by Lauren Levine (2014 writer)
Tragedy has officially struck…there is no ice cream at the Dairy Queen. “Excuse me, can I have y’alls attention,” calls out the frazzled, brown-haired manager over our workshop groups’ chatter. “The machine is broken.” More ominous words have yet to be uttered in this culinary Mecca of Archer City.
It’s a sweltering Monday afternoon in Archer City, the home place of author Larry McMurtry and the setting of many of his renowned novels. The dry July heat is unrelenting, and my fellow writers and I turn to the town’s seeming beacon of hope, Dairy Queen, for delicious and cooling reprieve from the Texas temperatures. With our heads filled with new knowledge on the craft of storytelling, our stomachs emptied and whining for nourishment, and our butts sufficiently sore from sitting for only god knows how long-losing track of time as usual-we wait with excitement to order our lunch at this fast food establishment.
Smack dab in the middle of town lay the one and only Dairy Queen, where the saliva-inducing aroma of greasy French fries, juicy burgers, and Type 2 diabetes lingers in the air. At first glance it looks like any other restaurant in the chain: white bricks, red roof, and the familiar and inviting red and white signage. Step inside, however, and it’s an homage to McMurtry. The actual booth where McMurtry sat while writing Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen is adorned with pictures of his book covers, attracting writers, McMurtry enthusiasts, and wannabe Texans to glean inspiration and soak up the western nostalgia. But apart from McMurtry’s literary legacy, this DQ’s lifeblood comes from the ice-cold treats pumped out daily from a glorious stainless-steel contraption festooned with buttons, levers, knobs, and interconnecting veins all flowing with frozen vanilla cream.
Back in the line of both veteran and student writers, I gasp, stunned by the DQ manager, Debbie Stender’s, distressing announcement. Archer City’s heart has been afflicted with an unfortunate arrhythmia, the grand silver and white ice-cream machine unable to pump out even the tiniest dribble of soft-serve deliciousness. Oh, the inhumanity! Part of me wants to cry out a dramatic “NOOO!” but fear of ridicule keeps me biting my tongue. “What?! The ice cream machine is broken?! Someone, alert the press!” cries one of my classmates.
After a few tormenting minutes pass and the line thins out, I find myself up at the register to give Debbie my order. I stare blankly, stymied by the unsatisfying menu options before me. Dairy Queen without ice cream is like McDonald’s without its Big Mac. Like KFC without its original recipe. Like Hooters without…well, you get the idea. It just doesn’t make sense and inevitably leaves you disappointed. Should I order a smoothie? Blasphemous! A latte? Sacrilege!
Ice cream is the reason you come to Dairy Queen. Isn’t it? I mean why else would people come to this fast food joint full of dairy products from the world of “Cow Udder” all marked at reasonably low prices. It’s a lactose lovers’ dreamland; where happiness is supposed to come in the form of a $3.00 vanilla soft-serve with a chocolate shell and a waffle cone.