THE MIXTURE • by K.C. Ball

Tires crunched driveway stone and a black sedan appeared at the gate. On the porch, Eva Jean Dickens eased back and forth in her rocking chair, waiting; whoever was in the car would come to her soon enough.

A pitcher of lemonade set upon a table next to her chair and another rocker waited at the opposite side of the table. Beside the pitcher, an ice-laden glass was ready to be filled. Eva Jean sipped from her own glass and sighed; she loved the sweet-sour tang of her family’s secret recipe, what Granny June had called the Mixture.

Over the years, Eva Jean’s many visitors had come to ask for other information and begged her for the recipe, too. If the proper rapport was established, she might provide the proportions of fresh-squeezed lemon juice to sugar to water; twice, she felt a strong enough connection to reveal that The Mixture was sweetened with raw brown sugar, but only a special few learned of the other secret ingredients.

This visitor was taking his time; Eva Jean could see him watching her through the automobile’s tinted windows. After living one hundred years, the rest of her might need a tune-up, but her natural eyesight was as sharp as the Second Sight God had given her the day she turned twelve. Not all the women of her family had been blessed, but for those that were, the gift first manifested itself the day menstrual flow began.

“You’ll not see everything,” Granny June said, that first day. “Only God sees everything; but what you see will come to pass.”

Eva Jean soon discovered that the difficult thing about witnessing the future was seeing the bad things to come to people she loved. She had thrown herself into Granny June’s arms, the day she foresaw the old woman’s death, and begged to be told it wasn’t true.

“It’ll be just like you saw it, Child,” Granny June said. “I saw it, too, and there’s nothing to be done.”

Granny June had been right. Eva Jean had foreseen the deaths of Granny June, her parents and brothers and sisters, her husband, Alfie, and four of their six children, and had come to terms with it all. Early on, she decided not to hide her light under a bushel basket. And since word has a way of getting around, she soon was sharing her insights with the occasional visitor, telling each what they could stand to hear, refusing money even from those folk willing to pay.

The fellow made up his mind, at last, and stepped from the automobile. He was no taller than her own five feet, six inches, and couldn’t weigh much more than she did, but Eva Jean could see that he was a hard man, not the sort to be slighted. He sauntered to the porch and stopped short of the stairs.

He was fit; a year of so either side of forty years old and dressed in jeans, a black tee shirt and windbreaker. His burnt-butter hair was clipped short and combed flat, and his clean-shaven face was weathered; his eyes were the golden brown of new motor oil.

“Afternoon, Mrs. Dickens,” he said.

She nodded. There was no need for a formal reply and Eva Jean was not insulted by his directness. She did not know who he was but she knew why he was here.

“My name is Jackson Tyler,” he said. “May I sit with you?”

“Welcome to my home,” Eva Jean said. “Would you like a glass of lemonade?” Tyler climbed to the porch and settled into the second rocker. His smile was bright enough to make fine print readable.

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said. “I have been waiting for that offer for some time now.”

She filled the waiting glass from the pitcher; handed it to him. Tyler took a sip, his eyes widened and he drained the glass in one extended swallow. When he returned the emptied glass to the table, Eva Jean refilled it without asking if he wished more.

“Pardon my manners,” Tyler said. His eyes moved between his glass and her face. “I was told about the Mixture, but being told and tasting are not the same.”

Eva Jean glanced toward the glass, giving permission. Ice clinked against its sides, as Tyler took another long swallow. He rested his hand and the half-full glass upon the arm of the rocking chair.

“We have a mutual acquaintance,” he said.

“Reverend Davidson,” she said. Tyler’s eyes flicked about the porch before he continued.

“His visit last week, the two of you talked about things he would prefer no one else knew.”

“And he’s sent you by to make sure I keep quiet.”

“Yes, Ma’am; I am so sorry.”

“I am, too.”

They sat in silence for ten seconds, Eva Jean keeping time with the cadence of her rocker, and then she took the glass from Tyler’s quivering hand; he offered no resistance.

“Don’t struggle,” she said. “It won’t help.”

She eased back and forth in the rocker, counting again.

“There’s just time to tell you it’s two heaping tablespoons of brown sugar, moistened with a teaspoon of vanilla and a jigger of whiskey, added to the juice of six whole lemons and three quarts of spring water.”

She was not certain if he could still hear her; it didn’t matter. This wasn’t the first time a man like Jackson Tyler had come to visit, and brown sugar and alcohol were not the only things Eva Jean had learned to add to the Mixture.

K.C. Ball is a retired newspaper reporter and media relations coordinator. She lives in Seattle, a stone throw from Puget Sound, with the love of her life and two demanding cats.

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