Writing Exercise: Lemonade

This one comes from an old Writer’s Digest. Prompt: Quench your thirst. In 500 words describe a clear, cool glass of lemonade.

I don’t know if this counts as 500 words describing lemonade, but it’s 500 words about the experience of lemonade so I’m counting it.

Even near the river the air was thick with heat, damp and suffocating. The picnic table was covered in plates, casserole dishes, pitchers of lemonade glistening in the slant of the afternoon sun. Too hot to be hungry, Daisy slipped her hand into the curve of a cut glass pitcher, delighting in the shock of cold against her palm. Real glasses, thank god, were arrayed beside them, and she poured one full up. Ice cubes splashed down into the liquid, sending a sticky wash up the side and over, but Daisy hardly cared. The smell, like the best candy, made her mouth water. 

Condensation beaded up almost immediately, diamonds of water making the glass both beautiful and dangerous. She cupped both hands around it, risking warming the liquid within to cool her hands before taking that first glorious sip.

Her aunt had always made the best lemonade. Real lemons, both honey and sugar, and at least one other ingredient — no one but she knew the recipe, although all the nieces and nephews had tried to get it out of her. She’d promised to put it in her will. You could always tell which was Aunt Maggie’s; she filtered it carefully until it was a clear, not cloudy, pale gold, no pulp or seeds, no sugar crystals swirling at the bottom.

The first sip was always a shock, sweet then achingly tart, cutting through the frog in your throat brought on by wedding or funeral, church picnic or family reunion. Dusty playing fields and sweltering afternoons were no match for Maggie’s lemonade.

The second sip brought more complexity. Daisy argued that the secret ingredient was thyme or maybe basil, something herbal and green. Her brother said ginger, but what did he know? He’d long ago burned all his palate out on habanero peppers.

By the third sip Daisy was always halfway to convinced that her cousin Lucy had it right, that Maggie strained it through used coffee filters. “That’s what gives it the extra depth of colour,” she’d said once. It did have a bitterness to it, but Daisy put that down to too-vigourous reaming of the lemons.

Her uncle Frank came by, asking how she was holding up, and as she answered Daisy rested the glass against the bare part of her chest, where her neckline dipped low. She was instantly chilled, even to getting goosebumps on her arms, but the feeling didn’t last long enough, not nearly. She left the glass there, though, until Frank was gone. He didn’t need to see the tattoo she was pretty sure peeked out from behind the lace edging.

She drank the rest of it quickly, not wanting it to warm up too much. It was no good warm, she’d tried it once. The magic of it was gone once the ice melted. But there would always be a second glass, another pitcher, another picnic wedding funeral. And maybe next time Daisy would make up her own secret recipe.


~ by Cheryl on March 3, 2016.

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