The house on Dever Drive was green stucco. One of those early 80’s shoeboxes that we tried to make feel like home, but that always ended up smelling like something we never cooked. We had lived there for four years by the time the yard sale rolled around.
My brother Colin and I took on the responsibility of the extra float. We also manned the lemonade stand. You don’t know this when you’re a little kid, but lemonade stands are pointless. Nobody ever wants lemonade, they just buy it because you’re a cute 8 year old.
It was July, and it was hot. Desert hot. Dry heat that refuses to let you sweat but makes you feel constantly thirsty. Colin and I propped our little table up in between the two crab apple trees in our front yard, taking extra care to avoid getting tangled in hanging caterpillars.
We sat there for two hours while my Dad heckled with neighbors over the price of his ham radio gear. Our youngest brother, Stephen, lay napping on the grass beside us in his diaper while our last brother, Ben, was busy trying to re-claim all the toys he had previously decided to put up for sale. No one wanted lemonade. The yard sale was full of too many other goods.
“I have an idea” I said to Colin. “Let’s become detectives.”
Colin, 6 at the time, was thrilled to participate. I got smelly markers – orange and cherry scented – and wrote the words out on a piece of cardboard.
DETEKTIVES AT YOUR SERVIS
As I propped the sign up in front of the lemonade, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace from across the street came over.
“Whatchoo got there?” Mr. Wallace boomed.
“Oh, we’re detectives now!” I called out.
“No, no” he said “behind the sign?”
I turned, deflated, to get him a cup. “It’s our Mom’s lemonade” I said “fifty cents.”
He drank it fast and asked for another before leaning in to whisper something to us.
“I’ve got this problem, you see” he began “…it’s my apple trees…”
Colin climbed up onto the table excitedly, prepared for whatever was to come.
“The apples just keep going missing. Do you think you could sort this out for me?”
We took his ten dollars, with a promise of ten more to come when we gave him the answer. He took another glass of lemonade.
Mrs. Wallace looked at him with sparkling eyes and as the two of them walked away — Mr. Wallace to the ham radio and Mrs. Wallace to the Tupperware — Colin and I made the decision.
“Racoons!” we yelled after them. “It’s got to be raccoons.”
Colin held out his hand for the other ten dollars.
And we both knew at that moment our detective careers were over.
When did we start to feel self-conscious about reaching for the stars and falling short? When did we start worrying about the logistics of our big dreams and stop doing it because it might be nothing except for kind-of fun? What is it about the dread pirate responsibility that stops us in our tracks? Why, as we grow into the ages where the possibility of success is two-fold, do we pop the top back onto the Pringle container? We don’t need to fear rejection letters and bad Trip Advisor reviews — the only thing we have to fear is not putting the sign up.
This week, go forth and start your own detective agency. Who knows, you might even make a quick 20 bucks.
image credit: Melissa Chaib