Hey, if you’ve got lemons, make lemonade. Can’t argue with that one.
In my own backyard, planted by my mother’s mother for aesthetics alone, lives a single, fruitful lemon tree. Each year of my early life, the ripened mini yellow footballish balls would drop from their limbs and stay grounded until a daring r’coon would collect the fallen soldiers with his grubby little paws.
But r’coons, they do not own the land surrounding the tree roots. Father does, and therefore in a meaningful way, so do I. Last year, in the midst of a rather intense round of an invented game, my playing partner, my neighbour and by that fact friend Ronnie, was signalled to his dinner by his mother’s bird-like call that will continue to embarrass him well into his teens. My pleading aside, he disappeared over the fence, and I found myself in a twilight staring contest with a rather chunky r’coon, whose eyes saw lemons while mine saw his. He growled, I snarled. He howled, I hissed. After the second round, he conceded defeat and ran off to find a dumpster with which to reclaim some of his lost honour. I realized then that these lemons, my lemons, can be valuable, with appropriate management.
Gathering the fallen fruits became routine, and for the first few months I was happy to hoard them in the basement, keenly aware that a family of varmints would have to look elsewhere for a sweet treat on which to dine. Eventually, the neighbourhood r’coons were all shot by the Vietnam vet across the lane, and so I needed a new reason to protect the tree’s droppings.
Mother, tired of slipping on rotting rinds every time she went downstairs, expressed some nostalgia in the hopes that my ears would absorb her words. Fortunately, sound is captured by the eat and transforms the sound vibration into a neural signal. The auditory nerve feeds this coded message to the brain, where various structures work together to create a percept. This purposefully led me to return to the days of yore, when regular people used terms like “days of yore”.
“Ah, to be young again! Your aunts and I would squeeze the juice out of those lemons and pour them into cups, giving the passersby a refreshing…”
I stopped listening at that point, but her subtle urging was captured by my outer ear, amplified by my middle ear, transferred to my cochlea and then transformed into a useful signal of sufficient strength. The very next morning, I began working on my sign. Warren’s Lemonade, I would call my stand. My name being Warren, my new game being lemonade – it made sense to me. I wasn’t about to Ray Kroc my storefront with someone else’s signature. And besides, I felt like a somebody seeing my name etched in wood.
She just wanted me out of the house. Mom wasn’t concerned with whether or not I would succeed. That lack of ancillary or any ambition is why she remains a low-level employee at a company you’ve never heard of.
The whole region was experiencing a heatwave, sure, and we lived in a prosperous area with growing foot traffic, but still it takes foresight to be in the right place at the right time, where preparation and opportunity meet. I got in at the perfect time. Exploiting a lack of suppliers in the market, with all the other kids living inside, in their technological bedrooms, I had every thirsty adult at my whim.
For a while, I could not be touched. I was turning liquid gold into solid gold faster than a teenaged horndog scurries down a window after hearing his girlfriend’s father’s approaching footsteps. Further expansion occurred naturally and explosively, just as I expected.
At their parents’s urging, having regularly seen me enjoying what they perceived as nature and social interaction, other children were no longer content passing their days with video games and telephones. Ten-year-olds were suddenly underemployed ten-year-olds, looking for work, and there was always room for another two hands in what was fast becoming my empire.
I didn’t need school to learn about the true path to success. True entrepreneurship is known and experienced, not taught. I played my employees like a dog plays poker, and under the guise of cluelessness and childishness, what we’ll call sub-optimal wages went undiscovered, even by those receiving them. I figured out the skill of appeasement as it related to my labour force, giving them just enough to prevent a strike. Ronnie was kept as my right-hand boy, and boy did he earn it. I won’t get into the gritty details, but let’s just say he beat the shit out of anyone who got in my way.
Once some other neighbourhoodlums saw my cool new wagon and cooler newer shades, competition popped up like moles, but left themselves ripe for the whacking. A kid walks up to a lemonade stand, pleading for his entrepreneurial survival. It is denied. The Nelson kids wouldn’t let me play street hockey with them to begin with, so I made sure theirs was the first one shut down. Abby Krustinger, who once gave me a peek at her underpants, I almost felt bad about shutting down that one. But that’s business, man. I was the only one with a proper permit, thanks to my shady municipal worker of an uncle, so my shutting down of competing stands was all done on the up-and-up.
I got rich, and no one could stop me. Including Ronnie. Foreshadowing.
Summer was coming to a close, but I wasn’t ready to die with it. Diversification was inevitable and necessary. Up to this point I’d relied too heavily on the sweaty weather. So I put on my Batman mask and persevered. Raking leaves, shovelling snow – the alternatives for the coming Fall and Winter were there, and most of the necessary skills were transferable. I was set until Spring, at least. Or so I thought.
[Editor’s note: Part II would be a waste of everyone’s time, so we’ll leave it at this and that.]