Editor’s Note: This story was originally published by South Side Weekly. Makylah Hill is in 11th grade at Kenwood Academy.
Lemons Always Keep Us Cool
I lived on a farm since Ma and Pa were not too fond of the “city” life. They told me it was too noisy and too many people and too many of everything. Plus, the virus was still wreaking havoc on the people who lived in the urban areas. Because of this I’ve lived in a farmhouse in the big city, but in an area not so densely populated.
Our farmhouse was really nice. We had cable, WiFi, and we even had these overpriced Bluetooth speakers. Ma said she needed the speakers to listen to the Gospel, when in reality 95% of the time they were used to listen to Beyonce. Now, I am no mathematician but 95 + 5 equals one hundred, right? The WiFi was terrible. I mean, we lived miles away from any sort of cell tower.
Being a girl from a small part of Chicago in the day and age of social media was terrible. I did post a few pictures every now and then and they would get a few likes. I think it was because people really didn’t know who I was.
I didn’t have many friends or anyone to talk to; I was an only child. Because of this I often found myself talking to the animals on the farm, writing in my journal, or fantasizing about what the city life was actually like. I did have a phone, but who would I even call?
Grandma came to visit one day. She brought me this strange blanket and some lemonade. The blanket was shiny and silver, kinda like foil material. Grandma said she had felt like something was off these last few days. She had received no text-messages from her best friend Rose and her rollers were not sitting in her hair right. I didn’t think any of it though, she was always crazy with these superstitions.
First, Rose has a dial phone, and the rollers were older than I was. Crazy.
After Grandma forced me to take a million pictures for her Facebook, I got to taste the lemonade. The lemonade was cool, it sat on my tongue like a penguin sitting on an ice cap. Grandma always said lemons would keep me cool in the heat. The heat stood no chance against my sweet, cold glass of lemonade.
My neighbors were the super sweet O’Learys, they were around Ma and Pa’s age. Which I think is around dinosaur age, but don’t tell Ma I said that—she would probably throw a fit. I’d see them tend to their farms. I’d always wave to them and they would return it. They were so nice that they’d even let me go tend to their cow! I loved cows since Ma and Pa didn’t have any.
One particular day, Ms. O’Leary said I could go and see my favorite cow, Bessie. Bessie was this huge, beautiful, perfectly coated cow. Despite her being so beautiful, she was a known trouble maker. A trouble maker that was scared of the dark, that is! She always needed some sort of light to not go completely haywire around the other cows. That’s what I liked about her, she found some fun in this recluse of a farm, no matter how chicken she was about the dark.
After quite a bit of playing around with Bessie, I had grown tired. I brushed off my overalls and stood up from the bushel of hay I was resting on. I picked up my lantern and made sure the lantern by Bessie was lit. I gave her a reassuring pat on the head and walked to my barn. That night was unreasonably windy–I thought my overalls would rip at the seams.
I woke up from the sound of Ma screaming. She was saying something about a fire. As soon as fire came out of her mouth I jolted out of bed. All around me smelled like heat and I felt like I was in an overworked oven right after a Sunday’s dinner. I ran out of the house with Ma and Pa and seen the O’Leary house and barn up in flames.
Tears grazed my eyes. My vision went blurry. No sound escaped my mouth.
Bessie was gone. My only friend was gone. I was snapped out of my thoughts by Ma putting this weird thing around my shoulders. Crinkle. Crinkle. I looked down and seen that same blanket Grandma had dropped off the other day.
The police and fire department came and rescued us. They took me far away from the place I had called home. They took us to the station and asked us so many questions about the fire. We didn’t know anything, so we were no help. They told us the fire was spreading and was spreading fast. Buildings far from the farm were being affected. Ma held back tears and so did Pa.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. The governor tried to rebuild the city as best he could. He built these new pretty homes, and new parks. He even set up a stand outside, on Roosevelt, and gave out phones.
But, nothing could replace what the city once was.I had one opportunity to go back and visit the barn to see if anything was standing. There was the pitcher of lemonade, intact in a pile of rubble.