The following short story is based on characters created and/or copyrighted by Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis Lynn, and MTV. All other characters were created and copyrighted by Roland Lowery.

The author gives full permission to distribute this work freely, as long as no alterations are made and the exchange of monetary units is not involved. Any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints should be sent to esn1g(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thank you.

"She's got a sweetness about her
That I can't explain
She's got a wonderment about her
That I can't deny
And we are patient
Then maybe we'll get it straight
On the mountain"
-Mountain by Tonic

Lemon Parade
by Roland 'Jim' Lowery

One day, I made a wish.

The little girl clambered up the stepping stool and painstakingly took stock of everything sitting on the counter. She checked, double-checked, and triple-checked, spending more time than she knew was necessary, but the exact right amount of time that she felt was necessary. Everything had to be perfect. Everything had to be right.

She was going to have the best lemonade stand ever.

Very very carefully, she picked up a knife and began to slice the lemons in half. Her parents had, as parents usually do, been very unhappy about the idea of her using a knife at her age, but she wanted to do everything herself. After she had grudgingly agreed to adult supervision, she had shown them several times that she was quite capable of handling the sharp implement and that she was even more careful about doing so than they could possibly have wanted her to be.

She wouldn't slip up, she wouldn't hurt herself. It would only screw up her plans, and she wasn't going to have that.

The juicer went on top of the pitcher, the lemons went on top of the juicer one by one. Her small hands pressed them and turned them and squeezed them, pushing every last drop of juice out to drain into the glass pitcher, leaving the pulp in the juicer's reservoir.

Next came a good helping of sugar, then she carried her half-formed drink and the stepping stool over to the sink to fill it the rest of the way up with water. She then used a large ladle to stir it until the sugar dissolved. She sipped just a bit out of the ladle when she finished and nodded in satisfaction at a well-mixed jug of lemonade.

Once done cleaning up after herself, she grabbed the pitcher from the sink and made her way outside. Her stand stood proudly by the sidewalk in front of her house, looking beautiful to her eyes in the shining summer sunlight. Like the lemonade, she had made the stand with her own two hands. Only parts of it were made of the traditional cast-off wooden planks, nailed together as her daddy had watched to keep her safe from splinters or a busted thumb. The rest was carefully crafted from an old refrigerator box that had been thrown out in the back yard just a few weeks before.

She felt a small twinge of sadness at having cut up the box. She had rescued it from the yard, put it in her room, and used it as-

But that was over and done with. She shook her head lightly, bringing herself back to the here and now. The box had been re-purposed as the facade of her stand, neatly spaced block letters in bright crayon colors proclaiming the purpose of her business and the price for which her lemony beverage could be bought.

She set the pitcher on the counter of the stand to sit next to the sleeve of cups and bowl of lemon slices that she had carried out earlier that morning. After settling herself down on her small stool, she took at few of the ice cubes sitting in a styrofoam cooler next to her feet and dropped them in the lemonade to keep it cool. With a final check to make sure her money bag was sitting on the other side from the ice, her stand was open and ready for business.

People in Highland, she had come to understand from listening to her daddy's rants, were pretty poor in comparison to people in other parts of the world. As a result, it seemed, few of them had cars that worked reliably. Further, this meant that many of them walked to and from work and school. It was an impeccable string of logic that appealed to the little girl's sensibilities, and it seemed to her that it meant she might get a good batch of customers as the day progressed. Even people who couldn't afford to take a taxi to work could afford a young lady's quite inexpensive lemonade on a hot day.

She wasn't disappointed. Within an hour, she'd had three people order a paper cup of her wares as they passed by, and a few of the neighbors had come out to see what was up and buy their own drinks. Even as the temperature rose and morning turned to afternoon, so did the little girl's spirits and feelings of self-worth rise. She was providing a valuable service to the people of her community and making a good bit of spending money in the process. So often she felt the pressure of the outside world weighing down upon her, but for once, things were finally starting to look up.

And then they showed up.

She could hear their crude laughter from almost three blocks away. It wasn't very difficult considering that neither boy had any real sense of volume control. Closing her eyes tightly, the little girl tried hard, so very hard to will them away, to force them into following a different path with just the power of her own mind.

But as powerful a tool as she knew her own mind to be, control over the actions of others was something that sadly seemed to elude her. The two boys walked up to her stand and came to a stop directly in front of it. The grumbling laughter of one and the disturbingly breathy laughter of the other continued for several moments, and at first it seemed like they weren't going to say anything at all.

The girl wasn't fooled, however. She had dealt with the two dim bulbs before, and she knew it merely took a few seconds for their brains to catch up with whatever it was they were looking at.

"Uh," one of them said intelligently, "hey, look. Diarrhea made us some lemonade. Uh huh huh huh huh."

"Eh heh heh heh heh," the other replied. "Ooooooh, yaaaaah! Lookit that. Leh-moh-nade-oh!"

When they reached out to swipe some cups, the girl expertly swatted both of their hands in one go. They cradled their injured appendages and, though they continued their idiotic chuckling, they tried to match the glare she was giving them with angry scowls of their own.

"Ow! Hey, cut it out, Diarrhea! We just, like, want some of your lemonade!"

"Yah! Eh heh heh heh heh . . . cut it out, bunghole!"

Despite the fact that the boys were a fair bit bigger than she was, the little girl refused to back down. "If you want a drink, you have to pay, just like everyone else," she told them firmly.

"Uh huh huh huh huh . . . uh huh huh huh . . . uuuuuh . . . pay?" The brown-haired kid looked simultaneously confused and disgusted by the concept, but his blonde friend was able to put their position much more eloquently.

