Epiphany: I need lemons.
A tumble of lemons, a volcano of fresh explosive citrus, the obese mamas with that extraterrestrial shine, not those dinky rough-hide goblins lurking at the bottom of produce boxes.
Fifty will do, I think. No, seventy; play it safe.
How many lemons will fit in our fruit bowl? Ten-ish? Then the rest in the produce crisper. Ooh yes, cold lemons. That’s how this needs to happen. What was I thinking? That I’d eat them room temp, for Chrissake?
Pulling into the Whole Foods parking lot, I flip off the impatient driver that cuts in front of me to steal the parking spot closest to the entrance.
No. Calm. Breathe.
I touch my belly.
Calm. Breathe. Happy thoughts.
In the store, I scoop up armfuls of yellow suns and dump them into the shopping cart. The produce bin only holds one hundred or so, and this craving feels so essential that I dare not leave a single lemon behind, so I clean them out — What are you looking at? Nothing to see here. Can I help you, sir? This will solve everything: curb the nausea, quench the anxiety, tamp down the emotional heat plumes, focus me, focus me, yes.
The tattooed cashier manages to stuff my treasure into two shopping bags. “Opening a lemonade stand?” she says, spiky upper lip stud sparkling.
I nod, beaming; it’s summer after all, so as probable a cover story as any.
I gun it home, for the first time in eleven weeks exceeding twenty-five mph. Just this once, honey, I promise. The radio drones in the background. “This is Lemon Chang with All Things Considered.”
Lemon Chang, Lemon Cornish, Lemon Shapiro. The hosts sound more delicious today than usual.
Raymond’s not home yet, which is excellent, excellent. No eyebrow raising about the citrine bounty — yet. I can experiment with these guys first, let loose, go a little crazy, hone my lemoncraft, figure out how best to harness their tang. My little wonders. Mine, mine, mine.
I unload an armful onto the counter and roll them around, toying with them. My mouth puckers at the thought of their juices squirting onto my tongue.
I want to do everything everything to these lemons that I’m not supposed to do. The savage in me wants to sink my teeth into the fleshy carpels, tearing them away from the pith, to suck on them and wear the rinds as mouthpieces. I want to squeeze eight into a highball of ice. I want to slice them in twain, carve them up, spoon them into my pie hole grapefruit-style. Pie hole… pie… lemon meringue. Have I had that before? If not, why not? It sounds fucking Earth-shattering. Or lemon sorbet; now there’s an intriguing notion. I want to drench a giant slab of salmon with your sourness, a lemon bath….
Would it be weird to bathe in lemon juice? Painful? Sadly, the juice of one hundred and three lemons would probably only fill an inch of tub. I would need bucketloads more. A thousand lemons. Ten thousand. A Scrooge McDuck lemon vault complete with diving board. How many grocery store plunders are we talking here?
I want, no, I need to massage your zest into the angles of my jaw, to squeeze your pulpy juice onto Raymond’s taut stomach and lap it up.
Yes. Lemons with a garnish of sex.
My cell rings, fritzing out the lemon chain of thought, reintroducing gravity, weakening my knees; I must grip the counter and fight to keep my footing, but (Super-me!) managing to answer by the sixth ring.
“What you doing, honey?”
I pluck up a radioactive yellow orb. “Nothing.” I take a deep whiff. My sinuses fill with a three-note citrus trill. “Just prepping dinner.”
“Yeah? What we having?”
I breathe out. “I dunno… salmon maybe.”
“Nice. Leaving campus now. See ya in a bit.”
It takes a few beats before the trance state dissipates, before my limbs operate again, with a little less zest (forgive me) than before. Listen to the cravings, Dr. Hoffstetter told me. They’ll help you through Tri One — it’s what Little One needs, what Little One demands.
I distribute a bag’s worth of lemons across the crispers (aka, the drawers Raymond never opens), but leave one picture-perfect little guy behind in the fruit bowl, waxy sheen glinting in the late light of the day that’s filtering in through the kitchen window. This one’s gonna make it, a trooper, a keeper.
Gingerly, gin-ger-ly, as if I were transporting eggs, I heft the other bag back to the car.
Tim Boiteau lives in Michigan with his wife and son. He is a Writers of the Future winner and author of the novel The Drummer Girl. His short fiction has appeared in Deep Magic, Kasma Magazine, LampLight, and previously at EDF.