrowfully, their perpetually
crossed eyes seeing nothing.
The Asp pointed out the futuristic drive that
ice cream stamps onto men's hearts: "Space-rockets
are shaped like ice cream cones; they lauch into the
sky, releasing huge clouds of polluting filth behind
them as they surge up to the moon, which hovers above
the earth like a great glob of vanilla ice cream,
waiting for the delivish moment in which to break
from its tranquil orbit and crash mercilessly against
the fragile crust of the earth."
Later that afternoon, a local news radio
station announced that a fanatical Christian
vandal, one Tim Greene, had been arrested in an
assault on an ice cream parlor/refinery. Following
the Asp's instructions, the shrieking Christian
soldier had burst violently into an ice cream
shop; he smashed at the glass panels of the
refrigerators with a 4' metal cross, then poured
kerosene over the ice cream and set it aflame.
All the while, Greene recited scripture: his
phlegmatic voice calling holy terror upon the
sinning ice cream tribes, imploring the wrath of
God upon the brutal, cold drug.
Its addicts were like a dark sea swallowing
civilization. Strawberry. Chocolate. Pistachio.
Walking to the vegetarian sub shop
during my lunch hour, I saw a throng of middle-class
housewives gathered at the steps of city hall; they
were kneeling in prayer, their children, taken out
of school, milling around them like giant gnats.
"Sir!" I turned. A ruddy-faced six year-old
boy was shouting at me. "Do you follow Jesus?"
"Jesus is in jail, sir."
"They imprisoned him for trying to save us
from ice cream."
"He...he tried to save you from ice cream?
Who will save you from pie, eh? Allah?"
"They imprisoned him this morning, and
all they're feeding him in jail is ice cream."
As I walked away, the boy began cursing me.
After twenty strides, his ranting ceased. I thought
he had given up, but the boy raced up behind me and
threw a flurry of punches at my midsection, screaming
like an exorcist at the ice cream he believed was
breeding in my stomach. Rocky road. Rainbow
sherbert. Caramel swirl.
"Ice cream can easily escape its pint-sized
containers, its five-gallon barrels," the Asp wrote
in his treatise. "Ice cream can be dumped into the
sewage drains of our fair city: it can leak like a
venomous milkshake through the tunnels under our
streets into our plumbing systems; ice cream can rise
up like hooded, spitting cobras from your toilets,
from your bathtub drains. It can breath in gaseous
form out of your air conditioning units. It can
seep into your nose. It can grip your brain like
a baseball glove. It can bat your sanity like
a softball into the bleachers of hell."
Brownie fudge. Rum raisin. Jamoca almond
At the entrance of the sub shop, a Christian
-- dressed entirely in black, her face covered in
a veil made of cheese-cloth -- handed out fliers.
I accepted one, and looked at it: "The Mayor of
Sodom" was its pithy message, under which was
printed photograph of our local mayor enjoying a
While I nervously devoured my hummus
sandwich, a pre-recorded message from the mayor
was broadcast over the shop's radio. The mayor
repudiated the photograph: he insisted that the
banana split contained no actual ice cream: by
religious choice, he ate only Rice Dream, a
rice-based ice cream substitute. Rice dream.
Not caramel swirl, or toffee crunch, or raspberry
Taking the long way back to my office to
avoid the abusive Christian youth, I saw smoke
-- about two blocks over -- spiralling up to the
heavens. Fire department sirens were screaming.
Another ice cream refinery had been fire-bombed.
When I returned to my office, I found my
boss emptying out the refrigerator in the lounge.
"Woodear," he said, "Lookit. I've got
nothing against principles. Nothing against
standards, or whatever. But let's face it: we
don't want to alienate the public."
He took three ice cream bars that a
secretary had stored in the freezer, and --
wrapping them in carbon paper -- handed them to
"Take these to the john, Woodear."
"The john, Sir?"
"Flush 'em. Flush 'em down hard. And
Woodear? Don't tell anyone about this. It's
our little secret, okay?"
I looked at the ice cream bars as I fed
them to the uncomplaining toilet. The flavors
were marked on their wrappers: lemon crush, peach
surprise, apple stupor.
"The ice cream effect is permanent and
irreversible," the Asp had warned the community
in his treatise. "Ice cream destroys the god-given
ability of man to reproduce. A good, upstanding
husband -- strong, athletic, slightly prone to
alcoholism -- is reduced to an overly-sensitive,
lisping Dairy Queen. If a Christian wife should
find her man surprisingly caring, it is her duty
to send a sample of his feces to the ice-cream
detection lab at her nearest church."
Returning to my home that evening, I found
an offical seal plastered on my door. Roman-esque
type announced that my house had been searched
by the anti-I.C. inspection league and found clear.
A blue small ribbon was dangling from the tack.
Gold print on the ribbon declared, "I am proud to
announce that my home contained 0.00 ounces of
Satan's frozen flavor-drool."
I was unable to sleep that evening. Bonfires
were burning at spots scattered throughout our small
city. A triumphant chant floated in through my
"We'll eat ice cream when we die;
only God will get us high."
The conflagrations were small, fortunately,
since ice cream, thrown onto fire, tends to
extinguish rather than feed flame.
Wearing my pajamas and -- for safety's sake --
the anti-I.C. ribbon on my chest, I wandered onto my
porch. At the corner of my street and the main road
half a block down, I saw the Asp. He was sitting on
an upside-down five-gallon barrel of ice cream --
"Chocolate Mango Scream" was printed on its side --
and holding something up to his face. Quietly, I
There was no mistaking it: the Asp was
wacking his tongue against a triple-scoop ice cream
cone. As if sensing my presence -- with his cunning,
inescapable awareness -- he turned around. I froze.
Like almond fudge swirl, like cookies and cream,
like white chocolate chunk, I froze.
"Whaddaya want?" he blurted out defensively,
smears of melted ice cream gleaming on his mirror-lens
sunglasses. "I didn't say all ice cream was bad.
Fuck, neighbor, this is my favorite flavor."