With Lemonade In Her Hand (Annie Marshall)
Annie Marshall was the one everybody talked about
but no one talked to.
And she never answered the phone
in case it was one of those nosy people
who liked to ask her nosy questions.
All day, she sat by the window
reading the comics,
or the TV Guide,
even though she didn't own a TV.
And she watched the people down on the street
carrying grocery bags from the supermarket on Rowe Avenue,
or an armful of library books from the public library two blocks away,
or dragging a screaming child along
by the wrist.
And Annie, she would pat her stomach,
and make herself some lemonade,
and she would wait for those people with the watery eyes
and the fast-talking mouths
to rap on her door and ask her questions.
And eventually they would come,
and their voices would buzz in her ear
all afternoon and into the evening,
like flies you don't have the energy to swat.
And their questions went in one of Annie's ears
and out the other.
Questions like
"Were you scared?" and
"How many times?" and
all the Ws they teach you in grade school:
Who - Especially Who.
And Annie, she would smile,
and pat her stomach,
and offer them lemonade.
But she didn't answer their questions.
And still they scribbled words in their spiral notebooks
with the important-looking logos on them,
and asked more questions.
"Smile," they told her,
as the cameras with the blank faces flashed at her.
And Annie would smile.
"Cheese," she would say.
And they scribbled
and scribbled.
When they left,
Annie would pat her stomach,
and make more lemonade,
and hum to herself.
They always came back the next day,
with more notebooks,
and more cameras,
and more pens to scribble with.
Questions, they came all the time,
spraying her face with their spit.
But Annie,
she would just smile,
and those questions passed through her
like she was smoke.
At night, Annie, she would see
all those bright flashes
from the cameras with the blank faces,
and hear the click-click-click
of their mouths as they ate the image of her standing there,
still smiling.
And Annie, one night,
she lay on the bed with the too-thin pillow
and the sweat-stained sheets
and patted her stomach,
and decided that she wanted one of those pictures.
And the next morning,
before the nosy people came,
Annie put on her nicest dress -
the one with the red and yellow flowers
that smelled like lemons
and reminded her of long-ago summers -
and when the people came with their notebooks,
she had made enough lemonade
for each and every one of them.
But they weren't thirsty;
they just asked questions.
And Annie, she patted her stomach,
and stumbled up to a woman taking pictures,
and Annie had a glass of lemonade in her hand.
Annie, she wanted one of those pictures,
one of the ones the woman was taking,
and she asked the woman for a copy,
and gave her her address,
and held out the lemonade.
The lady did something with her lips
that looked like a smile to Annie,
but didn't take the lemonade.
"Smile," she said to Annie, and Annie smiled
for the lady
and the camera.
"Cheese," she said,
and patted her stomach,
and sipped the lemonade herself.
The next day, Annie waited for the mailman with his blue uniform
stretched tightly over his bulging stomach
and his nicotine-stained mustache drooping
to come with the mail.
When it came, Annie patted her stomach,
and sipped the fresh lemonade she had made that morning,
and shuffled through the meager mail.
A catalog from Macy's;
A postcard wanting to know
if Annie had seen
these two missing children;
And a bill for two months' phone bill,
but no picture.
Annie smiled anyway,
and sipped her lemonade,
and waited.
Annie, she waited
for eight days,
and still no picture
(but three more catalogs
and another bill for the electricity).
On the ninth day
it rained.
The nosy people didn't come to ask her questions.
And Annie, she sat by the window,
watching the raindrops slide down the glass.
And those raindrops,
they reminded her of tears,
but Annie,
Annie didn't cry.
She just patted her stomach,
and sipped her lemonade,
and she knew -
just like she had known her mother would leave her
and that the baby would be a girl -
She knew she wouldn't be getting any picture
of her smiling and saying, "Cheese."
So she stared at the raindrops,
and poured
her lemonade
onto the street.