The Ice Truck (a short story)

The Ice Truck

John W. Seymour was going to enter the ice carving contest.  The city of Niceville had held this contest every year for 25 years.  The city would truck in these huge blocks of ice, that John thought must weigh 10 tons, at least.  John’s father drove one of the trucks that brought the ice.  John had gone to see the contest every year since he was born.  Early in the morning the day of the contest, his mother and father would walk down to the park with him and his little sister, Marie.  They only lived a couple of blocks from the park.  They would take a picnic lunch, that they would spread out under the big tent, and spend the day watching the carvings progress.  The city would put up several big tents, to protect the ice from the sun.  It took a long time to make the carvings, and if they weren’t covered the ice would melt.

The year before last the winner had carved two lovers on a park bench.  John Seymour thought that was so silly.  Last year a frog won.  That was not as bad, but John thought the winner should be something better.  Something good — like a truck.  That’s when John had decided that he wanted to enter, and he was going to carve a truck.

John had loved trucks his whole life.  When he was little he played with toy trucks.  Now that he was bigger, he loved to draw pictures of trucks, and when he was grown he planned to drive a truck, just like his dad.  Next to chocolate, John loved trucks best of anything.  John was really happy that he could enter this year.  The city had just decided to have a junior contest, for 11-16 year olds.   He would turn eleven the month before the contest.   When he heard that the winning carver in the junior contest was going to win a year’s supply of chocolate from Mr. Coleman’s drug store, John knew he was going to enter – and he was going to win!

He spent a long time planning his truck.  He drew pictures of it from every angle.  He knew every detail of what it would look like months before contest day.  His father brought home small chuncks of ice – the kind that restaurants used for decorations – for him to practice on.  When contest day drew near, John knew he was ready.  The day before the contest the sky grew dark, and it started to storm.  John spent the whole day at the window, watching the rain.  He knew that if it rained they would call off the contest, because they couldn’t deliver the ice in the rain.  When John went to bed that night he could hardly sleep, because the weather forecast still said that there was a chance of rain on contest day.

When John woke up, he jumped out of bed and ran to the window.  There was soft sunshine streaming through puffy white clouds.  When he went downstairs, John’s father told him that the weather was just right, because it wouldn’t be too hot, and it wouldn’t rain, at least not until the ice was safely under the tents.  John ate his cereal as fast as he could, helped his mom pack the lunch and get Marie ready, and practically pushed his family out the door.

When they got to the park, John saw the sign with the list of junior contestants.  Each contestant had a number by their name.  Under one big tent there were 10 blocks of ice, each one in an area with ropes around it.  On the front of each area was a number.  John’s number was four.  He stepped over the rope and walked up to the block of ice.  This was his ice.  He reached out and touched it.  In his thoughts he could already see it taking form.  The other contestants were wearing gloves, but John wanted to be able to feel the ice take shape.

Soon all the contestants were there, and it was time to start.  A judge came over and told everyone the rules.  Everything had to be made of ice, and they couldn’t have any help, except for someone to get them drinks or food, or replace a broken tool.  John just had a hammer and a couple of tools for chipping the ice, and a file to smooth any rough spots.  As soon as the judge told them they could start, John began working on his ice.  First he broke away large pieces that he wouldn’t need, and then he started chipping away more carefully as he got the shape closer to what he wanted.

Nervously, he looked around to see what the other contestants were doing.  You couldn’t tell what anything was yet, but the sign by each contestant had their name, age, and what they were carving.  The boy next to him was fifteen, and was making an elephant.  There was a fourteen year old girl past him who was making a horse jumping over a high hurdle.  There was also a twelve year old boy making a monkey, and a boy making a skier going down a mountain.  The only one that John was really worried about was a sixteen year old boy named Henry on the other side of him who was making a boat.  Henry was his friend Tom’s big brother, and John knew that Henry had planned his boat in detail.  Tom had told John that Henry had stayed up late nights after he had finished his homework, drawing pictures of his boat on the computer.  John didn’t have a computer.  John frowned as he looked at his own drawings, which he had drawn by hand.  He was afraid of Henry’s boat.

John looked over at his family.  His mother and father smiled at him.  Marie was too busy playing with her toys to notice John.  He turned back to his truck, and ran his hands across the ice, smoothing out what was to be the hood of the truck.    Working steadily, John began to add details to the truck, rounding the wheels, and forming the pipe of the big exhaust stack.  His mom brought him a sandwich, and he munched on it as he continued to work.  It was hard work, and he was sweating even though the ice was cold under his hands.  Finally, late in the afternoon, it was almost time for the judging to start, and John knew that he had to put the final details on the truck.

When he felt that the truck was done, he stood back.  The late afternoon sun was low in the sky, and shown on the glass of the truck’s windshield.  At least it looked like glass, but of course it was ice.  The whole truck was made of ice.  John looked at it so proudly.  He had not forgotten a detail.  There were spokes on the wheels, and tread on the tires.  There was a grill in the front with his name on it — John W. Seymour Trucking, Inc.  There was even a key in the ignition.

The judges came around to each carving.  They studied the carvings, and wrote notes on their pads.  John looked at each of the carvings as the judges gathered around it.  He was still worried about Henry’s boat.  He looked over at it as the judges moved away.  It was good, but John still thought his truck was better.  The judges came by and started to look at his truck.  They didn’t spend much time at it, John thought, before they moved on and started looking at the next carving, the horse jumping over a hurdle.  John thought that the judges must be able to see how good his truck was, but they had to look a long time at that horse to see what was good about it.

John’s mom took several pictures of the truck as they waited for the judging to end.  John climbed up on the truck so his mom could get one of him, too.  He shivered as he got up on the truck, because the ice was starting to melt, and the cold water chilled him.  Finally the judges were up on the platform ready to announce the winner.  John waited as they announced the third place, and second place carvings.  Third place went to the monkey, and Henry’s boat won second.  John thought his truck must have won, but then the judges announced the winner.  It was the horse jumping over a hurdle!  John shook his head.  He thought that some people just don’t know what’s good.

John’s mother came over to console him, but John shook off her hand, and walked over to his truck.  His dad came over and ran his hand across the smooth ice, said “You did a nice job, son”, and smiled at John.  Then he opened the truck door, and said, “Well, let’s go home”.  John’s mom put a towel across the seat so Marie wouldn’t get wet, and they all climbed in.  His dad turned the key, started up the truck with a roar, shivered a little, and squinting from the sunlight reflecting off the icy hood, drove them home…


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