Ever since you were little, all summer long old man Rendell has sold lemonade on the corner of your block. At the break of dawn he wheels his ice chest and his chair out to the corner of 8th North and 6th East near the church and sets up shop. There is a tree there he can catch some shade from and a sidewalk where he used to get a whole lot of walk-up customers. When you were younger, say 8-9, you remember Rendell put out a sign. After some years though, he didn’t need one. People just knew and stopped off on their way to and from work, to the ballpark just down the street or on their way to the Wal-Mart.

And he made pretty good lemonade for a while. He had customers. Regulars. Your sister, Annie, and you were regulars. Five cents for a delicious sweet tangy drink when it was 95 degrees out, the grass under your feet dry and stiff like toothpicks and Rendell smiling with those white dentures. His lemonade was cold. Cold like December and Rendell knew it, the way he would watch you with such interest and jerk his chin down and to the side when you would pour it back over your tongue. Cold.

You and Annie spent your chore money there. Everyday he would stay until all his gallons of lemonade were sold, and then old man Rendell packed it all up and scurried to his house just two blocks away were he would disappear until the next morning where he’d arrive at the corner like the sun and the birds.

You and Annie grew up. She got married to Tony and moved to Washington State. They have three kids, all boys, and a mortgage that tests their limits. You’ve been married twice. Divorced twice. Hanging low right now, regrouping some, your heart broken after Tina told you you were a bore back in April and gently placed the papers at your fingertips on the kitchen table at breakfast.

You’ve been doing a lot of driving these last couple of months. You don’t have any kind of proof that it might fix you, but just rolling under all those apple trees out west, elbow out the window, with the shadows lengthening and a beer nestled between your legs seems to mend the damage, if only for a bit, if only for a day. You feel a comfort in the gloaming and the numbing.

Last night you were headed up 8th North for home, and there was old man Rendell sitting on his corner. He was slouched some in his lawn chair beside the same old ice chest. He looked awful lonely, and the dipping sun was shining right on him. You circled around the block and pulled up, turned your wheels into the curb and got out of the truck.

He squinted up at you. His dentures gone brown.

You said, “Hi Mr. Rendell. You got some lemonade?”

He grunted and leaned to the side and lifted the lid of the ice chest. He poured some dishwater-looking liquid from a jug into a clear Dixie cup and handed it out to you.

“How much do I owe you?” you asked as you accepted the warm cup and chuckled a bit. “You charging more than a nickel these days?”
“Five cent,” he mumbled.

You handed him a dollar bill.

“Keep the change,” you said and took a swig of the lemonade.

You nearly choked on the sour gall.

“Good as I remember, Mr. Rendell,” you lied and walked back to your truck.

You got in the driver’s seat, buckled yourself in and held that cup of splashing lemonade as careful as any one of your beers and sipped on it all the way home.

You called Annie up there in the Northwest, all those miles away across the wire, told her old man Rendell’s lemonade had slipped some in its quality. You thought she might feel nostalgic and homesick and talk to you for a while. She was quiet for a moment and then asked if you were drunk.

This morning on your way to work the EMT’s are there at the corner. You pull over down the street a ways and look in the rearview mirror. There are a few people from the block gathered round like in the old days, like they’re waiting their turn. The white shirts and badges and latex gloves are stooped down. One official-looking fellow sits on the ice chest. A crumpled green leaf rolls lazily down the sidewalk toward you in the cool morning breeze. You get out and pick it up. A dollar bill.

They wheel old man Rendell underneath a sheet to the ambulance. No one in a hurry on such a fine summer day. No one thirsty at all just yet but you.