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Mystery

All the conditions were ripe for a successful lemonade stand. Bright electric sunlight coated the sky. A warm balmy breeze generated the right amount of stickiness to prime potential customers. At the end of the driveway where Gertie and Gordon set up shop, stood a shaded lazy oak, just the right place to nab unsuspecting passersby.

A full pitcher of lemonade crafted from a citrus powder and ordinary tap water sat at the end of the table. Clear plastic cups flanked the sweet drink. Only thing out of place was the empty shoe box where the morning’s proceeds should have rested. And the sign with lemonade misspelled as ‘limonade’.

The shoe box stood idle on its long side; the lid flipped on the fresh cut lawn. The two misfit children milled around like zombies, peering under the table, in an accidental game of dizzy dash. They would have pulled up the grass and checked underneath if they thought it would do any good. No sign of the dollar bills missing could be found.

“You are a numbskull!”, Gertie yelled at Gordon, her twin brother and partner in this ill-fated venture, eyes lit up like firecrackers. “You only had ONE job! Watch the box!”

 “And what about you, Cassie?”, Gertie growled. “You were supposed to watch Gordon watch the box!”

Cassie stood as stalwart as the oak planted next to her and refused to budge or participate in the folly of the other two as they scrambled. Ever since they met in Mrs. McGuire’s first grade class, Gertie has tried to impose her will on all living objects around her as far as Cassie could tell.

Now that the summer before fifth grade was half-way gone, Cassie was good and tired of Gertie’s domineering personality. She’s gotta a big mouth, Cassie stewed. Her mom said to take Gertie with a grain of salt and cotton balls in her ears. Darn right, she thought, as she tugged at her yellow sunflower dress.

“You know my ma called me in to put new sunscreen on my face! You and your dopey brother need to watch your own money,” Cassie spat out with great satisfaction.

Gordon took offense to Cassie’s characterization but kept mum.

An afternoon of lemonade sales had gone missing. Gertie knew that if the money stayed missing, Mom wouldn’t let her and Gordon do this again. She feared her entrepreneurial wings would be clipped before she had a chance to really fly.

Cheeks flushed, Gertie brushed off her denim shorts and wiped the wisps of damp bangs from her forehead. Grass stains tinted her small palms and smeared her knobby knees. “We have to find it. Just have to.”

“We?” Cassie huffed. “I wasn’t even invited to your lemonade stand. You wouldn’t even let me help, remmmmberr?” She drew out the last syllables in an effort to have the last word.

“Fine,” Gertie sulked. With a rare look of contrition, Gertie did the unthinkable. She decided to broker a deal. “If you help us look for the money, I’ll give you free lemonade for the rest of the day?”, hopeful that the bribe would be enough. It wasn’t.

“Free lemonade AND I get to help at the stand?” Cassie was hopeful that her counteroffer would be accepted.

Gertie rolled her eyes and crossed her arms in an attempt to appear like a master negotiator. She caved a minute later. “Okay, free lemonade and you get to ‘help’,” she wildly threw air quotes around. “But NO touching the money.” Their lanky arms extended and awkwardly shook on the deal.

Gertie took charge as usual. “Old Miss Marge was the last one at our stand, right?” Gordon silently shook his head. “Okay then let’s start with her.”

One by one, the pint size trio of sleuths visited each house on the street tracking down every neighbor who favored them with a purchase that morning. One by one, none of them knew what happened. A few kind souls offered a dollar or two to replace what was missing. For Gertie, the door-to-door wasn’t a total waste of time.

“We’re just like Nancy Drew,” Cassie murmured in reverence as they walked down the sidewalk in one long line, shoulder to shoulder.

“No, we’re like The Babysitter’s Club. My big sister reads that to me sometimes.” Gertie overrode and undermined Cassie, an only child, in one fell swoop.

“Nancy Drew? Babysitter’s Club?” Gordon scoffed. “I’m just like Encyclopedia Brown!” He thrilled in the revelation of identifying his own alter ego.

Back at the table, the group was faced with the empty box again and a sense of defeat set in.

“We still haven’t found the money.” Gertie pouted.

“Do you have any other clues, Gertie?” Cassie asked as she reached for her first installment of free lemonade and flopped on the grass.

Gertie knelt next to her. Gordon stood in front of both of them, blocking out the rays of sun from their sweaty, blotched faces.

“I have an idea!” Gertie’s torso straightened on her folded legs. “Maybe Bobby Knox did it. He’s nothing but trouble.” Her mouth scrunched at the last insinuation. Bobby, who was in the same grade as the young gumshoes, moved into the neighborhood from California a few years ago. His hip clothes and airy slang made him suspect to Gertie.

