When Life Hands You Lemons

Boots’s Pick
Stephanie Moulton

Life hands people lemons all the time. This guy was given a whole grove—and no sugar.

He stood at a busy intersection with a sign, which read, “Will Work for Food.” Cars passed, and the occasional driver gave him the finger. Most shook their heads and frowned. He could see contempt in their eyes, could almost read their minds. “Get a job,” they’d spout. “The rest of us have to work, why shouldn’t you?”

They didn’t know that he’d had a job once. It paid enough for his wife to stay home with their children. When the economy went bad, he got laid off. He had too much education and experience for other jobs in his market. Fast food places wouldn’t hire him either. The savings account went dry, but the mortgage lender still wanted money. Soon, they were living on the streets.

Days blended one into another. Every morning, he and his wife would look for jobs, and every afternoon they would stand at the busy intersection with their sign. Once in a while someone would stop, but would tell them where to get help instead of just helping.

He thought this day would be no different. The sign was smudged; he stood motionless in the spring heat. He saw the stranger approach and dipped his head in shame, wanting the man to pass by as quickly as possible. Instead, the stranger stood before him with a paper bag that smelled of warmth and full stomachs. He smiled and took a large thermos out of the bag.


“I am a senior English major and Student-Creative-Writer-in-Residence at the University of Illinois at Springfield, married, and have a one-year-old son. Another piece of flash fiction, “Beautiful Medusa,” was Billiard’s Pick in the June 2005 edition of Toasted Cheese.” E-mail: stephaniemoulton[at]gmail.com.

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