[Episode Three of Adventures in Litter Bay]
Coheed was awakened by the sound of children’s voices rising up from the park below his one bedroom apartment.
“Lemonade Lemonade Lemonade!” they yelled. “Lemonade Lemonayyde Lemonade,” came their little boys’ and girls’ voices, some breaking into scratchy urgent little girl and boy screams, “Lemonaaaade! Lemonaaade! Lemon-aay-aay-ade!”
He looked over at the clock; nine-seventeen.
Ten minutes later it had not abated. “Lemonade Lemonade Lemon-aay-aay-ade.”
He pushed the covers aside and reached for last night’s blue jeans and t-shirt that lay carefully folded on the chair at the foot of the bed. Coheed was habitually tidy, no matter the hour or his condition. He took a moment in front of the bathroom mirror to tuck in his shirt and flatten his hair with a scoop of water and a pass of the comb. He opened the medicine cabinet and regarded the shelves which were bare save for a bottle of aspirin and the folded envelope he had stashed there where it would not be convenient. But also not inconvenient. He reached for the envelope, which he had not opened and read yet, and raised it to his face and drew in its smell, just as he had done a hundred times since he had received it from Old Phil the night before. He still would not believe it could be her. He returned it to the shelf and closed the cabinet.
He wobbled down the stairs into the bright morning, grimacing at light and noise. “Lemonade Lemonade Lemon-aay-aay-ade.” He was in the earliest stage of the hangover, when lingering drunkenness intermingled with dehydration and pain that was just beginning.
In the middle of the park a man and a woman stood near a folding table festooned with Dixie cups and large clear plastic pitchers of pink lemonade and ice, the pitchers shining with sweat even at this early hour. It was going to be a warm day in the Shore. On the corner, a group of children supervised by three more adults screamed with all they had and waggled colorful tack-board signs. Coheed could not read what was written, due to his condition and also because the kids’ penmanship and artistic skills lagged their vocal skills. “Lemonade! Lemonade! Lemon-aay-aay-ade.”
Coheed was in very rough shape, and not thinking clear, but he had come up with an elegant solution to his problem, and he was anxious to see it unwind. He strode around to the front of the table and smiled at the boy on the other side.
“Want to buy some lemonade?”
“It’s a dollar.”
“Per cup?” That seemed expensive to Coheed.
The man standing nearest smiled and said, “It’s so they don’t have to make change. Easier to count it that way.”
“I see,” said Coheed. “I’ll give you fifty bucks for all of it.”
“I’m sorry?” said the woman now taking notice and leaning in.
“How much for all of the lemonade? I want to buy all of it.”
“Lemonade! Lemonade! Lemon-aay-aay-ade!”
“Just what are you trying to prove?” said the man.
“Nothing. I’m just trying to get some peace and quiet. And some lemonade. Seventy-five bucks cover it? The kids can figure out how to divide it. It’ll be educational.”
“How about a hundred?” said the boy.
“Evan, hush,” said the woman.
“But why?” said Evan. “It’s the same as selling it a cup at a time. Way better, even. He didn’t even ask for a wholesale discount.”
The man and the woman stepped away and huddled together near a collection of blankets and strollers and other stuff for going to the park with kids. The group on the corner had turned away from traffic and stood with signs at their sides and watched and had stopped yelling. Coheed appreciated the quiet.
The couple returned and the woman said, “Cash?”
“Of course,” said Coheed.
“For three pitchers of lemonade?”
He reached into his wallet and unfurled a hundred dollar bill from a thick fold of them. Coheed didn’t believe in credit or checks so he always had plenty of cash.
“Whoa,” said Evan. He took the bill and reached for a cup.
“I won’t need those,” said Coheed. “Just give me the pitchers. Is there any more lemonade?”
“You sold me all of it? There’s no more in that ice chest under the table?”
“No,” said Evan.
Coheed took the three pitchers and walked over to the sidewalk, careful not to slosh any, and slowly poured the lemonade and the ice into the gutter where it ran to the west toward the corner where the quieted kids stood and stared. The little sweetened river looped and pooled and twisted and turned through the leaves and sticks and bottle caps and road dust, finding the surest route to the sea with thoughtlessness and gravity, picking up littler bits of stuff and carrying that along, too, and leaving the white hunks of ice behind where it mounded and settled into the concrete and began to melt.
Coheed returned the pitchers to the table and thanked Evan for the lemonade.
“Thank YOU!” yelled Evan.
“Hush, Evan,” said the woman, leaning in.
Coheed strode back across the park and stepped into the shadows of the stairwell and climbed up and returned inside and eventually back into bed after having folded yesterday’s jeans and t-shirt, carefully laying them upon the chair, which was his habit. He hoped he could have a dream of her and drifted off that way, hoping.
In ten minutes the sound of children’s voices awakened him again. “Money Money Mon-aay-aay-aay.”
“Money! Money! Mon-aay-aay-aay!”
He rose again and retraced his steps, pausing to smell her again on the envelope in the medicine cabinet, waxy and lemony and vanilla and sandalwood underneath, and as before he stood in front of a folding table festooned with colorful Dixie cups and the three clear plastic pitchers, now empty, that still glistened with condensation in the morning air, which was warming with the sun. The lemonade was gone, but not the coldness of it. The pain of his hangover was well upon him now. In the shade of the park’s lone maple, the children held hands and danced in a circle and yelled with all the voice they had, “Money! Money! Mon-aay-aay-aay!”
The five adults stood over the pile of signs and miscellaneous kid gear and luggage, sorting and arranging, settling in to enjoy the morning. They stopped what they were doing and stood and watched.
“What’s this, Evan?”
“It’s a new game I invented.”
“Yes. I think I may know it,” said Coheed reaching for his wallet. He saw that the man from before had separated from the group of parents organizing stuff and now approached. Coheed looked at the man and nodded, as if to say that everything was fine, but the man still moved in.
“It’s called ‘Yell for Money!'” said Evan.
“How much?” said Coheed.
“Only fifty,” said Evan. “That way we can split it six ways and we all get twenty-five.”
“Can you break a hundred?”
“No,” said the man as he stepped beside Coheed.
“I think the children have learned a hell of a lesson today,” said Coheed, handing over another unfurled bill to Evan. “I know I have.”