He took the lawnmower and turned it upside down. Something was wrong; something was broken. It wouldn’t start.
He pushed the blade around with his finger, checking if it was somehow blocked. His finger slipped and he felt a warm liquid and then a sting of pain. He had cut himself. The blade was sharp and he had tried to push it in the wrong direction.
He let go of the lawnmower and it tipped over with a clatter. He put his finger in his mouth to stop the blood from flowing down his hand and he put mild pressure on the cut with his tongue. He could feel his finger throbbing inside his mouth, a little heartbeat inside a large chamber.
Finger in mouth, lawnmower forgotten, he straightened up tall and felt beams of sunshine beat down on his head. It was midsummer and it was hot.
Beads of sweat began to form along his spine. One of them near his neck shook loose and started off a cascade of sweat which ran down his spine sending a cool steam of relief to his brain. He licked his lips with thirst.
Across the road he saw a little girl setting up a small table and chair. There were plastic cups on the table. She went back inside her house and brought out a flimsy yellow sign which she set down in front of her table. It read: Lemonade 5 cents.
Taking his finger out of his mouth, he walked across the street. As he got closer to the girl and her lemonade he heard the sound of buzzing. Stretching out high and shading the little girl’s table was a may-day tree. It was full of bees. The bees droned loud as they collected their nectar from a thousand small white flowers. The little girl didn’t seem to be bothered by them.
Holding his hand behind his back, be went up to the her table. The little girl stood up and flattened out the front of her dress at the sight of her first customer.
“How much is a cup of your lemonade?” he asked.
The little girl smiled. She pointed at her sign. “Five cents,” she said. Without waiting for him, she began pouring him a cup. The tall glass pitcher glistened. It was full of ice and half-lemons with a thick layer of sugar along the bottom. As she poured, two ice cubes fell out into the cup – plonk! plonk! She pushed the cup of lemonade towards him.
He reached into his pocket to find loose change. Finding none, he tried his other pocket, but he found only a twenty-dollar bill. Embarrassed somewhat, he pushed his hands back in his pocket to search again. The drone of the bees felt loud in his ears. Another bead of sweat was forming at the base of his neck.
“Does it hurt?”
He stopped searching his pocket and looked at the little girl. She was looking straight down at his hand. It was bleeding again. He went to put his hand to his mouth then stopped mid-motion and put both hands again behind his back.
The little girl looked up at him her blue eyes looking up into his. She was searching him for something. He felt uncomfortable and hot again. A bee flew by his face and he turned his head sharply to avoid it.
The little girl turned and ran inside, the screen door slamming shut behind her. Standing there alone he felt stuck in place. He had no money to pay her and without her there he couldn’t politely decline the lemonade she had poured him. He quickly glanced at his hand. Blood kept trickling down his finger from the cut. He resisted the urge to put it back in his mouth.
The screen door slammed again and the girl returned. She ran up to him holding a piece of tissue in her hand. Without pausing or asking, she took his hand and dabbed at his cut with the tissue. When she had dried up the blood as best she could, she put the tissue aside on her table and produced a bandage from her other hand. She unwrapped it slowly, careful not to touch the gauze pad. Then she placed it over his cut and squeezed his finger to make sure it had stuck.
She looked up at him again. He was transfixed by her blue eyes and by what she had done for him. He had no appropriate words of thanks to say to her. She reached over and took the cup of lemonade and gave it to him. It felt cool against the throbbing of his finger.