“Sherwood Neighborhood is coming apart at the seams,” yelped 10-year-old Mandy Dandie as she passed her neighbors on the street. They did not even nod at her, much less say hello. As she rode her pink bike up her driveway, she rang her bell several times in disgust.
“Nobody talks to each other,” she mumbled to herself. “If anyone talks to me, all they want to do is pick a fight.”
“Don’t worry about the neighbors, Mandy,” Mr. Dandie told her, coming out from the garage. “A lot of them have lost their jobs and are having a hard time finding new ones. The economy has been really tough for a lot of people. We just all need to help each other right now.”
“If you say so, Dad,” Mandy agreed, hugging her widowed father. Mrs. Dandie passed away when Mandy was an infant, and she had no recollection of her mother. “Why does everyone have to be so mean?”
“I don’t know, honey,” Mr. Dandie replied, picking up the newspaper from the driveway and opening it. “Ruben Gruff of Gruff Construction offers to buy the backyards of homeowners in Sherwood Neighborhood,” he read aloud the front-page headline. “Oh no! The developers are going to try to build extra houses in the neighborhood. It will be like living in an ice cube tray of cookie cutter homes!”
“How can we stop it, Dad?” Mandy asked. “I’ll have to think of something!”
“Sherwood Neighborhood homeowners would earn an extra lump of much-needed cash,” Mr. Dandie continued reading aloud. “Everyone must realize that Ruben will destroy the charm of our lovely neighborhood,” he stated, looking right at Mandy.
“Does this mean that he would tear down the trees?” Mandy wondered.
“Oh, Ruben will tear down trees and flower gardens for his new homes, built so close together that no one will be able to enjoy a picnic or pool party,” her dad explained, scratching his head.
“I don’t want to lose the old oak trees that I love to climb!” Mandy cried. “Maybe if I had a lemonade stand then I could make money and give it to our neighbors. Then, they might not take Ruben’s money.”
“That’s a nice thought, Mandy,” her dad admitted. “Maybe the neighbors would rally round and help each other without resorting to Ruben’s destructive building project.”
Mandy set to work at building and painting a lemonade stand and opened it within the week at the end of her father’s driveway. Despite Mandy’s “secret recipe” of more sugar than water and bits of lemon rind, her lemonade hardly sold, especially once the neighbors tasted it.
“This is awful!” the neighbors complained. “It tastes nothing like lemonade.”
At the end of a hard week, Mandy counted her coins and headed to the neighborhood grocery store on her bike.
“At least, I’ll get some candy,” she decided. “I deserve it after all this effort.”
As she passed a plant nursery, the owner rid himself of an odd pink lemon tree. When Mandy saw the lemon tree, it sparkled, and she knew there was something special about it.
“It looks magic!” Mandy insisted. “Please let me have it!” she begged the owner, emptying her pockets of all her coins. “It’s a business investment!”
“A business investment?” he questioned. “This ugly thing?”
“I need your pink lemon tree for my lemonade stand,” she told him. “Business has been bad, but your tree will make it a lot better. Everyone drinks regular lemonade, but pink lemonade will be original!”
The next day Mandy set out her lemonade stand with her new pink beverage. She set the pink lemon tree on her stand for advertising. Her sign said: “Pink Lemonade! 50 cents a cup.”
“I think my pink lemonade has magic in it,” she told her dad. “Who has ever heard of pink lemons?”
“Uh-huh,” Mr. Dandie agreed, shrugging his shoulders, overseeing her morning business deals at the lemonade stand. “Don’t let the customers stiff you for your lemonade, honey.”
“Wow! This is so tasty,” one lady quipped, putting change into the cash jar. “Can I have some more, please?”
Then, Mandy’s customers started singing and dancing in the street.
“I hate my job!” the lady serenaded. “I think I’ll quit in a few days.”
“Maybe your pink lemonade is magic after all?” her father considered. “Everyone who drinks it starts singing their secrets! Business is booming!”
“I told you there was something special about that pink lemon tree!” she whispered.
Surprised, Mandy listened to her singing customers without giving any advice, mostly because she was not sure what to say. What magic was in her pink lemonade that made the neighbors express their truths in song, feel better, and then forget they even said those things?
“I’m so glad that you like my pink lemonade,” Mandy cheered, shocked at how much the neighborhood customers enjoyed her new beverage.
“This recipe is going over much, much better than that last one,” her father pondered, humming. “I even feel like singing a love song.”
Later that afternoon, Ruben Gruff strode down the street in a blue pin-striped suit with his clipboard. He saw Mandy’s stand, slung two quarters in her jar, and downed a cup of pink lemonade.
“My secret plan is to run a four-lane highway through the neighborhood,” he belted out in song as Mandy listened. “As soon as I get the neighbors to sign their properties away, I’ll take the contracts to a judge and argue that I own most of the neighborhood so I should be able to build whatever I want on the land, including a highway. All the neighbors will lose their homes, and I will be a millionaire.”
Mandy sat in silence until every last word of Ruben’s song had finished. “His song would have been easier to enjoy if it had rhymed,” she whispered to herself, rubbing her ears. She felt sick to her stomach, realizing Ruben’s devious plot to destroy her home and community.
