The day was relatively pleasant in Jacksonville. April in North Florida was usually one of the best times for weather. It was still cool from winter but not overly so, and the true heat of summer was still at least a month off. Two months from now it would be getting into the upper 90s and 100s as a matter of course. Today, though, it was 70 and the sky was a crisp, clean blue with no clouds. The sun was a gentle warmth that kept away any chill that might have been caused by the slight breeze blowing in from the Atlantic. All in all, it was a perfect day for ice cream, or so Jackson Crawford had just been informed.
This had been pointed out to him by his daughter, Rachel, who sat hopefully in the back of the hover, lazily kicking legs that were still at least a year away from touching the floor. The pronouncement had been delivered with a solemnity that was not ruined even by the wiping of a runny nose immediately afterward.
“Is it really?” Jackson asked.
“Oh, yes,” Rachel replied with a vigorous nod of her head. Her legs kicked a little quicker, sensing that ice cream was indeed soon to come. “Ice cream is good for the soul, daddy,” she said with the seriousness of a church sermon.
He tried not to smile. These little dips into the pool of adulthood that she randomly exhibited always caught him off guard, regardless of the topic. It was always a surprise when she said or did something that was far beyond her years, especially when she would then turn around and giggle like a fool about a silly cartoon, or squeal about petting a puppy. He could seldom resist her request when she stated her case so eloquently. The soul-satisfying nature of ice cream was a new one. He wondered where she had heard it.
“Well, I would hate to stifle your soul.”
“Or yours, daddy! You can have some, too.”
“Well, thank you for letting me get ice cream, too. I suppose, since it is on the way, we could possibly stop and get some. Maybe we could even get some for your mom, to make sure her soul is in good shape, as well.”
“Sure! What’s stifle mean?”
“Why don’t you look it up?”
“Okay. Gaxalon, what’s stifle mean?”
Jackson had long ago gotten over the fact that his daughter had named her AI Gaxalon. He had no idea where she had come up with it. In the heads-up he saw her cock her head as the definition was sent to her MeYeScreen™. After a moment, she scowled.
“Oh, no. I don’t want that at all! Thank you, daddy. I don’t want my soul stifled.”
“Ice cream it is, then.”
Rachel clapped and said with exaggerated enunciation, “Gaxalon, please take us to Romeo’s Ice Cream.”
There was a soft ding followed by “You got it, Rachel.”
When they pulled into the lot, Rachel undid her restraints and dashed out the door. By the time Jackson caught up to her, she already had her face pressed against the ice cream case.
Jackson walked through the door and his phone synced with the store. The employee behind the counter was identified by his name floating over his head (Jeff) and the week’s special flavor popped up (juniper and fig), as well as Jackson’s current reward points (only 4 more till a free cup!).
Romeo’s was a throwback ice cream shop with a refrigerated glass case with the ice cream on display. Most places could readily whip up any flavor of ice cream and suggestions were easily accessible so there was little need to have things on display. Most would even tell the customer how well certain flavor combinations would work (Jackson had to admit that the raspberry jalapeno was actually pretty good).
Local places like Romeo’s were the ones Jackson really liked, though. All of their flavors were handmade daily and were extremely unhealthy in large portions (sometimes in small ones), but he still thought it tasted better than the stuff the chains could produce, even if those had what amounted to an endless list of choices. Jackson, and his daughter, liked to see the ice cream and know that it existed then and there.
Jackson knew that it would take his daughter some time to decide what she wanted, and she would change her mind at least twice, so he went to the counter ahead of her and ordered for himself and his wife. The door behind him signaled another customer coming in. Jeff scooped out the order and put the cups on top of the counter. Jackson turned to ask…
Blinking, Jackson shook his head. “Sorry. What?”
Jeff shook his head and seemed to blink a bit as well. There was a moment of confusion, and then he asked, “Did you need anything else?”
“No. No I…I’m good. Thanks.”
The charge popped up on Jackson’s MeYeScreen™. He quickly approved the charge (only 2 more purchases for a free cup! Thanks, and please come again!), grabbed his ice cream, and hurried out.