241. When Life Gives You Lemons

With SPM out of the way and his results out, my younger brother has decided that, like me, and unlike my two sisters, he’d like to skip the whole hassle that is Form 6 and head straight into college. My parents’ only condition for him (for now – their condition changes from time to time without warning) is that he gets a scholarship.

So, as I’m writing this, he’s writing a 200-400 word story based on the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

You’d think that he would ask me for my sagely advice. I am, after all, Joseph Ng, eminent and penniless writer. But no, he shot down all of the ideas I gave him. With nowhere else to go and with no one else to entertain with my capacity for bullshitting, here is the story that I would have written:

They stood on the sidewalk at the intersection, and they couldn’t have looked more different.

One was a girl with golden hair spilling down to her waist, dressed in a white dress with a pink ribbon around the middle. She held a lemon in each hand. The other was a skeleton wrapped in black moth-eaten tatters that might have once been a cloak. Rested upon his shoulder was a scythe.

They stood side by side, watching the world around them.

That one over there. The skeleton said with a voice that sounded like wind through concrete. He looks like he could do with some lemons.


Trust me.

The girl strode up to the man in the business suit. He looked busy, with one hand pressing a cell phone against his ear, and the other clutching onto a brown briefcase. He must have been in a hurry too, looking at how he took long, fast strides towards the intersection.

“Excuse me, mister.”

He stopped, and for the first time, saw the girl standing in front of him. She smiled like the light of the sun.

“May I interest you in some lemons?” she held up the fruits in her hands, offering it to him. “They’re completely free,” she said.

He stared at her, at first unsure of what to do. He then sidestepped her and continued walking, past her and past the skeleton. The skeleton might have grinned, except it’s difficult to tell sometimes, because skeletons look like they’re always grinning. If it was possible, the skeleton grinned a little more than usual.

The traffic light turned orange, then red, and the pedestrian light turned green. The man in the business suit saw this and made his way across. What he didn’t see was the truck barreling down the road without slowing down. With his focus on his conversation on the phone, what he didn’t hear was the squealing of the truck’s brakes.

It wasn’t enough. It might have been enough if he had stopped to accept the lemons from the girl.

The truck hit him.

Oh dear. The skeleton said. It counted 23 fractures upon impact. Both lungs collapsed. Guts pulverized. Heart and brain, unfortunately, still functional.

Behind the skeleton, the girl stood with her hands covering her mouth, her eyes wide. The two lemons bounced and rolled at her feet. One of them burst, and a clear but slightly yellowish liquid came seeping out onto the concrete.

The skeleton stood over the man. The man looked up and perceived it for the first time with darkening eyes. There was a blubbering sound as he choked up blood when he tried to speak.

When life gives you lemons, it doesn’t matter what you use them for. The skeleton mused. Just bloody take them, will you?

The skeleton then lifted his scythe.


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