Peanut Butter Elvis

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"This is so boring. Don't you have any other flavors?" I hated it when she said things like that, especially to people she didn't know. The guy behind the counter didn't seem to mind, though. He probably got ten or twelve customers like her a day.

"Well, if you can't decide, just go with an old standby. When's the last time you had vanilla? Or french vanilla?"

We never think about the regular flavors, and I was about to ask the guy the difference between vanilla and french vanilla, but Bernadette wasn't having any of it. 

"Boring," she said, then rapped so loudly on the glass case that I thought sure it would break.

"Whaddaya got that's different?" Personally, I go for Rocky Road every time. There's lots of tasty stuff in it, and just as important, I never wind up in situations like this, where I'm unable to decide. But Bernadette is Bernadette. She's got to have her ice cream, and it's got to be weird.

"Cherry Butter Brickle?" the clerk tried.

"Didn't like it."

"Almond Apple Crunch."

"Are you kidding? That stuff tastes like an old tire." We'd been in this situation before, more than once, and every time, Bernadette had finally been able to decide on a flavor. Sometimes I finished my ice cream first, but she'd always been able to decide eventually.

The clerk threw his arms up in the air. "Here's a concept - maybe you just don't like ice cream."

Bernadette glared at the kid. She wasn't going to hit him, at least I didn't think she was going to, but she couldn't let him get away with a crack like that, either. She lowered her voice. "I love ice cream. I think the problem is that this store is just... lousy. You don't care about ice cream, ice cream cones, ice cream eaters, ice cream... scoops. You don't... Come on, Albert, we're leaving." She grabbed me by the ear, the way she does when she's mad at the world. It hurt, but I tried not to complain. Underneath it all, she really was a good person. She pulled me towards the door.

"Wait!" said the clerk, "I have an idea." Bernadette turned around..


The clerk smacked the side of his own head like it was a malfunctioning dishwasher. "I don't know why I didn't think of it before."

"Okay, okay, what is it?"

"A new flavor, an experimental formula. The boss left me just a couple of scoops in the back - I was going to try it later."

"We don't want to take your-"

"Shut up, Albert. What's it called?"

"Peanut Butter Elvis."

Bernadette's face lit up in a way it usually only does when she's unwrapping a gift, or dreaming about unwrapping one. "What's in it?"

  "It's ice cream. Highly experimental, but ice cream."

"Gimme both scoops, as much as you got."

The clerk tried to insist that it was too early in the testing process for  Peanut Butter Elvis to be eaten two scoops at a time, but being insistent against insistence is Bernadette's specialty. So she did get her way, but not before we both signed a specially-prepared waiver disclaiming responsibility for "death, dismemberment, memory loss, hair loss, or any or all other ailments great or small" experienced after trying Peanut Butter Elvis. I wasn't sure I wanted to sign, but I didn't want to cause a scene.

Once the document was signed (and notarized - evidently you needed all sorts of special qualifications to work in this ice cream shop), the clerk went into the back of the store, and emerged moments later with a large waffle cone containing almost two scoops of normal-looking ice cream.

"This is it?"

The clerk nodded. Bernadette took a lick of the ice cream, and nodded to me. I ordered my Rocky Road, and paid, and we left.

In the car, Bernadette said something I'd never heard her say before: "Elvis Aaron Presley was born January 8th, 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi."

"Is that right?" I said, "I'd wondered about that sometimes. That's the same Elvis Presley that was a rock singer, right?"

"Elvis began his professional singing career at Sun Records in Memphis in 1954."

"You don't say," I said. But she did. She kept reciting more and more facts about Elvis. After she went through the basics, she started right in on the ephemera: Elvis's weight at birth and death, intimate details of his love life, and the number of Cadillacs he gave away to fans. That night, before we went to bed, instead of giving me a list of things I had to do before she woke up the next day, Bernadette told me that Elvis Presley had been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards, but had only won three. And then she fell asleep.

She woke up in the middle of the night, got a glass of water, and said "In 1957, Elvis performed five concerts in three Canadian cities, but that was the only time he ever performed outside of the United States." I didn't know that, and it seemed odd to me, since she'd already mentioned the names of all the different countries where Elvis had hit records.

In the morning, though, Bernadette was herself again. She sent me out to the bank, to the grocery store, and to get some ice cream. To my surprise, she actually wanted the Peanut Butter Elvis a second time. It wasn't brand new anymore, but if it was okay with her, it sounded great to me. I skipped my other errands and went straight to the ice cream store. After all, if I could get Peanut Butter Elvis again, my other errands would presumably take care of themselves.

The same clerk was working, and he smiled when he saw me.

"Peanut Butter Elvis, right?"

"That stuff is a miracle. In one day it's completely turned my marriage around. I'll take as much as you've got."

"I'm sorry, we don't have any more."

"No! Call your boss, please! I need it!"

"I'm afraid he's decided to cancel the Peanut Butter Elvis project."

"What? No! I need it! I'll pay any price."

"He says there's too much potential for abuse with a product like that. Of course he wants to make money, but he won't take responsibility to turning the world into a bunch of Elvis-fact-spouters. He says we'd all be crazy in a week."

"Not me, and anyway, I don't care about the world -it's my wife I'm worried about. I'll sign another waiver - anything! Please!"

"Okay, calm down. All is not lost. While we have cancelled Peanut Butter Elvis, we've decided to move forward with a similar flavor. It's just as potent, but less likely to cause a worldwide catastrophe. And just because I like you, (and because I met your wife) I'm authorized give you a special deal if you buy ten gallons."

"Absolutely, ring it up."

When I got home, Bernadette was extremely upset.

"Albert, you fool. I told you to buy some pretzels and some mozzarella sticks, not just ten gallons of ice cream."

"I'm sorry, dear. I don't know what I was thinking."

"You should be sorry. You should be hung by your neck until you die!"

I scooped out a big bowl of the new flavor. "Correct as always, darling. Of course I should be put to death. Now just relax and have some ice cream and before long you'll feel better about the whole thing."

Bernadette sniffed at the ice cream. "This isn't Peanut Butter Elvis." She took a bite. "It's pretty good, though. What's it called?"

Suddenly, Bernadette sat upright in her chair. She looked at me. Her face contorted just a bit.

"Vincent Damon Furnier was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4th, 1948," she said.

I let out a big sigh, and kissed Bernadette on the forehead. Then I danced a jig and kissed her again, this time on the mouth. It was going to be a good year . I had ten whole gallons of Chocolate Chip Alice Cooper.

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