The boy named Alfonso met his uncle for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in a village in France, where ice water was the only thing on the menu. The more ice, the more expensive the dish. Both the boy and his uncle ordered the most expensive dish: thirteen pieces of ice in a glass with a little tap water. After dinner the two of them swam in the sewers of the town with the locals who were jealous. The locals had hardly had any ice at all in their suppers, but they all swam in the same sewers at night. When the moon was high and bright, Alfonso and his uncle went home with their sneakers still soaking with sewer water.
Later, wearing warm dry pajamas in the kitchen, they each had another glass of water with two pieces of ice, and they both retired soon and fell asleep. Both of them passed dreamless nights, waking in the early pre-dawn darkness to void some cold urine and go back to bed. Sometimes it was more pleasurable to void in bed and enjoy the cool mattress until morning, but it meant changing the sheets.
In the morning there was six inches of snow on the ground and all the children were out throwing snowballs at themselves, and destroying each other's snowmen.
It all turned to slush by late afternoon. The streets were brown, and the dirty residue was forming melting ridges between the lanes. Traffic slogged by in it and the kids slogged home, dragging their scraped up saucers and toboggans behind them. Icicles were falling from the eaves and from the gutters of the houses and the buildings. At nighttime, the wind was blowing hardly at all, and the only sound in the village was the sticky soup of the melting snow being run over by the cars that were circulating.
At dinner Alfonso and his uncle ate split pea soup and they slurped loudly at their bowls and they could not hear a thing for all the noise of the traffic outside. All conversation was impossible and the two finished their meals without exchanging so much as a glance and later changed into their pajamas.
It was dark in the kitchen where they swallowed two pieces of ice each, and Alfonso's uncle gave him a coy wink as if to say, "Don't tell your mum, lad, or I'll gut you." His uncle couldn't remember that his own sister, Alfonso's mother, was deceased three years ago, which is why Alfonso was living with his uncle. Alfonso ran up to bed and turned off the lights and lay down on his bed under the covers and stared at the ceiling trying to relax and feel the two pieces of ice lodged in his throat slowly melt.
Alfonso's uncle stayed in the kitchen and suckled a few more pieces of ice from his hands, occasionally licking the dripping melt water from his fingers.
When his glass was empty, he opened the freezer and took two more pieces of ice from the tray. He dropped one in his glass. He stopped suddenly and listened. He could hear nothing. The traffic had stopped completely. There was no more of the separating velcro sound that that had permeated the afternoon and their supper. He looked through the window, which gave on the street, and saw circulating headlights, but heard nothing except the automobiles' engines droning along quietly. "Strange," he said, examining the lamplit street still covered in precipitate.
He dropped the other cube into his tumbler where it landed silently. Alfonso's uncle stared in amazement at the glass in his hand. He shook the glass, but heard no clinking of the ice against the glass. More forcefully, he rattled the ice cubes and he could feel them hitting against the crystal walls, but he heard nothing of it. He opened the window to the warming cold outside. People were getting out of their cars. They were pulling over so they could listen, and they heard nothing but their engines humming and eventually the engine fans kicking on to cool the idling motors.
Women started screaming, and men were shouting hoarsely. Everyone was trying to make some sort of noise, clapping their hands or banging against the hood of the car. And they could hear it all except the dripping water. And the little rivulets of melt water slipping into the sewers were silent.