Lemonorange

It wasn’t his real name. I just called him Lemonorange because the first time I met him he was selling fresh-picked citrus fruits on the roadside in Georgia. We were headed to Florida from Canada in November, and we were giddy with the pleasure of warmth and greenery all around us. Florida was just a few miles on down the road, and we were in no hurry to get there.

I drove within the speed limit on this secondary highway, just to be safe. I’d been stung by the Georgia Patrol before, and have reason to believe that they don’t conform strictly to the rule of law. The requirement to pay fines immediately, on the roadside, was enough to make me comfortable driving within the law. After all, I figured, it’s the right thing to do, anyway.

Something about the way Lemonorange looked, standing beside his produce cart in sagging trousers, soiled suspenders and tattered shirt, made me decide to stop to buy some fruit. The impression I got from him when I got out of the car was one of warmth, happiness and satisfaction. I approached his fruit stand and he rocked from side to side on his old, bowed legs and lit a path right to him with a broad, bright smile. His eye’s danced with mischief and his teeth flashed as he extolled the virtues of his oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and lemonoranges.

“What are lemonoranges?” I said. He picked one up from a box on his cart and held it out to me. “It looks like an orange,” I said. He chuckled with glee.

“She does, you’re right, sir. She surely does look like an orange,” he said. “You give one to your friend so he can bite into it… but you better be able to run fast.” He laughed heartily at his little joke. “They surely tastes like lemons, them lemonoranges.”

I looked up the long dirt driveway behind his fruit cart. I saw a 1963 Pontiac coupe with a big number 63 on its side. There were several commercial decals on the fenders that were too small to read at that distance.

“Is that your car?” I said.

“Yessir, it is,” he said, looking at it with pride. I watched his face. He was very fond of that old Pontiac. His face had the ruddy glow of a man who works outdoors. He must have been about sixty, with the creases and rivulets carved into his face by a life of work and satisfaction. Some older people develop a sour facial look, with a downward turn to their mouths. Lemonorange wasn’t like that. He was a fairly big man, about five-eleven, but evoked a feeling like he was an elf, a gnome, a playful rascal.

“Do you race it?” I said.

“Yessir, I do!” he said. “Every Friday night over to the speedway.”

“There’s a stock-car track around here?” I said.

“Sure thing! Two miles down County Road 6 to Gatton. On the edge of town, under the lights we race around a mile oval called Gatton Speedway. The next races are tomorrow night. If you ain’t on the run or nuthin’, y’all ought to stick around for the action.”

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