A Deeply Scarring Episode!

January 2, 2021

Enjoy this excerpt from Fish Out of Water: A Search for the Meaning of Life

The V-8 Incident

Sometimes my father took me and my brother to College Point Park, overlooking the East River. I remember sometimes seeing rats scurrying between the rocks by the water. Though my father knew nothing about baseball or football, he knew his way around a soccer ball and literally kicked circles around my brother and me as we tried to get it away from him. Once, after we had collapsed onto the green army blanket we always had along, I heard the plinky metallic strains of the Mister Softee truck. The music was a powerful talisman we couldn’t resist any more than the children of Hamelin could resist the Pied Piper, or Odysseus—had he not been bound by his sailors to the mast—could have resisted the song of the Sirens. My brother and I promptly went crazy, begging our father for some change. But money was always tight and it was very rare we bought anything from a street vendor. For us, food was something cooked and eaten at home. But once in a blue moon my father might relent and give us the dimes and nickels for an ice cream, and I always got the orange-and white creamsicles whose colors even now I remember against the blue summer sky, along with the shining silver of the bright dimes we held up to the man in the truck.

But on this particular day this happy ending was not to be, for as we begged my father—literally trying to pull him up from the blanket with our skinny arms—he with perfect equanimity suggested a better alternative. “No, no, no,” he said calmly, in his Greek accent. “It’s not necessary.” But what in the world could make ice cream on a hot day at the park unnecessary? For my father the answer was quite simple: “I have some V-8s in the back of the car!” My dear father really had no idea this wouldn’t appeal to us. For him it was a simple engineering “fix”: why squander hard-earned money on ice cream when in the pizza oven of our Valiant’s trunk sat several cans of the popular tomatoey drink? What small boys could resist the tempting offer of some gaggy warm vegetable juice? My father made his suggestion brightly, confident that we would share his enthusiasm and having no idea that if it had been served ice-cold, we wouldn’t have been able to take a single swallow, because it repulsed us that much. Nonetheless, not wanting to hurt our father’s feelings, we probably didn’t communicate this sufficiently, and after Mr. Softee left we went to our car and my dad opened the trunk. He found the six-pack, yanked a can from its plastic mooring, popped the pop top, and then cheerfully offered it to us, over and over, guzzling it himself as if to demonstrate how wonderful it was, all the while genuinely surprised we were somehow able to turn it down.


To read the rest of the story, order Fish Out of Water: A Search for the Meaning of Life.