Orange Juice: The Exercise

downloadI used a glass of orange juice as a prompt the other day. Put the glass in a character’s hand, and see what happens.

I ended up with six the other morning and added a seventh just now.

 

1

He really shouldn’t be drinking orange juice. It was rough on his tongue and throat, and David knew he would be feeling it for hours. But that last sip out of the glass felt great—tipping the glass up high to catch the last drops, his mouth filling more with air than with water, then swallowing.

David rinsed the glass and put it in the dishwasher. He didn’t want Sheila to see it. She was getting sick of everything—the appointments, the chemo, the medication, the claims and the insurance—but more than anything she was getting sick of David not doing what his doctors said and then whining about it. His throat would have been on fire all day anyway, but he might have well been pouring kerosene on it.

 

2

Elena cleared the corner table. The man had ordered a full breakfast—eggs, toast, ham, fruit, orange juice—but had only eaten about half of it. He had left the newspaper, his signed check, and $50 for Elena. She folded the bills and put them in her uniform pocket.

It was his third morning at the hotel, and his third morning at the same table. The first morning he had said little, ate even less, and left her $10. The next morning he left $20. Now here it was Wednesday morning and Elena had $50 in her pocket. She knew what he was up to.

 

3

Abby scanned the refrigerator, looking for any last things that might have to go on the list. The OJ was almost empty, the last of the juice barely covering the bottom of the container.  She opened it and downed the last drops. She had told the kids a thousand times to not do this, but did they ever listen to her? No. But she was alone now, with Bob at work and the kids at school. She could do what she wanted.

What she wanted was to have Matt come by, at least for a quickie and maybe for more. Bob remained clueless. He never noticed how often the sheets were changed and the bathroom emptied of towels. He would leave a bed with blue sheets and a bathroom with yellow towels and then return to a bed with green sheets and a bathroom with peach towels. Whatever else was wrong with Bob, Abby saw this cluelessness as his one gift to her.

 

 

4

It was our second morning on the river, and, really, I should have been trying to make it last, but I poured myself a big glass of OJ before anyone else was up. I took it with me and walked up into the woods where I could finish the juice and piss.

Erica was already mad at me. I loved sex when we were camping, especially in a spot as remote as this. She kept telling me to keep quiet, but I kept getting louder instead.

“Who’s going to hear us? The bears? Fuck the bears.”

 

5

I finished the eggs and tomatoes, leaving the toast and some orange juice to wash it down. It was a beautiful morning in London, and the owner of the café was out on the sidewalk with us. He was talking to a young woman, and I guessed she was his daughter. They looked Arab. I had noticed he was well dressed, especially for such a modest café, and she was stylish, radiant. She had on a black dress and black leggings underneath. I watched her put on oversized sunglasses. They could have been out of the 1970s, but somehow she made them work.

The father stepped away for a minute to answer his cell phone, and she produced a brilliant, blue scarf. Back in Los Angeles we would have called it Dodger Blue, but maybe its real name would be azure; I wasn’t sure. She wrapped it loosely around her head. I didn’t realize I had been staring until she turned back toward the table and our eyes locked. I blushed and returned to my paper.

 

6

Maureen was surprised when she looked at the orange juice bottle and saw that it was from concentrate. We’re in fucking Florida, she thought, why would it be from concentrate? She found a bench, sat, took a breath. Class must be letting out, because the quad was suddenly full with students crossing from building to building. Few of them even paused. Back in Boston it was probably 20o. If you had awarded Boston this day, everyone would be out in it, stopping, letting the sun hit them. I guess they took it for granted here.

Maybe Keith would like it here. Maybe he would even thrive. It was the only school in Florida they were visiting, but he seemed dead set on going here. He was sick of the winters. So was Maureen. Maybe she would follow him here, find a job. She was a nurse. She could work anywhere.

 

7

They had orange juice this morning, and Tim elbowed Cheryl, who was in line just in front of him, to pick up hers, even though she wouldn’t drink it.Tim could always count on the evangelicals to put out a good breakfast, even on a weekday morning, and even when eight inches of snow had fallen the night before and streets were still impassible. They were cheerful, sturdy people.

Tim hadn’t been able to stay sober for a few days, so when the cops collected him from the underpass the night before they couldn’t take him to the better shelter. He had to settle for the men’s wing of the old hospital. His grandmother had died there 30 years before, when people still called it “The Incurables.” Tim always hated that word.

Tim followed Sally to a table and they traded–Sally’s orange juice for Tim’s home fries. “It’s going to be a good day,” Sally said, squeezing Tim’s arm for an extra beat. “They’re doing a dinner tonight, too. Meatloaf. If you give me your potatoes tonight I will give you whatever they have for dessert.”

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