Day twenty-six of the courthouse standoff, and Sergeant Nelson was dreaming of retirement. His usually shined Bate’s were scuffed at the toe as he looked on with stoic empathy, as men with beer guts and rifles traded insults with a group of masked skateboarders. At 53, Sergeant Nelson could smell the sawdust as he saw himself strolling the aisles of Home Depot, assisting weekend warriors in search of a drill bit or a paint brush. He was lost in the garden section of his mind when the deputy rushed over.
“Mpphm arrph luggm.”
Sergeant Nelson rolled his eyes. It was sunny and clear, there had been no tear gas fired. He motioned for the deputy to remove his gas mask. The deputy did as he was told.
“Sarge, we have a situation on the south lawn.”
What now? Thought Nelson. The “situation” began when the pickup trucks showed up and guys with AR-15’s arrived to “guard” the courthouse. Or maybe when an idiot cop two towns away shot a guy who was walking his dog. It was hot, the whole damn summer had been hot, and he was in no mood for a new “situation.”
The sergeant had been determined to keep things at the courthouse orderly. He’d instructed his men specifically not to wear riot gear, and up until the riflemen showed up, things had been productive. Some graffiti out on the street, a few rainbow flags, signs, marches, leftover litter. But that was better than a shooting.
Now, it was a warzone. And the sergeant could not believe some of the things he’d heard. He wiped his forehead. Be a cop, they said. A civil servant—at least until the feds arrived in an armored Humvee.
The sergeant advised a commanding officer to stay close and watch especially that fellow in the red plaid shirt, the one who kept spitting when he shouted All Lives Matter. He followed the deputy across the lawn. A kid, his deputy was twenty-five, red eyed and frazzled as he’d been at the courthouse since midnight. As it was going on ten am, Nelson made a mental note to send him home as soon as he could find relief. Tired cops made mistakes, and there was absolutely no room for error out here.
“This way.” The deputy led him around the corner, across the damp, glistening grass of the courtyard. He pointed past the discarded plastic bottles and napkins, the abandoned masks and scattered grocery bags, past the flag pole that been commandeered by a group of men with crisp read hats. There, the sergeant saw the new “situation.”
A line had formed at the sidewalk, leading to a makeshift cardboard stand. Two schoolgirls, one black, one white—both wearing tiara’s—sat hands crossed and smiling beneath a sign that read, Lemon Queens.
“No permit, boss.”
The deputy blinked as the Sergeant laughed. As he folded over, hands on his knees, whooping it up like he was in the garden section of Home Depot. Out front, the chants and insults ricocheted off the walls, but here, on this glorious Saturday morning, the two beaming entrepreneurs gave the sergeant something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time. Something like hope.
He clapped a hand on his deputy’s back. Reaching for his wallet, he started for the back of the line. “Come on, Deputy. I think we could all use what they’re selling right now.”
This post was a longer version of a 99 word prompt over at Carrot Ranch Blog
August 27, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens. Maybe it’s an ancient fairy tale or a modern brand name. What ideas seep into your imagination? Is there a character or place involved? Go where the prompt leads!