Bili’s Lemonade Stand

June 1, 2008 at 9:00 pm (The Easy Chair)

I promised to tell about moving the dead body. That was my Saturday morning adventure.

There used to be a small shop in downtown Portland called Bili’s Lemonade Stand. Bili was a pretty young woman, with eclectic hobbies. I never saw lemonade, but saw many other things.

Bili was into taxidermy, but with unusual subjects. The first time we walked into the shop she was tacking a large tarantula to a board. There were scorpions. Those were expensive, but I saw something I could afford.

A frog in a bottle.

It was skinned and suspended in some sort of cooking oil. You could see right through it. It would look cool on my shelf of nicknacks. I bought two, and gave one to my ex-wife. (She trained as a taxidermist as a young girl.) When we parted ways, it seemed an appropriate gift.

The other has been on my shelf since 1998. It still looks okay, a bit frayed. I’d been tempted to get rid of it, but who would want such a thing?

* * *

The high points of my week were spectacular. I saw old friends, old lovers, and I spent several days with my new BFF, Clairissa. Most of that has been documented, but Saturday was the wind-down. I had to mellow out, and get ready to go back to work.

Friday was my birthday ‘date’. After a haircut, we were going out to dinner. But her day was a long one, I was tired and burned out. I asked if we could just close up the shop and talk. It’s what I wanted. I put her in the barber chair and gave her a neck rub, then she cut my hair. She listened as I unburdened. I learned things about her. As we talked, I began having stark realizations.

I’ve known her for five years. We light up when we see each other. She knows things about me no one else does. The barber chair is a wonderful confessional. I needed to confess. I was falling for her.

“I think I need to back away for a while. I’ll still be around, but I’m going to quit flirting with you, pursuing you.” We agreed that going any further would ruin our friendship, and it wasn’t going to happen anyway. My bus was coming, and I was walking slowly. It was time to go.

She turned to face me. “You have one more present. It’s in my bra. Go for it.”

My hands slipped under her shirt, then upward. I found her cleavage, and something soft and squishy was resting there. (Besides those…) I pulled it out, and the lower lip started to quiver. It was a rust-colored rose.

“Oh man.” I hugged her hard, and said, “This is going on my shelf, where your clippers will go when they finally die.”

Then I had a flash. “Would you like the ectoplasm of a frog in a jar for your shelf?”

It took her a second to process that thought. “Wha- hell yeah!”

That’s my girl. I promised to return in the morning with it.

* * *

There was a lot of thinking on that bus ride. As I held the rose, I thought of how important she’d become to me. And how it’s unfair for me to put that kind of pressure on her. Somehow harmless play had been replaced by amorous pursuit. Not sex, but love. If I stepped back and looked from someone else’s perspective, I was the delusional silly old man.

While I’d love it if she’d be the Bonnie to my Clyde, the Mallory to my Mickey, there were a few hurdles. Age, gender, sexual preference. It ain’t gonna happen. But I can remember the good times, and we’d just had a week of them.

I wrote some stuff, and then bagged up the frog. I wrapped it in plastic, followed by another black plastic bag. It looked like I was sipping on a 24 oz beer. My body-moving mission had begun.

As I rolled up on the shop, I saw three police cars sitting out front. (The power of the internet! Had they taken me seriously?) Turns out they were rousting a bum sleeping in the bushes. I went into the shop, where three people were waiting. Another was in the chair. “I’m booked solid all day, so I probably won’t be very good company. I have a cigarette break in about ten minutes…”

I went and got a fancy beer next door and waited. She came out and lit a cigarette. A few times over the last week I would take a puff off her smoke. I used to love that with my ex-wife. We’d reduce smoking by sharing cigarettes. Clairissa always shared, but she also lectured every time. I took a hit, and was done with that. My lungs hurt.

“I have to get back to work. You can hang out if you want…”

What the hell, I thought. I finished the beer, and noticed her bulldog eyeballing the door. “I could walk the dog, if you want?”

“I’d love you forever!” Hell, if that’s all it takes…

So Daddy and I went walking. My knee wasn’t the strongest, first time out without the cane, but he dragged me about four blocks, with limited, um, results. We came back, and I took up residence in the back of the shop. It was hustle and bustle, with faces coming and going. I watched her in action. It didn’t surprise me that she knew everyone’s story, and issued as much advice as hair gel. Those little shoulders of hers get quite a workout.

I thought about the week in review. We’d gone drinking, dined in style, rough-housed, played naughty peekaboo and hugged a lot. She met old friends of mine, and even steered one in my direction. I sat in the back and thought about sanctuary.

Sanctuary only works if you aren’t there all the time. It’s a place to run to when you need to get away. I’ve had those places before. Where I can sit quietly, ruminate and hopefully figure out the right thing to do.

“Hey,” she poked in.”Daddy needs dog food, and I need chicken strips. Would you walk to the store for me?”

“With pleasure.” And it was. I picked up requested items, and three cans of Foster’s Lager. I hadn’t had one of those in years, and I was beginning to shake…

She ran here and there, waving chicken strips at me. I walked the dog again, rounded up my stuff and finished my Foster’s. She can have the other two, I’m done. I’m glad I’ll remember the last time I drank was there, with her.

“I’m going,” I said. I put my hand on her back as I passed. Such big little shoulders…

I didn’t say this as much as you did, but I love you. I didn’t say it, because I knew eventually I would, and it would spoil what we have. And I want to always have what we have. So,

I love you. And to show you how much I love you, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to fade into the woodwork. I won’t let anyone else touch my hair, but I’m probably not going to be dropping by to hang out as much. I don’t want us to be awkward. I’ll still bring you Rolling Stones, and will walk your dog upon request.

And of course, I want visitation rights on our frog…

With love for reals,



1 Comment

  1. Gesus said,

    Beautifully written….

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