The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Samantha is from Pennsylvania. She’s got a tight-knit family: a mom dad, sister, brother, grandmother and grandfather. When she was in third grade, they all took a trip to Vermont. One of the highlights was a tour of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory.

I lick at the hole where my tooth was. The root still hangs a bit, and it tastes metallic. Mom is holding my hand and I’m starting to sweat as we stand in the gift shop waiting for the tour to start. The little stuffed cows with “Ben and Jerry’s” written across their chests stare me down with beady eyes.

“Sweetie, stop playing with your tooth,” Mom says, and I turn to her with my tongue still stuck in the gap.

“Imma noth,” I stutter out. I pull my tongue back and close my mouth in shame. The eyes of the cows are judging me, and I look at them sideways as I drop my mom’s hand. Dad’s standing behind us, impatiently bouncing on his feet.

The 15 minutes it takes grandma and grandpa to get tickets feels like an eternity, and when they get back it’s almost time for the next tour. Mom grabs my hand again and I crinkle my nose. Dad makes sure my brother and sister are with us, and we head over to the tour.

It’s pretty cool, I guess. We learn all this stuff about how ice cream is made, but I don’t really pay attention when they talk about Ben and Jerry’s history. I’m too busy staring out these big glass windows at the factory workers below.

They’re all wearing white lab coats and hair nets, and as they move in sync down on the floor it reminds me of Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas. The big metal tubes that pumped out ice cream and the conveyer belts with the empty tubs are halted, and I watch as they are realigned and redirected.

I press my face against the glass and drown out whatever the tour guide is saying, but then I hear the words “free sample.”

“Huh?” I say and turn to my mom. She’s got one eye on the tour guide and the other on my brother as he picks his nose.

“She said we’re going to try some free ice cream.”

“Oh,” I say, and start to lick at the blood in my mouth again.

We’re taken to this room with ice cream in little bowls with little spoons. I’m not sure what flavor I got, but who cares? It’s ice cream.

“Did you see anything you like in the gift shop?” Dad asks with a mouthful of Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz. I think it’s his favorite or something.

“Um.” I have to think a bit. “The cow,” I say finally, and he nods to himself with a spoon in his mouth.

Whatever kind of ice cream I do have, it definitely wasn’t anything red. I reach into my mouth to feel around a bit, and my hand emerges with newfound glory.

“Look, Mom! I lost another one!”

Samantha

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