© 2003 Allie McCormack
A Gift of J acinth
Some scene, somewhere in the novel
Douglas bit back a smile as Benny nodded, serious as a judge. As if, Douglas thought, the six-year-old was accustomed to discussing the merits of antiques on a daily basis. Still, he saw the sideways glance his son gave first the teapot, then Jacinth. The boy was definitely suspicious. Time to change the subject.
"Tell you what," he suggested. "Letís walk across the street to the Baskin Robbins."
That did it. Even Molly woke all the way up to cheer.
"Whatís Baskin Robbins?"
Douglas turned to stare at Jacinth, as did the Benny and Molly. She looked back, blinking in clear puzzlement, before breaking into laughter.
"What did I say?"
Douglas cleared his throat.
"Baskin Robbins is an ice cream shop."
"Havenít you ever had an ice cream cone?" Benny asked in amazement.
Jacinth brightened. "Oh, I love ice cream cones! I had one of the very first ones they ever made. There was this big fair, and I met a man who spoke the old language. He was there making pastries to sell, and heíd roll them up..."
Douglas clapped his hand over her mouth, silencing her. The dark eyes above his hand danced with humor.
"Letís go," he said.
As Benny danced ahead of them, Douglas leaned over to whisper in Jacinthís ear.
"That World Fair was a hundred years ago!"
"Oops." The glance she gave him was both apologetic and amused, and Douglas shook his head. He caught her hand with his free one, and they walked together towards the mall exit in Bennyís wake.
The hot, humid air hit them like a blow as they stepped outside. The heat was oppressive and smothering, and all of them were damp with perspiration by the time they entered the welcome chill of the Baskin Robbins.
"Thirty-one flavors of ice cream?" Jacinth sounded impressed, and Douglas shook his head again. He watched as she stared, round-eyed, at the dozens of containers of ice cream, and at the pictures of sundaes and floats on the walls behind the counter.
"What is this?" she asked, stopping before one section. Her brow was wrinkled in puzzlement. "Cheesecake? They make ice cream from cheesecake?"
"Naw, it just tastes like that," Benny answered. "They have cookie dough too, over here."
"Cookie dough? Really?" Jacinth peered through the glass.
"Would you like a taste?" The teenage clerk behind the counter almost fell over himself in his haste to help her. Feeling rather invisible, Douglas rolled his eyes. Sheíd made another conquest, without so much as glancing at the boy.
Jacinth took the tiny pink spoon and slid it into her mouth. She closed her eyes as she savored the flavor.
"Mmmm, thatís good." She moved on to the next section, trying the rum raisin, and a good dozen more flavors at least, the clerk anticipating her every sign of interest. Douglas managed to catch the clerkís attention long enough to get Benny the ice cream he wanted. After a bit, Jacinth glanced over her shoulder at Douglas with a slight frown.
"Yogurt flavored ice cream?
Shifting Molly on his arm, Douglas stepped to her side. "No. Itís actually yogurt thatís been frozen, instead of ice cream."
She shot him a disgusted look.
"Americans are strange." She turned her attention to Molly. "Sweetie, what do you want?"
"Rainbow," Molly said succinctly.
Douglas sighed, wondering if she was ever going to speak more than one word at a time. The hovering clerk glanced at Douglas for approval, and moved to the end of the case where the sherbets were kept separate from the ice cream. Jacinth drifted along in that direction and looked curiously at the brighter colors there.
"Sher-bay?" she read the label on the glass case.
"Probably," Douglas agreed. "But most people here call it Ďsherbet.í Itís similar to ice cream, but made with a fruit or fruit juice base instead of cream."
Her face brightened. "Oh, I know shorba! We had that in my country when I was a child."
"Where are you from?" The young man behind the counter asked.
"Persia." Jacinth pointed at a lemon sherbet. "Could I try that one?"
"Yeah, sure." Handing Molly her cone with a scoop of rainbow sherbet, the clerk hurried to get Jacinth a sample. "So are you from Iran or what?"
Jacinth took the spoon.
"Persia," she told him in a firm voice.
"There hasnít been a Persia for centuries," the clerk said in a definitive way. Douglas guessed he was a college student. "Not since the Persian empire collapsed in 300 something BC."
"There was a Persian empire in the middle ages," Jacinth argued. "Right up until the end of the twelfth century."
"Thirteenth century," the clerk corrected. "And it wasnít Persian. That was the Seljuk Turks."
"True," Jacinth agreed. "But where was the capital of their empire?"
"Baghdad," the clerk admitted, and Jacinth looked smug. "But it didnít collapse until well into the thirteenth century."
"Yes, it did," Jacinth compressed her lips with mulish insistence. "It collapsed in 1209 with the murder of the wazir Nizam and the death of the ruler, Malikshah. It just took awhile after that for the empire to fall apart."
The clerk looked ready to argue the point, and Jacinth was clearly prepared to stay all day. Amused, Douglas intervened before she could announce that she knew better than the clerk, having been born in that time period. Benny was listening avidly, his bright eyes alert and filled with intelligence.
"Enough! We need to get going sometime today. Jacinth, what kind of ice cream would you like?"
She considered a moment.
"Vanilla!" Douglas couldnít believe it. "After you tried all these flavors here, you want vanilla?"
Jacinthís mouth curved downward into a pout, but her eyes were teasing.
"I like vanilla."
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