Each morning, first thing, my mother would cut lemon wedges. She’d point at the dish. We all knew what to do. Each of us picked one up and placed it in our mouths, peel facing out like a smile.
Good, she’d chirp, as we all sat there, lemonhappy. Have a nice day.
We did this for years until Mother finally decided to plant our own lemon tree. Why pay the grocer for our happiness? We became master farmers. Tending the scrubby roots, picking the lemons at their hefty ripeness.
Then one day, the snow. Not the regular kind, but heaped so high, it choked the branches and froze all the lemons till they looked like empty light bulbs.
By now, we didn’t know how to be happy without our lemon smiles. We drove our friends away, shaking their heads. We turned on one another. My little brother suggested we go back to the grocer. My little sister suggested we try kiwi.
When spring thawed out the tree, the lemons never regained their plumpness. Grew shriveled on the branch. Mother shook and gathered us all around. She said we should take a lesson from this. One day, you too, will shrivel. You will show the effects of every hard winter you have lived through. Some people, she said, will toss you aside. Still others, will grab a knife, hoping for the juiciness inside.
Mother, standing there like she was waiting to believe what she had just said. The sun, which is also a lemon, squinting up her eyes.
Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.