Barry Smith: The refreshing germs of summer |

Barry Smith: The refreshing germs of summer

I was taking a little bike ride through my neighborhood when I wheeled past a lemonade stand.

Ahhh, lemonade stand. What says “summer” more than that? I could tell from afar that it was being run by four 6- to 8-year-old boys. Little entrepreneurs. Little scamps with their baseball caps slightly askew. How absolutely adorable.

“LEMONADE!” screamed one of them when he saw me. They were currently between customers, so I suddenly had their full attention.

“Lemonade, mister?”

He actually called me “mister.” That is just so cute.

This scene immediately took me back to my own boyhood, growing up in the deep South; except that we had a little stand that sold 55-gallon drums of malathion and cotton defoliant to the crop duster pilots, but still … fond, fond memories.

“I don’t have any money,” I replied. It was true, I didn’t have so much as a nickel in my pocket.

“OK,” he said. “Then you can have one for free.”

Free? Awww. I coulda just cried.

As I approached the stand, the veneer of the cute little salesmen began to wear thin. They all had dark circles under their eyes, eyes that looked a little bit insane. I knew right away that these boys had been sampling their product, and were seriously strung out on artificially flavored sugar water. They were too young to have seen “Scarface,” so you’d think some responsible adult would have warned them about the dangers of getting high on your own supply.

“Large or small?” asked the kid in charge of pouring.

“Better make it a small one, thanks.”

He set a small Styrofoam cup on the table and began wrestling with the thermos. I looked around at the other kids, who were staring at me with their manic, sugar-drenched eyes. One kid was absently chewing on a carrot nub, and I noticed that all of them had large, clownlike rings of, well … stuff, adhered around their mouths. I couldn’t tell you what this stuff was, but I realized that if I had to pick one word to describe the entire crew it would be “sticky.”

The pourer successfully hugged the thermos to his chest, only to find that his hands were now occupied and unable to extend the pouring spigot. So he wrapped his sticky little mouth around it, flipped it into pouring position and began to fill my cup.


Just then, two women walked up and asked if the kids had change for a 10.

“Uh, it’s one quarter for a small and two quarters for a large,” the kid said.

The woman smiled, put the $10 bill in the change jar and began fishing out singles.

“I want two larges, please, so I’m giving you $10 and taking $9 back.”

The kids stood and stared. If they were even old enough to understand the concept of change, they were clearly too jacked up on Country Time Instant to be able to grasp what was now happening. As far as they could tell, some woman had just walked up, taken all their money and demanded two lemonades.

As the woman gave a quick math lesson, I was served my cool, refreshing drink, which had about as many things floating in it as I’d anticipated. I pretended to take a sip, then pretended to be refreshed. Mmmmm …

The economic issues resolved, the kid once again hugged the thermos and opened the spigot with his mouth. As the large cup scooted around on the table, several grubby hands reached out to stabilize it, as if there were a rule that everyone had to touch the rim of the cup with their little ragamuffin mitts before it actually got to the customer’s lips. Sure, you could chalk it up to “teamwork,” but what came more quickly to mind was “tetanus.” I watched the thirst drain right out of those poor women.

I said “thanks,” but wasn’t heard, as there were two large lemonades to wrangle. As I rode away, I could hear one woman repeating, “OK, that’s full enough … really.”

When I got home, I dumped my lemonade on a patch of crabgrass that I’ve been meaning to kill all summer.

Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at

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