If I had to pick the one innovative thing on the planet that has altered the fabric of good-natured humanity for all time...
The familiar strains of a bullhorned lullaby drifting through the humid summer air a few blocks away would send Bromas and I into a shrieking, money-sucking whirlwind of glee. No coat pocket in the closet was safe from the grasping hands in search of cash when the creepy white delivery truck with the side window tracked onto our collective radar. Yes, once you threw yourself in front of the crazy-eyed driver, you could count on finding a Chocolate Eclair or a Bomb Pop and that mushy, gross chocolate chip cookie sammich. But the one ice cream novelty that, time and time again, sated our lust for sugar and cherry flavor was the Screwball. With that mushy, gross gumball in the bottom.
As we aged, and the happiness of childhood was slowly swapped out with the ennui of adulthood, the Screwball had faded into distant memory. Until, that is, a day that normally wouldn't have been anything more than a mopey event, turned out, well, screwy.
My grandfather had passed away in October of 1999. The following Spring, Bromas had come to visit from Eau Claire and intended to pick up Grandpa's seldom-driven and well-kept 1984 two-door, two-tone Caprice Classic (remember when the gashole (I said it) was behind the rear license plate?). It was a classy, smooth-riding, velour-coated, land yacht of a car.
While we were hanging out in the driveway of our soon-to-be-sold grandparent's house, Tom (age 24) and I (age 28) were in conversation and abruptly halted when the tinny sounds caught both of us simultaneously: SCREWBALLS!
Nothing else was said, it was a mutual agreement on what we must have and when we must have it. We hopped into the couch on wheels. Tom played wheelman and I hung my head out the window like a Labrador Retriever, tongue lolling, desperately zooming in aurally on that childhood need. Once the ice cream man was spotted, Bromas halted in front of the frightened driver and his white truck, this scenario all the world looking like a modern stagecoach holdup, as if to say, "There is no way IN HELL we're letting you get away without the gold."
I waited in the car while Tom went around the side of the truck. And returned with Screwballs. A CASE of them. After I stopped laughing hysterically, it occurred to me that, being in that car, Grandpa meant for us to keep one more memory of him, just for us. Riding down the expressway, windows open, radio blaring (push-button baby!), glomming down Screwballs. Just a pinch of childhood revisited.
* * *
Fast forward to 2005. Fahjah and I embark on a three-day dual Harley excursion with stops in the Wisconsin Dells, Spring Green and Prairie du Chien. As we arrived in PdC after a good span of time hanging out around Frank Lloyd Wright's old hangout (and TOTALLY dumping Fahjah's custom-painted Softail at the bottom of FLW's driveway), I spotted an ice cream truck. The Screwball bulb popped on and I switched it back off. Then I thought, "Why the hell not?" and went ape-shit. My father could only follow after me in what had to appear to him as a fit of throttle stickage. After barely remembering to put the kickstand down, I ran straight up to the window of the (again) creepy, white delivery truck's side window, pushed aside an indecisive young boy and his flabbergasted father, and ordered breathlessly, "TWO SCREWBALLS PLEASE!" The look on my own dad's face was priceless, as I tried to spill out the Screwball history and shove my face in the plastic-coned goodness at the same time.
Of course, in the spirit of good old sibling rivalry, Bromas and Fahjah were on a trip somewhere together not long after, and needed to rub in that they were enjoying another round of Screwballs.
Jeebus help me if I wasn't so easily amused. When my time comes, if you decide to show up for my "wrap party," Screwballs are on the house. Then you'll know.