Last summer I took a break from working on my current novel for a variety of reasons, including my inability to connect with one of my main characters.
I knew his age, the color of his hair, his overall demeanor, and that his name was Crispin… but unlike all the other characters, I felt like I hadn’t met Crispin yet.
Frustrated by that (and by other things in general), I decided to give the story some space and see if Crispin would make an appearance in a month or so.
I’ve always been drawn to islands, as there’s something magical and otherworldly about an island community that gets the creative juices flowing. So during my hiatus, my husband and I took a quick side trip to an island off the southern coast of New England.
After crossing over on the ferry, we chatted with a nice woman at the tourist info booth. She suggested we take a popular 5-mile island walk, which would bring us past most of the main attractions.
What she didn’t mention was how hilly the route was . . . and it happened to be a hot, windless day.
A couple miles into the walk, as we dragged our feet up a particularly steep incline, we saw a boy at the top of the hill standing in the road and waving.
“Everything okay?” my husband called as we picked up the pace, despite our sweating and panting.
“Do you want to buy some lemonade?” he yelled down to us through cupped hands.
It turned out this kid had an elaborate lemonade stand set up at the end of a driveway at the steepest point of the island.
“Great location,” said my husband, who appreciates anyone with entrepreneurial wherewithal. He handed the boy a dollar bill for two small cups of a watery, faintly sweet liquid.
“My family stays at this house every summer for a month,” explained the boy, “and I sell lemonade every single day.”
Freckles covered his nose and he had a charming smile.
“You’re clearly not spending a lot of money on ingredients,” my husband said approvingly. “No need to, since you probably don’t get repeat customers, just tourists passing through like us. You must be making a tidy little profit?”
“Last year,” said the boy, “I saved up enough to buy a new bike.”
My husband nodded enthusiastically. “A sound investment.”
I recognized that look on his face, the one when he’s about to ask a young person about their career goals.
I quickly shifted the conversation.
“But don’t you ever spend a day swimming at the beach or doing something fun while you’re here?” I asked.
The boy shrugged.
“This is fun to me.”
“You bet it is!” said my husband. By now he had slipped behind the wooden stand to check out the whole operation. It was clear he was about to make a buyout offer.
Worried the boy’s parents would come outside and find an overly friendly stranger handing their son a business card with an invitation to do lunch, I signaled it was time to go.
“I guess we better get back to our walk,” my husband sighed. “But we’ll take two more for the road!”
“Thanks for the lemonade,” I called out as I retreated down the driveway, encouraging my husband to do the same.
But he hesitated, and asked one last question. “By the way, what’s your name?”
I tried to give him the you-aren’t-allowed-to-ask-unaccompanied-minors-those-kinds-of-questions glare, but then the boy answered.
“What?” I rushed all the way back to the counter. “Who named you that?”
Now it was my husband giving me the secret glare.
“I’m sure his parents named him that,” he said and took my hand.
The boy shrugged. “I guess.”
As my husband dragged me down the driveway, I called out, “It’s SO great to meet you, Crispin!!”
A minute later, carrying my second helping of lousy lemonade, I stopped and turned back for one last look. Crispin was standing in the road again, this time waving goodbye.