“Come back again soon,” Mandy fibbed to Ruben as he left. She posted her “Be Back in Ten Minutes” sign at her lemonade stand and ran to tell her dad the strange news.
“Dad, Ruben started singing his secret plan to take over the neighborhood,” she explained to her father, weaving in all the details that no one ever wanted her to know.
“I have no idea what to say,” Mr. Dandie sighed. “Just don’t tell anyone for now, until we see what happens . . . so we can figure out what to do.”
Later that week at the city council meeting, Ruben handed out contracts for those neighbors who wanted to sign away parts of their land. Mandy and her father sat at the meeting in trepidation that they might not be able to stop Ruben’s horrid plan.
“Hi Mandy,” Ruben greeted her with a fake smile and handshake. “So glad your pink lemonade business is booming!”
“Because of your magic pink lemonade, Ruben doesn’t remember telling you his plan,” Mr. Dandie whispered to his daughter. “Play dumb for now.”
Instead of playing dumb, Mandy decided to take the situation into her own hands. In an attempt to expose him, Mandy stood up on her front row chair and pulled a bullhorn from her backpack.
“Ruben is going to run a highway through our neighborhood and push all of us out after we sign over our backyards to him!” Mandy exposed him. “Don’t fall for it! Don’t give him your backyards for a little cash.”
“She’s not on the agenda,” Ruben argued, looking irate. “Sit down, little girl!”
“Mandy, you are not allowed to speak,” the city council leader insisted. “This meeting is for adults only. Please keep her quiet, Mr. Dandie. I need order!”
“Sorry, ma'am,” Mr. Dandie mumbled. “Mandy, we should go . . .”
As the meeting started, Mandy burst into tears. She watched the neighbors take Ruben’s deceptive contracts with instructions to return the forms at next week’s meeting.
“I’m coming back to next week’s city council meeting,” Mandy advised her father. “I’m setting up my pink lemonade stand, and I’m going to force everyone to tell the truth.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” her father admitted. “We might not be able to do anything to stop Ruben. It’s a bigger problem than I originally imagined.”
“I have to try to do something,” Mandy decided. “I found the magic of the pink lemon tree at just the right time.”
“Okay, but I don’t think I’ll be able to help you this time,” Mr. Dandie explained. “We might get in less trouble if I don’t show up, but you could just sell your lemonade outside the meeting.”
The next week, Mandy set out on her bike with her pink lemonade tree in its front basket, trailing her lemonade stand on a skateboard. Several times she almost killed her pink lemon tree when it dumped out of her bike’s basket.
“Come on, little pink lemon tree,” Mandy spoke to it, dusting it off from the gravel in the street. “You just took a couple falls. You can’t die on me now!”
When Mandy reached the city council meeting, she set up shop, and people crowded around for the refreshing beverage.
“Mandy Dandie’s Pink Lemonade for sale!” she announced. “Come and get it for 50 cents a cup!”
“What an interesting tree!” the neighbors admired, marveling at the odd pink lemon tree, dropping their change into the cash jar.
After a couple sips of Mandy’s pink lemonade, everyone sang out the truth and neighbors all sympathized and encouraged each other.
“I don’t want to sell Ruben my land . . .” neighbors sang with different melodies.
“I need my backyard for my dog to run and play!” another neighbor pleaded in song.
“I’d rather be broke than have anything to do with Ruben,” a group of people harmonized.
Only a few minutes later, Ruben showed up, observing the strange communication through song. Ruben smirked listening to all the secrets being revealed.
Without knowing it, Ruben drank his own large cup of Mandy’s pink lemonade, finally revealing his own devious secrets.
“I’m going to own Sherwood Neighborhood,” Ruben sang so loud that he was almost shouting. “These people are so stupid, and I’m stealing everything from them!”
“Did you hear him say that?” Mandy pointed out, recording his admission of guilt on her handy battery-operated tape recorder. “I can play it back for you.”
Mandy played Ruben’s singing on repeat for every single neighbor attending the city council meeting as they enjoyed her pink lemonade.
The more she played the tape, the angrier Ruben became, burning with rage, and trying to grab the recorder from Mandy.
“I didn’t say those things!” Ruben lied with his beet red face. “She’s a fraud!”
“Ruben, if you go anywhere near my daughter, I will have you arrested for attempted assault,” Mandy’s father threatened, deciding to show up to the council meeting after all. “This is enough. You’re a rotten, horrible human being. Get out of our neighborhood once and for all.”
As the city council meeting took place, the neighbors banded together and rejected Gruff Construction’s plan. Not one neighbor submitted a signed contract to Ruben.
“Pink Lemonade saved Sherwood Neighborhood!” Mandy called to all the neighbors as they left the meeting in triumph. “I’m going to develop my lemonade into a franchise! Everyone needs a little pink lemonade now and then.”
Mr. Dandie kissed Mandy on the cheek, proud of his daughter who saw magic in everything, even a lonely pink lemon tree that most people would have overlooked.
Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters