My mother used to say, 'Ain't nobody love a boy like his mama.'" (In this anecdote, apparently my mother's from the South.)

Then again, I wasn't bat-shit crazy. Oh, wait....

Lemonade by Marietta Miles

Virgil Hickey Jr. was sent to North Mountain Asylum after a shameful incident with two neighbor boys. Virgil Jr. was twelve. His mother, Delia, never could see the harm in her son. After all, the boys were eventually found and they weren't hurt so bad.

“Boys will be boys," she had said to Virgil Sr. But he and the neighbors were more than happy to be rid of Virgil Jr.

"He isn't right Dell," Sr. would stubbornly whisper. Her son being locked away in some “home” never did feel right to Delia. But now Sr. was dead and the state was shuttering North Mountain Asylum. At last her boy was coming home.


Virgil Jr. tightened his fat fingers around his shoulder sack. Just ahead, behind the barbed gate of North Mountain, the cicadas pitched their music high into the early morning heat. Engines sounded from his left, just past a growth of weeds; Virgil could smell fumes from the old school buses. They were being used to relocate the patients. In three days the hospital would close. Patients with a criminal file would be sent to the state penitentiary, just down the road, the remaining ones sent to family or let loose on the streets.

Hickey waited. A tan 1965 Buick Skylark crawled up the drive, snapping and popping on gravel. Virgil Hickey Jr. thought it sounded like a neck snapping or bones breaking. His mother, Delia, was wearing her best blue hat and a silk flower pinned to her faded church dress. Her bright lips, cherries in the snow, smiled at her Virgil.

"My boy, my boy," she muttered over and over again on the short ride home.


The hand caned dining chair snapped under Virgil's weight. When he slipped further into the growing hole he bit down on his tongue. Virgil blinked his dry eyes three times. Mother made him wear a proper button down shirt; she was worried about company stopping by. When he left the “home” he had nothing but a toothbrush, underpants, and a pair of socks. This starched yellow shirt belonged to his father. Virgil Jr. blinked again and cleared his throat.

Virgil heard the soft ticking of the grandfather clock as it struck noon. He countered by taking a bite of sandwich. Mother had sliced a ripe Hanover tomato and spread a generous amount of mayo on white bread for her boy, the bread so fresh it stuck to his teeth. He wanted cucumbers too. Virgil was fond of cucumbers. Momma had pickled the last batch of cucumbers. Virgil was let down. Instead, he took a drink from the heavy crystal glass. Tart lemonade touched the tip of his tongue; his nose burned and his eyes watered.

Putting the glass down Virgil closed his eyes three times, cleared his throat and shook his head violently to the right. He looked down at his father's clothes again. They felt itchy and the starch made him sweat. Virgil did not want these clothes any longer. Standing slowly, as if he might fall, he walked to the kitchen door.

"Momma," he called. The sound of his voice startled him.

Virgil peered into the bright, roomy kitchen. The small black and white tiles made him dizzy. A fern dangled over the sink. There was a basket full of fresh citrus on the butcher block, ruby reds, clemmies, limes and lemons. He remembered his father would spend hours on the porch drinking momma’s lemonade. Virgil Jr. hated lemonade. Virgil Jr. wanted tea. He blinked his eyes three times, cleared his throat and shook his head. Virgil looked down. Virgil hated this shirt.

On the wide, white stovetop the kettle spit and began to whistle. Momma had already melted the cane sugar in a blue and white pitcher and it rested on the counter.  She was sprawled on the floor. Her face looked out the white screen door. Her body faced the opposite wall, her eyes black holes. Virgil remembered that he had wanted something. He wanted tea. And he wanted to take off his daddy's shirt. Virgil asked his momma to stop crying. And then he wanted her to stop looking at him. Virgil blinked, cleared his throat and shook his head.

"It’s okay, Momma." He kept his chin down in shame. "Lemonade’ll do."

Marietta Miles lives in the fine state of Virginia. She is currently perfecting her five-alarm chili, fried chicken and cornbread recipes. When not tending to family and work, she likes to pull ticks off her favorite old mutt, Teddy. She has conned a few publishers into printing her “stories,” and hopes to do so again.