The Lemonade Stand.
“Those kids are going to get kidnapped,” her high-pitched voice echoed in the foyer. “No decent parent in their right mind would allow their children to sit on the corner like that.”
Craig was tired. It had been way too long of a day at the office for this. He slipped off his shoes at the door, yearning to get past her to reach the refrigerator and its collection of import beers hidden in the back. “Honey, it’s a lemonade stand. We used to do things like that all the time when we were kids.”
“It was different back then,” his wife insisted, putting her hands on her hips. “It’s a scary world out there.”
“We live in a wealthy suburb, Laura.”
“But they’re at the end of the development, right by the a major intersection! Anyone coming down 82 can stop, snatch them up, and drive away. I’m calling their parents.”
“Alright, alright.” Craig put his shoes back on with a sigh. “I’ll go talk to them, okay? Just put the phone down.”
The neighborhood was quiet, free of the typical background noise of roaring lawnmowers and kids playing in their front yards. He wondered if the residents of Treeflower Lane even mowed their own grass - since they’d moved in to their new McMansion at 8614, he’d yet to see one. It’s funny how things like the sound of obnoxious lawnmowers are what one becomes accustomed to, and how its mere absence can breed nostalgia. He shook his head. They had been so excited when he first got the promotion, but it turned out that life was still just as big a pain in the ass as it was pre-brand new big house in ritzy development with good school system. Their problems were just more expensive.
He squinted in the setting sun to see the two young kids up ahead, seated behind their folding picnic table, their little hands folded, watching the cars pass them by with big innocent eyes. He was sad to see their jar held only a couple coins, their pitcher of lemonade far from empty. Guess the rich people around here didn’t want any lemonade.
As he got closer, he realized they were the Brooks kids, and suddenly, it all made sense. Tom Brooks inherited his parent’s house and immediately moved in, even though he was an auto mechanic up at the nearby Shell station who worked extra shifts at the oil change place on the weekends. Craig had met him when his kids were out making a snowman without boots, his wife horrified to see their reddening skin above their sneakers. He seemed a nice enough guy, just very distracted. He felt for him - he couldn’t imagine raising two kids as a single father with no help.
The rest of the neighborhood, however, did not feel the same way, treating them like an abomination that had no part among the neatly manicured lawns and Homeowners Association approved mailboxes. His heart broke for the kids - he couldn’t even imagine what school must be like alongside the richest kids the nearby counties had to offer.
Craig reached into his pockets, grateful he had a few dollars stashed away with the single serving packs of nicotine gum. “Hello,” he greeted them as he pushed the bills into their jar. “I’d like a cup of lemonade, please.”
The little girl (he couldn’t remember her name for the life of him) eyed the crumpled bills at the bottom of the jar. “A cup is only 25 cents.”
The little boy (his name had to be Max, Craig was sure of it) pointed to their cardboard sign that read, FRESH LEMONADE - 25 CENTS!
“It’s a tip,” Craig shrugged.
The little girl accepted his excuse and hurried to get him a cup, sloshing the liquid all over the grass as she did so.
“Careful, you’re going to waste it," Maybe Max warned her.
“It’s okay,” Craig assured them. “How long have you guys been out here? It’s got to be close to dinner time.”
Maybe Max shrugged. “Dad’s working late tonight.”
Craig knew his wife would kill him if he invited them over for supper, but she would also kill him if he didn’t get them off the street. “Why don’t you guys let me get you some McDonald's? I’d invite you to come along with me, but I don’t want to be that creepy stranger who invites kids into his car.”
The little girl laughed as she handed him his cup. “We know who you are, Mr. Talbot, you live across the street. My name is Cyndi, by the way.”
“Cyndi, that’s right,” Craig nodded as he sipped the lemonade. It was surprisingly cold and refreshing, with just enough sugar to soothe the tartness without hurting your teeth. He was genuinely impressed.