The July sun was just reaching its zenith when Mrs. Langley appeared on the sidewalk and stared down at the top of Mark’s head. “What are you doing?” she asked politely.
Mark met her gaze square in the eye, his chin lifted proudly. “Sean and I are opening a lemonade stand.”
“I see that. Can I ask why?”
“I just want my own money besides my allowance,” he answered.
She bit back a smile and studied their carefully stenciled poster board announcing, “The Best Lemonade in Hawthorne Hights: $1.50.” After a moment, she said only, “You did a nice job with the sign.” She didn’t mention the smudges outside the lines or the slight misspelling of the neighborhood’s name. Or the fact that they had obviously borrowed the crayons for their project from Dylan, the littlest Langley, without asking. He protected his Crayolas [use generic name] fiercely from careless use and broken tips.
“You want to be our taste tester?” Mark offered. “You can have the first glass.” He felt pretty generous.
“Wow, you must really love me,” Mrs. Langley said. Sean poked his friend and made kissy lips in the air. Mark, embarrassed, just shrugged and held out a glass.
She took the plastic cup from his hand with great ceremony, waved it under her nose and inhaled the scent, then finally took a sip and thoughtfully swirled it around her mouth. The boys [see note] watched her, trying not to appear too anxious. Finally, she swallowed and smiled.
“Not bad.” She pronounced. When Mark’s face fell almost imperceptibly, she added, “Really, it’s pretty good. Maybe even pretty great. There’s something in there besides lemons and sugar, isn’t there?”
He nodded, happy. “Yeah, it’s from Sean’s Grandma Pearl’s recipe. We messed with it until it tasted perfect. It’s vanilla,” he said triumphantly.
“Well, I’m impressed,” Mrs. Langley told them. “Good luck this afternoon. Don’t stay out too late,” and with another kind smile, she headed back to the house.
The afternoon passed quickly. Business was brisk, with neighbors stopping to chat and ask about the littler Langleys at home. Mark suspected many of their customers were humoring them and thought he even caught a quickly smothered smile or two, but he just ignored that. As long as the neighbors kept up their steady stream, he would have enough money to buy a new game for his Wii by dinner. Old Mr. Stinson from three doors down even bought four glasses from them, one after the other, and drank them right there on the sidewalk. He’s probably just curious about our stand, thought Mark. But it didn’t matter. It got them six dollars closer to the goal.
Finally as dusk was settling in, he turned to find Dylan at his elbow.
“Dad! Mom says you have to come home for dinner,” the little boy announced solemnly through an overgrown fringe of bangs.
“Tell her I’ll be there in a little while. We only need to sell a few more lemonades,” Mark told him.
Dylan rolled his eyes. “She said enough is enough, you made your point, you can have your game, but you have to come home for dinner!”
Mark turned to his partner. “Well, I guess that’s it for me. The boss is calling.”
“Oh, yeah, Mr. Balling. Mrs. B said you have to go home, too,” Dylan informed Sean.
The two men smiled at each other and began gathering up their business, placing unused Dixie cups and sticky measuring spoons in a large red wagon. Finally, Mark counted out half of the bills to his neighbor. “Pleasure doing business with you, Sean. What are you going to do with your share?”
Sean thumbed it thoughtfully. “I don’t know. Maybe take Cheryl out for dinner and a movie so she doesn’t kill me for doing this. I figure my take ought to cover a babysitter.”
Dylan tugged on Mark’s shirt, trying to get his attention. “Dad, I don’t think Mom was kidding around. You better come on,’ he said. He scooped up their sign and was about to toss it in the wagon when he suddenly stopped and stared at it suspiciously. “Hey! Did you use my crayons without asking?” he demanded.
Mark grinned and waved a fistful of dollars. “Don’t worry, kid. You just got an upgrade to the deluxe box of 64.”
“With the built-in sharpener?”
“You drive a hard bargain, Dylan. Maybe you should have been out here with us today. We could have made even more money.”
“I’m pretty cute,” the little boy said solemnly.
His dad gave a shout of laughter and threw his arm around his shoulders. “You’ve got a future, son,” he said, and swung him up on his shoulders for a ride toward home and dinner.
Note: I didn’t want to put this up in the story, in case someone was reading this for the first time. It would be fine to have Mrs. Langley call them “boys” but the narrator should avoid this. Too misleading.
What I liked best: I really liked the twist on this story. I thought it was clever.
Magazine ready? Yes. Good job.