Lemons for Arthur 

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We didn’t know what Arthur had been drinking or how much he’d had, but that night – everyone said so – he wasn’t the Arthur we knew. Sometime after dusk, the sun hollering, That’s it, I quit!, that’s when a darkness slipped into Arthur and the night changed its mind about who or what it was going to become.

Sue was still squeezing lemons in her new heavy-duty lemon press and would say to anyone who made the mistake of meandering into her maritime-themed kitchen, “Have you seen this thing? It gets every ounce of juicy goodness out of the lemon. It turns the lemon inside out! Look at these lemons.” And it was true. Innards outwards, the half- lemons looked like sea urchins, clumped across the counter like modern art.

But now everyone was switching from citrusy drinks to boozier concoctions named after large urban centers. No one remained standing at full height. They were slumped on the patio furniture or leaning against the oak trees, trunks trussed in twinkly lights. The more people slouched, the louder they talked. Even the stars, initially so uncertain, were edging towards belligerence.

Arthur, we all knew, had been steeling himself to talk to Georgia since he arrived, the only one to ring the doorbell, the only one to bring a seven-layer dip he’d made from scratch, even the guacamole. But Georgia was Georgia. Men drifted towards her like bees to an orchid, her pouty lip trembling, freckles wandering over her cheekbones as if bored.

Dave had straddled a bench and was leaning so close to Georgia that his chin was perfectly positioned over her plunging neckline, straining towards the congress of her conspiring breasts. His breath was stirring the fluffy, flyaway hairs that had escaped her barrette. Dave took a last drag on his cigarette and turned his head sideways towards the table to exhale. Then he stubbed the butt in the seven-layer dip and tilted back towards Georgia.

Arthur zipped his cardigan to his chin and stepped off the flagstone porch. He weaved among the rustling trees, wondering at their age, how many backyard parties they had endured. He was struck with a sudden sadness that roared almost instantly towards anger. It simply wasn’t right to tart up these venerable oaks like Christmas trees at Macy’s. He kicked at a trunk, aiming at the little glass lights. He missed.

Jealousy, a growl, slipped from Arthur’s lips. His hand swiped forward and grabbed the string of lights, tugging them from the tree, squeezing a bulb tightly in his fist, warm and pulsing in his palm, a hard and tiny heart. When it broke, all the lights went out and the sound Arthur had started making quietly to himself swelled until he was howling loud enough to make the stars stop blinking and give him a good, long look, shaking their heads as if to say, Arthur, Arthur, Georgia’s not the girl for you.

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Shelley Wood worked for years as a medical journalist and editor before trying her hand at different-sounding sentences. Her fiction, nonfiction, and travel writing have appeared in The New Quarterly, Room Magazine, The Nashwaak Review, carte blanche, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and Okanagan Life magazine. She lives in Kelowna, Canada with a great man, a rascally spaniel, a draft of her first novel, and one too many bikes.

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