"This sucks!" he screeched. "It really sucks! You should just, like, give it to us! And be happy you had the chance to give two cool guys like us anything! Because, like, if you don't, we'll wreck up your place and stuff! 'Cause we're in a gang! Yah! A gang! We are tough los el hombres, por favor! Yah! So there!"

"Whoa! Uh huh huh huh huh, that was pretty cool!"

"Hmm? Oh, heh heh heh, yah, I guess it was. Mmmheh heh heh."

"Look, guys, if you're not going to buy anything, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You're scaring away my customers." The girl crossed her arms and tried to give them her best imitation of her mother's "mommy's on the phone right now and you're bothering her" looks.

Whether they were too angry or too oblivious to notice the depth of her irritation or simply didn't care, the boys advanced on the stand. Ignoring the second slap she delivered to their hands, one of them snatched up the sleeve of paper cups while the other grabbed the jug of lemonade itself, then both jumped back from the stand.

The one with the cups gripped the bag by the bottom and started swinging it over his head and making helicopter noises. The cups flew out one by one and in clumps, scattering all over the sidewalk, yard, and street. After watching his compatriot and chortling for a moment, the other raised the captured pitcher to his lips and began to noisily suck down the lemonade inside.

The little girl stared in transfixed horror until she could finally will her legs to move. All of the cups had already been spilled out onto the ground, but the lemonade, she hoped, could possibly be saved. The boy drinking it had other ideas, however, and as soon as he noticed that she was moving his way, he immediately started to run around the stand, leading her in a heated chase. He refused to stop drinking, however, and as he ran lemonade sloshed around the sides of his face to splash on his shoulders and the ground below.

Bereft of more cups to sling about, the blonde boy returned to the stand and picked up the bowl of sliced lemons. Chuckling to himself, he picked up one of the slices, sucked on it, then immediately began spitting the juice back out with exaggerated noises of pain and agitation. Dissatisfied with the sour taste of the fruit, he quickly found a new use for the bright yellow wedges.

The girl squawked in surprise as a chunk of lemon hit her on the cheek. She stopped running and looked around just in time to see the blonde boy fling another piece at her shoulder. The brunette kid, noticing this new bit of fun, threw the almost-empty pitcher onto the ground and joined his bully buddy.

The little girl did her best to block the lemons with her hands and arms, but with both of them hurling the fruit at her, it was proving quite difficult. One of the slices hit right across the top of her glasses, spraying juice into her eyes and momentarily blinding her. As more and more pieces of fruit pelted her, she fell to her knees and started to cry.

She didn't like crying. She always felt ashamed when she cried, as if crying were a bad thing to do. But she couldn't help it. All of the good feelings she had been building up were gone, and she was miserable again. In less than five minutes, the two boys had managed to remind her that no matter how high she might manage to crawl, there was always somebody waiting right at the edge of the cliff to kick her back down to the bottom again.

It was unfair. But it was her life. And not for the first time in that life, she thought about how much easier it would be if she stopped trying altogether.


Trapped deep within her own little world of self-pity and self-loathing, the little girl only barely heard the voice coming from the other side of the street.


When the little impacts of lemon slices stopped raining against her, the girl's first thought was that the boys had finally run out. But she had definitely heard the voice that time.

It was a strangely mellow voice, but still filled with a sort of authority and more than a little bit of anger. It was a male voice, and it was moving closer as its owner ran over, then further away and accompanied by three sets of pounding footfalls.

And then the only sound was that of the young girl crying into her hands as lemon juice dripped from her hair, shirt, and arms. She didn't know what was happening in the outside world, and she didn't care. It didn't matter. The outside world was just too-

"Hey," the voice said again, but right next to her and with none of the furious bellowing of before.

A paranoid thought of some subtler form of bullying about to happen crossed the girl's mind. She gritted her teeth, stopped the sobs coming from her chest as best she could, and lowered her hands in anticipation of whatever new curve ball life was going to throw at her.

All she saw through the blurry remnants of her tears was a thin, lanky boy crouched down next to her with a look of genuine concern on his face. She was about to say something spiteful and mean to him so he'd just go away, but something about his expression tugged on that last small part of her that felt any connection with the rest of the human race, and she found herself unable to give voice to the words.

The boy carefully looked her over, then asked, "Are you okay?"

She wiped at the juice and tears on her face, unhappy to note that both substances were already starting to dry in the sun, becoming sticky to the touch. Looking away from the boy, she nodded and started to stand up. He reached out and gently helped her up, then let go and stood back, making sure not to stay in contact with her any longer than necessary.

Looking over at the boy again, she felt a strange combination of relief and disappointment that he'd stopped touching her arm. She wasn't really interested in boys or anything, not yet anyway and, she suspected, not ever . . . and he was obviously a few years older than her at the very least . . . but she figured that maybe, under the right circumstances, if he cleaned up just a little bit . . .

Suddenly acutely aware of how she herself looked after being pelted with fruit, she felt her entire face burn bright, bright red. She looked down at her shoes and let her hair hang down so he couldn't see, then mumbled, "Um . . . thanks."

"No problem," the boy replied cheerfully. "Can't stand bullies. Especially when they're picking on cute girls. So, this your house?" he asked quickly, before the shock caused by his statement could fully settle in. "We should get you inside so you can get the lemon stuff off ya. While you're doin' that, I'll come back out here and clean up the mess those two dorks made. Cool?"

"Uh, yah," the girl said with a slight smile as they moved toward the house. "Cool."

"Name's Trent, by the way," he said as he held the front door open for her. "Just moved here last month. Y'know, I've got a sister that's probably in the same grade as you . . . "

One day, I made a wish.

I wished I could be with you.


Roland 'Jim' Lowery

July 25, 2010