What is the value of a lemon?
Yesterday I was out at a business lunch and my co-worker asked for a wedge of lemon to flavor her tea. They brought six. She could only use one, at most two, of those slices and the restaurant would probably throw the rest away.
It got my mind wandering, as it often does, about the value of things. Refrigeration is a recent invention, as is trucking, and not so long ago the only place to easily get lemons was where they grew. What if we lived in a world where every lemon slice was precious, not something to be given as a throwaway? What if that was the only lemon available?
I walk every morning and there is always trash on the streets as I go. Mostly people discard cups, empty cigarette and gum packs, Kleenex and bottles are common items, but I find other things, like money. It used to frustrate me, trying to figure out why people were so lazy that they couldn’t discard their own trash. Now, though, my mind wanders to the “what if.” What if it was all we had? Would the discarded plastic be so easily tossed in a future where plastic could no longer be created? What would a plastic bottle be worth in such a world?
When I was a kid I read some dystopian fiction, like Damnation Alley and On The Beach. There was this book called The Seed where (spoiler alert) the plot wound up being about humans being genetically programmed to blow up Earth to create a giant glowing ball for other planets. I found that it was not to my liking, this bleak view of the world. It is unlikely I will ever write similar fiction, but I have learned to never say never. I appreciate the Hunger Games and the Divergent series for what they bring to the table, but I doubt I will mimic them. I like to believe that a positive future awaits us, both the real people in my life and the fictional ones I create.
I was working on a sequel to “Beginning Time” and mentioned to my friend that the characters were getting into some deep trouble. She said “please don’t tell me you killed Sonder” (the main male character in the series). I had to assure her that he would not die, that neither of them will die, and at this time I had no plans to kill off one of my main characters in any of the stories. It is fiction, after all, and I hate when I get invested in a series only to find out that there is no happily ever after. That may be what happens in some stories, but not in the ones I write.
Still, my mind goes there. What if the resources we currently have were depleted? What if we had to make do with what was left behind, in dumps and other places? It’s a common enough theme in dystopian fiction, as well as the reality of this world. The idea teases at me, nags at me like a burr under my skin. I am not sure how to reconcile the idea with my desire to write books that end happily, but there might be a way to explore it someday.
Today, though, I will not write anything bleak. But I will continue to wonder, because it’s my nature, on the value of a lemon.