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MMORPGS: ONLY PENNIES A GLASS [Author: Teirlap]

One memory that truly sticks out in my mind, however, was one of the early summers of my primary school years. I think I was 9, or perhaps 10. It was an unseasonably hot summer that year. Dry, too. So, not surprisingly, one of the local kids set it upon himself to take advantage of the heat, and he went ahead and set up a little lemonade stand.

I think his name was Bradley, or something. I didn\’e2\’80\’99t really talk to him much, or know him that well. He always hung around with the British exchange student who started at our school that year, and the schoolyard bully who everyone called \’e2\’80\’98Bash\’e2\’80\’99. They had their own little gang, although no one admitted it out loud.

Anyhow, Bradley set up a lemonade stand, and boy, was it a hit. People from all over the neighborhood, kids, adults, teenagers, and even people from nearby neighborhoods showed up to buy a ice cold glass of lemonade from the stand. I had one or two glasses myself, but I didn\’e2\’80\’99t really see what was so addicting about it. Suffice to say, however, people loved the stuff. They couldn\’e2\’80\’99t get enough of it.

And at ten cents a glass, it wasn\’e2\’80\’99t a bad deal, either.

It was kind of strange how many people flocked to Verant\’e2\’80\’99s (that\’e2\’80\’99s what everyone called Bradley and company\’e2\’80\’99s gang; I don\’e2\’80\’99t really remember why) lemonade stand. It\’e2\’80\’99s not like there wasn\’e2\’80\’99t anywhere else to get a drink. Just down the street, the Dragons ran an orangeade stand, like they had every summer for a year or two.

The Dragons business was slacking off due to the lemonade stand, though. But they never really complained. Hell, I\’e2\’80\’99m sure if I ever went back to my old neighborhood, they\’e2\’80\’99d still be there, plugging away, climbing on their old Pepsi crate proclaiming things about the \’e2\’80\’98Orangeade Renaissance\’e2\’80\’99 or \’e2\’80\’98Orangeade 2\’e2\’80\’99. They were always good for a laugh, and their product was solid. Sometimes I find that I can still remember the tangy goodness of a nice, tall, frosty glass of Dragon Orangeade.

But I digress. Business was booming for Verant\’e2\’80\’99s stand. And it only kept growing over that summer, AND the next one. Bradley and his cohorts expanded, adding two more sizes of lemonade glass (small, medium and Uber), several more locations, and even a couple of Kool-Aid flavors to their classic standby, lemonade.

I guess I kind of saw it coming. Brad\’e2\’80\’99s stand wasn\’e2\’80\’99t going to survive peacefully forever, even with the firm glare of Bash watching over it. The next summer, the second summer of Verant\’e2\’80\’99s existence, a newcomer came into the picture.

7-11 slapped down a store only about a block away from my house, and they starting dealing exclusively in lemonade Slurpees. I was somewhat surprised\’e2\’80\’a6 But I decided to try a few of the new creations anyway, just to be impartial to the whole messy business that was going down.

They weren\’e2\’80\’99t bad. I never really started consuming them religiously, like some of the newcomers to the shop did, and I gave them up entirely soon thereafter. People still use the 7-11, from what some of my old friends have told me, but not as many as when it first came out. I probably could of predicted that. Lemonade Slurpees are a decent idea, maybe even a great idea, but I\’e2\’80\’99m pretty sure they\’e2\’80\’99re an acquired taste. Even the special \’e2\’80\’98Flavors of the Month\’e2\’80\’99 that 7-11 adds to the store are only really attractive their current customers.

So. My neighborhood was still more or less peaceful. People moved in, people moved away. People died, and people were born. And another year or so passed.

And then, all hell seemed to break loose.

Bradley\’e2\’80\’99s lemonade stand opened up again, but his customers weren\’e2\’80\’99t as happy to see him this year. Bash was starting to get on their nerves, what with him beating everyone up who put a little slip of paper in the Suggestions Box. People started to point fingers at the staff who was in charge of actually making the lemonade. They screamed that they were watering down the lemonade just to save on costs. They screamed that they were using less sugar, maybe or maybe not on purpose.