In a hush tone, Cassie leaned in, “Gertie, you can’t just accuse Bobby of…of stealing without any proof.” Random accusations did not sit well with Cassie. It made her stomach as tight as a rubber band on a sling shot.

“Well, he’s walking this way,” Gertie said, with a hint of glee. Gordon and Cassie gasped in synchronized surprise. Jumping to their feet, Gertie and Cassie stood with Gordon forming a half circle. Bobby idly strolled up the street with his Yorkshire Terrier named Boxer.

“I wish I had a dog. My mom won’t let me have one.” Cassie’s forlorn stare rubbed off on Gordon.

“Boxer is so cool,” Gordon wistfully lamented.

Gertie snapped, “I’ll do the questioning!”

Boxer yelped, trotting in the direction of the trio.

“Hey, Bobby.”

“Hey, Gertie.” Bobby’s nasal response was cordial. “You selling lemonade?” He stopped in front of the table, the group fidgeting in front of him.

“Sure am.” Gertie circled Bobby. Boxer’s head teetered between his owner and the alpha girl.

“Did you come around the lemonade stand today?” Gertie’s question was more of an accusation then small talk.

“Ah, no.” Bobby answered with a sniff and a gulp of air. Boxer was twitching around Bobby’s feet.

“You sure?” Gertie edged towards Bobby and Boxer barked.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I can go get my mom and she can tell your mom that I was in my yard playing catch with Box--"

“Oh, sure, I remember seeing you,” Gertie laughed too loud and too nervously. “That’s right. You and Boxer.” Gertie knew involving the moms could make things worse. For her.

Gertie lowered herself to the ground into a cross legged position, Boxer’s eyes still on her.

Cassie and Gordon surround the little dog. “Can we pet Boxer?”, they asked in unison. Bobby nodded.

“Can I get a lemonade? My mom gave me a dollar so I got money.” Bobby pulled a crumbled bill from his navy surf shorts.

Gertie popped up immediately, “Yes, sir!” She scooted around the dog and the other kids. Gertie prepared the drink like a mad scientist. Splashes of yellow liquid spilled into the cup and some more on the table. With her still grass stained hand, she pulled ice cubes from the bucket at the edge of the table and topped off the drink. Lemonade on the rocks.

Gertie walked the beverage over to Bobby and exchanged the cup for the cash which she laid gently into the empty box then replaced the lid, cross and bothered by her lack of success in finding the other dollar bills.

In the midst of the Boxer petting frenzy and Gertie sulking, a woman walked across the driveway towards the lemonade stand. It was Gertie and Gordon’s mom. The person to whom Gertie would have to make her confession.

“Are you kids staying out of trouble?” The Mom asked blissfully unaware of the dire situation that recently unfolded right outside her home. “Bobby, tell your mom thank you for herb plants.”

Bobby dutifully replied, “Yes, ma’am.”  

The Mom fixed herself a glass of lemonade and drank it down with a little bit of a grimace on her face. “Yum! This is good,” she falsely proclaimed convincingly enough for the brood around the table. She took a dollar out of her front capri pocket. “I’ll put this in the box.” She lifted the lid and as she was about to place her own lemonade cash into the box, she stopped.

Oh, no, Gordon thought.

Here it comes, Gertie braced.

Boxer is so cute, Cassie wistfully lamented.

The Mom looked inside the box and casually said, “I’ll take this dollar and put it inside with the rest of the money from this morning. And yes, I’ll put mine in there too,” she smirked. The Mom scooped up the money and headed back for the front door. Over her shoulder, she threw out her parting words, “You kids are making a killing today! Keep it up!”

Bobby responded back, “Bye, Mrs. Harper. I’ll tell my mom what you said.” The Mom waved her hand in acknowledgement. Bobby picked up Boxer from the caressing hands of Cassie and Gordon. “I have to go home now. Thanks for the lemonade. See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.” And off he went back to where he came from.

Cassie and Gordon stared bewildered at each other then turned to Gertie. She had some explaining to do. Cassie was the first to speak up.  “Your mom had the money from the box the entire time?” Her question was more of an accusation rather than pointing out the obvious.

Gertie looked contrite for the second time that day. A bit embarrassed but tinged with her characteristic defiance, she answered “Well, at least we know where it is now. So…”, she walked behind the table and pretended to tidy it up. With a cursory look at her brother and her friend finished, “let’s sell some more lemonade.”

October 26, 2019 02:45

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3 comments

00:40 Oct 31, 2019

The phrasing is a teensy bit awkward, and the characters aren't totally believable, but other than that, it's a great story! I enjoyed reading it.

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Pamela Raymond
12:49 Nov 01, 2019

Good to know. I'm still learning so getting feedback is invaluable. Appreciate you taking the time.

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18:50 Nov 01, 2019

Great! Even despite the feedback I gave, I still loved reading it and thought it was a good story!

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