Be My Zest

The bowl of lemons remained on the end of the kitchen counter, taunting him. Darel continued to refill the basket in a mindless and intermittent ritual. He wasted a minute, lost in his thoughts, wondering how inanimate objects often contained invisible power. Before thinking too hard about it, he grabbed the wooden bowl of lemons, opened the back door, and stepped outside. He placed the bowl on the railing of his deck. One by one, he grabbed the lemons and hurled them across the yard and into his neighbor’s yard. Within seconds, he had thrown all of them.

“Hey, Darel? Is everything okay over there?” Darel looked up to see his neighbor John standing about twenty feet from the rear of his own house. John must have been standing outside when the barrage of lemons started pummeling his yard.

Darel surprised himself by shouting, “No!” to John.

John walked toward Darel. Darel, for his part, struggled to control the urge to turn and run back inside and barricade the door.

“It’s okay, Darel. It was just lemons this time. You must really be angry at lemons!” Even Darel smiled at John’s joke.

John now leaned against the chain-link fence separating their back yards. Darel walked over to the fence and stopped a few feet away from John, who now stood silently, waiting for Darel to speak.

“John, I don’t know what to say. Looking at the lemons in the kitchen just made me sad. I’ll be okay, I imagine.” Darel looked up at John as he nodded.

“I know what you mean. This pandemic has ruined us all a little. You’ve had it harder than most, Darel. My offer still stands: if you need an ear, a beer, or a meal, or maybe just someone to sit in the room and not talk to you, come on over. Anytime, okay?” John looked directly at Darel, who nodded and then smiled. Darel instinctively reached toward John to shake his hand. John took it and gripped it over the chain-link. “I mean it,” he said. “We can sit in my living room or on the back porch and ignore each other.”

*

The following day, Darel slept in late, until about 6:30 a.m. He made a pot of coffee out of habit, without thinking that he’d be the only one there to drink it. When he poured his first cup and noticed he made a whole pot, he decided that since it was Sunday, he might finish it off. He stood at the counter, sipping his first cup until he finished it. He poured a second cup and peered through the blinds and into the backyard.

“What the eff?” he asked, looking outside. It looked like one hundred tennis balls were scattered around his yard.

Darel took his second cup of coffee and went outside to his desk, peering at the ground. It took him several seconds to realize that the tennis balls were lemons. He jerked his head up and looked at the back of John’s house, which was still dark.

Darel walked out in the wet grass barefooted. He had the idea that John might be watching him from a darkened window, so he flipped a high bird in his direction. And then he laughed, his head thrown back in genuine amusement, as he imagined John out in his yard last night, tossing dozens of lemons into his yard.

“I need some vodka to go with all these lemons,” Darel said to himself as he sipped his coffee and shuffled his toes through the wet grass.

He decided he’d take John up on his offer. It was about time to stop looking into the rearview mirror. The pandemic had stolen enough from him.

He laughed again as he looked at all the lemons scattered in his yard. After he sipped the last gulp of his morning coffee, he went inside.

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