Basically, the customers just didn\’e2\’80\’99t seem to be satisfied with the quality of their lemonade anymore. Some of them stopped buying lemonade altogether. Some people moved away because the lemonade stand was basically in their front yard. Others opened stands to make known to the public news and happenings in the local lemonade business. Still others opened stands whose purpose was mainly to bitch about the quality of the lemonade, and how they think it could be made better.

And not just Verant was having problems. Regular 7-11 customers had figured out that by being a little sneaky, they could exploit the whole lemonade system by taking one of the Big Gulp GEAR cups and filling it with the more expensive lemonade, instead of the cheaper soft drinks made for the cup. Hence, they were \’e2\’80\’98illegally\’e2\’80\’99 getting more Slurpee for a lower cost. This upset everyone who didn’t use the exploit. They wanted everyone to have the exact same amount of Slurpee for their money as everyone else.

To really make matters worse, some foreigners moved into the neighborhood. They seemed harmless enough. And hey, they were pretty likeable people. I remember they once let me pet their sheep. And they also expressed interest in opening a lemonade stand of their own. At the time, even I had to admit it sounded like a good idea. The foreigners were shaping up to be the messiahs of my little stereotypical neighborhood so long ago.

About a week or so after they settled into their new house, the foreigners began a lemonade stand, across the street from Bradley\’e2\’80\’99s original lemonade stand.

It was bloody eerie. The stands were more or less identical, although the new one looked strangely foreign, like it was from another planet or something.

The new stand never really came into it\’e2\’80\’99s own. The staff was younger and had less experience than everyone else. I think I was 12 at the time, and I was easily a couple feet taller than their regular server. They spilled the lemonade pitcher ALL the time, forcing them to shut down the stand altogether, and I remember once, near the end of that summer, one of them accidentally set the whole place on fire during his smoke break.

They never really recovered from that.

People wanted to try new lemonade out. Lots of people. The foreigners couldn\’e2\’80\’99t handle the demand at first. They still can\’e2\’80\’99t to this day, even after some rough times and a lot of free lemonade.

I was even given a few glasses of free lemonade.

It wasn\’e2\’80\’99t too bad. Kind of bitter, and a bit crunchy, but quite reminiscent of Bradley\’e2\’80\’99s lemonade from the very beginning. Still left a burnt aftertaste in my mouth, however. The cashier\’e2\’80\’99s little blaze (which we referred to as \’e2\’80\’9912.6\’e2\’80\’99, after the Norweigan brand of cigarette the seven year old smoked) had scorched the lemonade pitchers beyond repair, but they still kept using them, despite protests.

I tried talking with the foreign kids and the rest of the lemonade \’e2\’80\’98companies\’e2\’80\’99 a few times, much like everyone else in the neighborhood did (well, those not recovering from Bash\’e2\’80\’99s near-fatal beatings). It just wasn\’e2\’80\’99t going to work, everyone pawning off more or less the same product. They\’e2\’80\’99d have to do something drastic, or everyone was going to stop drinking lemonade, and start drinking vodka.

None of them listened. The ruckus continued far into the summer, people getting fed up, scandals occurring, all the while lemonade being dished out and drank down.

At ten cents a glass. Like it has always been.

Eventually, by the time September came and school was poised to reopen, I was fed up.

My family and I moved to Canada.

I don\’e2\’80\’99t really miss the lemonade wars. They were painful to watch; all that potential wasted by petty bickering, and lack of good old-fashioned customer service.

I live in the west now, in a different house, in a different neighborhood. And I still get thirsty sometimes, especially when the summer hits the dog days when it becomes unbearably hot, like it used to.

But I don\’e2\’80\’99t go out on the street, in search of a young lemonade vendor to quench my thirst. Not anymore.

I usually crack open a Dr. Pepper.

\’e2\’80\’a6I haven\’e2\’80\’99t been able to keep a glass of lemonade down for years.