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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Sweet and Sour Summer

A doubleheader of Braves banter for you over at Bugs & Cranks:

Something Something TITANS! Something… — Does John Smoltz pitch any games that aren’t big matchups?

and(!):

Instant Momentum — Sometimes, a game is decided in the blink of an eye. Other times, it’s in the smack of a wall.

And below, a little something I concocted a while back for another purpose. It’s a little different than most things I post here — maybe ‘better’, maybe ‘worse’, maybe just ‘different’ — but it has the distinct and supreme advantage of having already been written already. Enjoy.


Sweet and Sour Summer

The last dregs of pale yellow liquid spiraled down the toilet, my dreams of independent wealth disappearing with them. I had turned ten years old the week before, and immediately set out to make my fortune. “Yer double-digits now,” my old man had barked around a mouthful of birthday cake. “Don’t think ye’ll be gettin’ any more of that ‘allowance’ welfare from me, son.” Apparently, my father had been abandoned onto the streets of a bleak Dickensian landscape as a small boy, and was making sure his own child had a taste, too.

I decided to open a lemonade stand. I don’t know how Dad made his ha’pennies back in the day, but I wasn’t about to submit myself to real physical labor. The salt mines were way on the other side of town, and I’m allergic to coal dust. Or so I assume. It was either a lemonade stand or underage prostitution, and my mother wouldn’t lend me her lipstick and push-up bra. Life handed me lemons. I knew what to do.

My ‘stand’ was made from the wooden shell of an aborted Go-Kart project. It didn’t have wheels — Dad was never good with axles — so flipped upside-down, it made a respectable table. I dissected a square of cardboard from an old air conditioner box, and scrawled:

LEMONADE

25 CENTS

REFRESHING!

“Ten years old is far too mature to be looking cute on a street corner. Not without the lipstick and bra, anyway.”

I’d seen the ‘Refreshing!’ part in a TV ad. I figured if it could sell RC Cola, it could sure as hell move my lemonade. I briefly considered going ‘cute’ with shaky lettering and backwards ‘E’s. But ‘cute’ hardly fit with my slick professional ‘Refreshing!’ message. Ten years old is far too mature to be looking cute on a street corner. Not without the lipstick and bra, anyway.

My first day on the job, I made three sales. My parents each bought a cup, and when our nosy next-door neighbor came to investigate, I shamed him into a purchase, too. With almost a dollar right out of the gate, I figured I had it made. In my head, I was already blowing the wads of cash — sipping milk out of slippers in Vegas, snorting powdered sugar off the backs of Tijuana hookers. I called the local banks to haggle over rates on long-term CDs.

Six days later, I had the same seventy-five cents, and I was pouring the last batch of rancid week-old lemonade into the toilet. “Don’t you dump that in the kitchen sink,” Mom hollered. “It’s been out in the sun. Prob’ly got salmonella or somethin’.”

I needed a new business plan. Customer retention was dismal, my sign was a total flop, and I was down to my last two scoops of Country Time. Evidently ‘Refreshing!’ wasn’t good enough for the modern jaded citrus drinker. I needed a gimmick, a hook. Lemonade with pizazz. Something to put me back on the money train.

I retreated to the kitchen for inspiration. At my ten-year-old height, only the bottom shelves were accessible, and the pickings were slim. Pots. Dish towels. A pasta maker last used during the Truman administration. In desperation, I turned to the cabinet under the sink. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for — mint leaves? Brown sugar? Novelty ice cubes? But when I found my lemonade savior, I’d know it.

The undersink inventory read like a Mr. Yuk dinner party. Drano. Dawn. Pledge. Brillo pads. Comet. Bleach. A half-empty plastic bottle of off-brand vodka.

Bingo.

I don’t know why the booze was there. Maybe Mom took a nip between dishwashing sessions. Or used it to disinfect countertops. Maybe she was planning a Molotov cocktail for the nosy neighbor. At any rate, adults seemed to like the stuff, and they were the ones with quarters to buy lemonade. So I mixed a fresh batch of ade, added a few fingers of the secret ingredient, and returned to my post. I flipped the sign over and wrote:

LEMONADE

25 CENTS

INTOXICATING!

I forget how I knew that word; I think I’d heard it during one of Mom’s soap operas. I sat on the grass behind the Go-Kart and waited for the throngs of customers to arrive.

Three hours later, the throngs remained noticeably absent. Just as I was about to call it a career, my father’s car pulled into the driveway. I must have looked as forlorn as I felt, because he decided to throw me a bone. He flipprd me a quarter.

“Hell, son — it’s been a long day. I’ll take a cup of your stuff there.”

The events that transpired after Dad placed the cup to his lips are a blur. There was shouting — Dad at me, Mom at me, Mom and Dad together, both of them at the neighbor pretending not to listen. At some point the vodka bottle was fetched, and the lemonade dumped onto the lawn. The spankings came later, followed by more shouting. And then the grounding, and the lemonade stand was closed for good. Worst of all, I had to give up the only dollar I’d ever earned to pay for the borrowed booze.

On the bright side, my old man didn’t bug me to get a job for the rest of the summer. He marched me downtown on the first day of the following June to get a job delivering papers, of course. But I got my one extra summer of lazy childhood days, thanks to a little luck, a salesman’s instincts — and a bottle of rotgut vodka my parents forgot to hide. And to this day, my father still won’t drink my lemonade.

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One Response to “Sweet and Sour Summer”

  1. lori says:

    Ah, the good old days when men were men and women could unwind with a little vodka.

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