Middlesex Dairy could be called a dairy only because ice cream was made on the premises. It was a short-order restaurant serving nothing more complicated than tuna-salad sandwiches and fried clams, one of the few places in town where you could order food or ice cream.

The owner and his wife traveled around the U.S. in a Winnebago. The business was left in the hands of Brad, the manager, a tall man in his 40s who lived with his wife and five kids in a town 45 minutes away. All we knew about his past was—one—that he’d been in Korea and—two—everyone kidded him about his previous job as a Mister Softee, driving an ice-cream truck to sell cones to little kids.

He hired me after an interview that lasted two minutes. I needed to work that summer, even for the dollar an hour the job paid, which was money for…

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