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Tiger's Tail Ice Cream This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I’m in Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory with two starry-eyed kids, trying to decide between the rows of brightly coloured ice cream in tubs lining the freezer. The clerk peers down at us over his wire-rimmed spectacles. His hair is dusty grey and his skin is creviced and wrinkled with time and wear. I hope my mother’s skin never gets that lacklustre. It’s cloudy outside, the pregnant grey masses threatening a thousand rain drops.


Tiger’s tail ice cream was my dad’s favourite. The kind that’s bright orange with black liquorice ribbons swirled around in it. It was his trademark, his quirk that everyone who knew him knew about. When he was in the hospital when I was in grade five, he asked for a carton of tiger’s tail ice cream. When we walked up to the little town by our house in the summers to watch the outdoors concerts, we would come to Rocky Mountain and my dad and I would get teetering cones of tiger’s tail ice cream. I liked it because he liked it. It was our tradition.


About an eighth of my memories of my dad are coated in orange and black creaminess. I can taste the waffle cone and feel the cold on my lips, turning them purple despite the summer heat. I can smell the way the ice cream shop always smells, the promise of sugar and the comfort of blended cream.


I’m seventeen now. Summer nights are spent with friends, not family. They are filled with beaches and boys and adventure, but not the kind of adventure that involves sticks and the forest behind our old house. My lips have been stained with kisses of undeserving boys and they have kissed all the summer tiger’s tail off of them. My eyes have seen a lot since I was a ten-year-old, things that have wearied them and worn them out more than my old pink blanket. I have been pulled and frayed and frozen by things a lot less sweet than cream and sugar.


I don’t remember there being quite this much tension when I was little. Sure, I wasn’t aware, but my bliss was a result of my parents, not despite them. I don’t remember fighting or yelling or rage, the redness clouding his vision like a thick veil and he couldn’t see the tears streaming down my face when he walked out that door and he couldn’t see the whiteness of my brother’s face, whiter than snow. I don’t remember seeing my dad the way I see him now. I remember him pulling goofy faces and giving us pony rides. I remember him cooking us hamburgers and fries and our mom insisting that we at least have a salad. I remember when I looked forward to Friday nights because of family movie nights, not parties. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have another Friday family movie night. What I wouldn’t give to have that family back, just for a day.


Seventeen. My second-to-last year at home. My second-to-last year in high school. But I’ll always remember it as the year my dad chose to leave our family movie nights and tiger’s tail ice cream and pony rides behind for a life of freedom. I’ll always remember it as the year when I looked at my dad and saw something ugly, something that scared me.


I chose chocolate.



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