Welcome to episode 18 of Messin’ with Mark! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .
When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”
“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.
“Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”
“I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”
Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”
God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.
Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark.
Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.
So, to today’s episode – The Rocket Pop.
It was a typical, blistering hot day in Los Angeles. I was employed as an insurance claims adjuster. And yes, it sucked. I was early for my appointment, sitting in my car on a street with no shade. It was such a bad neighborhood, even the trees had moved away. To make things even more enjoyable, the air-conditioning in my car had gone out. The sweat was lashing off me like someone had installed tiny faucets in every one of my pores. Then I saw him coming – the ice cream man.
No celestial vision had ever been more dramatic. I crawled out of my car and flagged him down.
I’ve always been a sucker for ice cream trucks. Who doesn’t have wonderful memories about them?
I love the ice cream truck so much, I seriously considered becoming an ice cream man so I could be the purveyor of that perfect combination, joy and sugar. Writing is a lonely profession, but handing treats to tots isn’t lonely at all. The ice cream man is the hero of every street in America.
I hadn’t bought anything from an ice cream truck for years so I was excited and nostalgic when I lined up with a bunch of kids and started to order my childhood usual – a Rocket Pop.
Some call it a Bomb Pop but I prefer Rocket Pop. Rockets are shot up into space for exploration. Bombs are dropped on people. The choice is obvious.
The only problem with the Rocket Pop is I enjoy the red (cherry) part and have to suffer through the white and blue parts when it’s gone. That’s when I saw it – the Bomb Pop JUNIOR! All cherry. No white and blue at all, just red cherry-flavored goodness. Yay!
So I bought one, returned to the sauna (my car) and ate the living heck out of that Bomb Pop, Jr. I was like a bulldog gnawing on a bone. I finished it and was basking in the warm afterglow when I happened to glance at myself in the rear-view mirror. In a moment of pure horror, I was reminded that no part of the Rocket Pop, Bomb Pop, or any other pop is natural. No, it is saturated with RED DYE NUMBER 5. And so were my lips.
This was turning into a real trip down Memory Lane! Another item came to mind from my childhood that was both novelty and candy – wax lips.
Yep, that’s what they looked like, and my appointment was just arriving, pulling into her driveway. She saw me and waved as she pulled in so it was too late to duck behind the dashboard. I grabbed a warm bottle of water, got out of the car, and splashed my face repeatedly but nothing worked. Nothing could make a dent in the red dye #5. In fact, the frantic rubbing only made the redness worse. I might as well have put on a fright wig and completed the clown outfit.
There was nothing left to do but face the music. I walked to the lady and extended my hand, hoping she had poor vision. She didn’t, and she wasn’t one for subtlety.
“What happened to your lips?” she asked, looking slightly frightened.
“I ate a Bomb Pop Junior,” I replied.
“Why did you call me Junior?” she asked.
“No, the thing I ate is called a Bomb Pop Junior,” I explained.
“Oh, well, whatever you ate, it sure painted you up,” she said, laughing unguardedly.
I then had to conduct an inspection and take a recorded statement looking like Bozo the Clown, a statement that was interrupted repeatedly by her laughter. She would apologize every time, then do it again. By this point, I just didn’t care anymore.
I said goodbye, got back into the sauna, and drove back to the office, being stared at by people who must have thought I was a drag queen with terrible make-up skills.
Of course, this episode ended the way they all do – with me looking up at the sky, hearing faint laughter from somewhere above the clouds, and saying, “Well played, God. Well played.”