You know how they say “Don’t ever pass up a kid in a lemonade stand”?
Well, I’ve passed a bunch of them, always guiltily. Admit it. You have, too. We are too busy doing important things to stop and buy a cup of lemonade which is going to be some crap off the shelf at Safeway anyhow.
I remember my own lemonade stands. They were never profitable. I’m not sure any lemonade stand is, but certainly never, ever, ever in Texas. Like being a coke dealer, you simply consume all of your own product.
There was no kid ever born who could sit out on a sweltering roadside in 100-degree, 95%-humidity weather next to a jug of cold lemonade and not drain the whole thing in thirty minutes or less. Then you’d go back inside where it was cool, mix up some more, take it out, and drink it, too.
By the third jug you had lemonade poisoning, but if you were crazy lucky someone would stop to buy a cup. When we lived in Galveston the bums would ask for it for free and we were too afraid not to give it to them. They were incredibly grateful and kind, and it felt like we were making money even though we weren’t.
We were too young to know that making money never makes you feel good about the other person.
Outta my way, punk, I’m a masters bike racer
I was finishing up my tour of Petaluma today; had probably ridden an hour and covered ten miles. Of course I was wearing my spankingest clown suit.
I passed by the lemonade stand and the little kid practically whispered, “Lemonade, sir?”
I kept going, of course. I was on Petaluma Parade Mode, showing the locals what a real bicyclist professional, an avid recreational cyclist, a way important person looked like.
The little kid’s voice echoed in my head for a block. I turned around.
He was surprised to see me again. “Hey, kid,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“I been on the road all stinkin’ day, Johnny. I got up at 4:00 AM this morning. You ever get up at 4:00 AM?”
“No, sir.” He was a little bit frightened.
“Well, I did, and I been in a bad mood ever since, because the minute I opened my eyes, you know what I wanted?”
I stared at him, hard. “Some lemonade.”
He blinked, then looked at his jug. “Really?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I been wantin’ a cup of lemonade all stinkin’ day. My throat is dryer than a cracker. I reckon if I don’t get some lemonade in the next twenty seconds I’m gonna keel over and die.”
Wyatt McCoy got busier with his jug and cup than any kid you ever saw. He was so busy he forgot to ask me for the twenty-five cents. He hurriedly handed me the cup. “Here you go, sir.”
I took it from him, scowling, and downed it in one gulp. A huge smile began to play across my face. He started smiling, too. “Was it good?”
“Sonny,” I said. “That was the best danged cup of lemonade I ever had. Better than the former best cup I had back in Daingerfield, Texas, in July of 1969. Man, I think you saved my life.”
“I’m sure of it.”
He poured me another cup. “Here,” he said. “Have another one.” His eyes had that happy kid sparkle, the thing from inside that brims over when you are helping another human being.
I drained it. Then I reached into my back pocket. “Can you break a hundred dollar bill?”
“No, sir.” His face fell.
“Well, let me see if I have something smaller.” I found the right sized bill and paid up. “Thank you, sonny,” I said.
“You’re welcome, sir,” he answered. And as I rode off he said, louder this time, no whisper, “Thank you, sir!”
Well, that echoed, too. And for a lot longer than a block.
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