Walking home from the fake chicken store, I see a couple kids across the street, business-poised proud and hailing me over. Yippee, and hell yeah! Young entrepreneurs selling some flavors, lemon sour sugar sweet refreshment on an okay, so it’s a gray April day that doesn’t need ice-cold relief. But a brightening…? I’ll take it.
I like to support the local economy, creativity and the confidence to get away with things. I always stop for Kool-Aid stands and Not Marked for Individual Retail Sale snackcakes and candy, cardboard counter boulevard black markets. Even if I’m in my car, I’ll pull over, preferably with an unnecessary U-y.
I used to be that kid. Rinsing cups in an ice cream pail and using them again, with a Band-Aid tin cashbox and chunky plastic camping thermos of liquid summer wired youth. Wishing the adult I would become would come around and humor me. Take me seriously. Give me money.
I can’t read the sign from across the street. The writing on the tagboard attached to the post is faint; what I can make out makes no sense.
“Hey, what are you guys selling?”
“Yeah, 25 cents a cup!”
“You can’t sell water!”
“But we don’t have anything.”
I bound through traffic to inspect the sign and their sincerity, can’t tell if they’re joshing me, appreciate or are aware at all of the absurdity.
Plastic shamrock shot glasses are lined up on a picnic table. Tap water awaits in a 2-liter pop bottle. A large coffee can contains an impressive amount of change, and the youngsters try to sell me.
“We put it in the fridge first, it’s really good.”
“It’s the best!”
“We want to buy our mom a present.”
I had taken them for friends, one of them not quite white, the other not quite black. I try to imagine what Mom looks like and can’t get past a sucked cigarette. Uneven light. A stuck story, I know, it’s hard to be the narrator. Generous to the just passing throughs.
I pick through my pockets for the coins I don’t want, cents spare from the yuppie grocery faux chicken patties to punch out my middle school cafeteria craving, and hand them to the giggly one, a shoulder-length androgyne even with the nail polish lets the other do most the talking but is quick to hop to, collect and count the money then select a pre-poured shot.
I hoist it high and drain it down, the water from the faucet and their fractured grins half holy crap it worked, we tricked her good! half understanding I would have to be in on it, complicit, for it to happen. Or, I’m an idiot. Suspending and embracing the farce.