Last night, when homework and showers were done, the boys were dispersed through the house. Hugh and I were in the kitchen, watching the debate. He headed to the freezer to get one of the cartons of ice cream we had purchased at the grocery store last night (“only” $3 for each 1.5 quart container, far more expensive than gasoline). Now that the boys are teenagers, ice cream is a rare treat in our house. That’s one way this American family has tightened its belt.

So I was both disappointed and relieved when the boys chose flavors that leave me, shall we say, cold, and therefore I wasn’t tempted to dig in. (Let the Congressional Record show that they selected Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Peanut Butter Swirl, and not the Neopolitan that I favor.)

Hugh, pulling out the carton and feeling its suspicious lightness:

“Hey, we just bought this yesterday! Mom, did you have any?”

“No, Hugh, I actually haven’t had any. I don’t know about Dad, and he’s out at a church meeting right now so don’t call him to interrogate him.”

Hugh then polled his two brothers, and ascertained that they had each had a bowl last night, plus one tonight. He was, unhappily, the last one at the trough.

Riffing on what he was hearing from the debates, Hugh chastised his brothers. “We need to cut back on our ice cream consumption, my friends! In the past two days, our consumption has skyrocketed!”

Malcolm: “Well Hugh, we haven’t had it in the freezer for weeks. It’s a special treat!” Clearly, scarcity has led to gorging.

Hugh: “You still should take a modest bowl!”

By now, Malcolm – sated on ice cream – had moved on to snacking on quiche. Competition for this treat is light, and he knows he’ll get the lion’s share.

Last night, it was all about abundance and scarcity, supply and demand, on the micro level as well as the macro. When it comes to ice cream, poor Hugh will never again be so naive – or to quote my favorite debate malapropism, “green behind the ears.” (sounds like mold – ewww!)

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