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running a lemonade stand with my brother because my dad hates me, a story by michael afton

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It’s a scorching hot day, late into the summer of ‘82, and Evan and Michael are stuck together outside of Fredbear’s Family Diner. Some sort of sick punishment from Father kept them outside in the cruel heat, working at their own poorly put-together lemonade stand, half-heartedly pouring out lemonade and exchanging it for a few cents every time someone walked by.

Last night, they’d gotten into an argument over the Foxy plush Evan had—Michael stole it, and when Evan tried to get it back, it became a game of tug of war until the poor plush’s head popped off. Cotton had flown everywhere. Evan sobbed and wailed at the sight, attracting Father’s attention. And his scorn. 

He’d locked both boys in their rooms for the rest of the night, sending them to bed early and without dinner. Michael was eerily silent for a long time before Evan heard a whispered apology through their poorly insulated connecting wall. Their bedrooms are side by side, the connecting wall being ridiculously thin. Michael had realized this when his baby brother was born, and he was kept up all night as the kid cried into the wee hours. As Evan grew up, they’d used it to talk to each other more and more often—it came in handy with William’s tendency to lock his kids in their rooms as a form of punishment. Most of the time it was bickering, but sometimes Michael used it for good. 

“Tomorrow, I’ll help you put your stupid toy back together again, okay?”

Tomorrow had come around, and the Foxy plush hadn’t been touched yet. After a measly breakfast, Father had loaded Lizzie, Evan, and Michael into the car before he disappeared back into the garage. He’d returned with a gallon of store bought lemonade, a bunch of plastic cups, and the cardboard lemonade stand Michael remembers building with his mom years and years ago loaded into the trunk. The text written in sharpie marker that read LEMONADE on the front of the box has long since faded. 

“Why’d you drag that old box out here?” Michael asks as Father opens the front door and starts the car. “I haven’t seen that thing in ages.”

“That thing is what you and Evan will be in charge of for the remainder of the day,” Father responds curtly. “Neither of you are to enter the diner until you have sold every last drop of this lemonade. And I sure hope you will behave yourselves—squabbling children scare away customers, as you know.”

Michael glowers at him from where he’s seated in the back, squished between his siblings in the middle seat. He doesn’t argue, though. He knows better than to do that. Evan pulls his Fredbear plush closer to his chest and stares out the window. 

When they arrive, Father helps set up the stand outside of Fredbear’s on the sidewalk, then takes Elizabeth’s hand and heads inside. Evan and Michael stare at each other, unsure of what to do from here, before Evan sighs and lies down in a nearby patch of grass. “We’re gonna be out here all day…”

“We wouldn’t be here at all if you hadn’t thrown a fit over your stupid plush ‘friend,”” Michael mutters, making air quotes with his fingers. “You know you can’t keep saying your only friends are your stuffed toys. That’s what babies do. That Foxy plush doesn’t have feelings, and you know that. It’s not your friend.”

“I’m not a baby!” 

“Could’ve fooled me. You know how babies cry sometimes when they’re on Santa’s knee? You act like that around inanimate animatronics. It’s stupid,” He hisses, glancing over at his younger brother pouting in the grass. “And disrespectful towards Father. He puts his whole life into those things, and all you do is cry about them.” Michael tacks on the last bit just to annoy him. In all honesty, he couldn’t care less about his father’s feelings.

Evan’s sitting up now, glaring at Michael with red cheeks and crossed arms. It’s not very intimidating. “I told you before! There’s something wrong with them! They stare at you even when they’re turned off and Fredbear told me that if I’m not careful they’re gonna eat me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Animatronics don’t eat people. And your stupid Fredbear doesn’t talk,” He replies. The offending plushie seems to stare at him from Evan’s lap as he says it. Michael spits his tongue out at it. 

Evan blows a raspberry at Michael in response. “You’re laughing now, but when they eat you and you’re stuck sitting in their stomach all alone, you’re gonna wish you’d listened to me.”

“Whatever.” Michael turns away from his brother and sighs. He pours himself a glass of lemonade into one of the styrofoam cups. It’s too hot to risk getting dehydrated out here, since he knows Father wouldn’t let them inside the cool air-conditioned diner even if they begged. And it’ll make for less lemonade that they have to actually sell, he reasons. Less work is always a good thing.

He hears footsteps behind him—he’s gotten Evan’s attention with the lemonade. Fredbear plush tucked safely under his arm, Evan makes grabby hands towards Michael and stares up at him with puppy dog eyes. “Can I have some too?”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Please?”

He debates spilling the lemonade all over the younger boy for a moment (it’d definitely be one hell of a way to cool off, wouldn’t it?), but he knows that would make Father even more mad than he already was, and nobody would be happy with that. Begrudgingly, he pours another cup of lemonade and hands it over to Evan, who hesitantly smiles up at him in response. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Really. Really don’t mention it—Michael’s friends are down the street and rapidly approaching their little lemonade stand. He groans. This is embarrassing. Stuck outside with his little brother selling lemonade like he’s a dumb kid again while his cool friends roam the town unsupervised. 

“Yo, Mike, I didn’t know you were selling lemonade today!” Jeremy laughs as he approaches, and Michael doesn’t miss the way Evan shrinks back as his friends crowd around their crappy lemonade stand. “Did little Ev somehow put you up to this?”

“No. Father made us. I don’t think either of us want to be here. It’s definitely Evan’s fault for getting us in trouble, though,” Michael drones, half-heartedly gesturing towards the gallon of lemonade. He looks mortified to even be here right now. “Want some lemonade? It’s just five cents a cup.”

His friends laugh. Michael can’t help but feel like they’re laughing at him. “Nah, dude, we’re all good. Jeremy here wanted to come down to see you before we went to the movies. But you seem busy.” A pointed glare is shot towards Evan, who's now hiding behind Michael, one hand holding onto his brother’s arm like he’ll float away if he dares to let go. Jeremy shoots both of them an apologetic look. He had always been the nicest out of Michael’s friends. Evan likes him. 

“…Yeah. Have fun at the movies,” Michael mumbles, defeated. The kids wave and continue down the street, loud conversations and laughter echoing back down towards the brothers. It’s so unfair. Michael sinks down into a sitting position on the asphalt—he’s hidden behind the lemonade stand now, and Evan’s head barely peaks over it even when he’s standing up. Nobody would even notice they were there, if everything stayed like this. 

Evan hesitates for a moment, then sits down next to Michael. He places his Fredbear plush in the other boy’s lap. A peace offering. “…He always makes me feel better when I’m sad. Maybe he can help you, too.”

Michael’s head jerks up at Evan’s words. Rolling his eyes, he picks up the plush from his lap, strangely gentle with it. Nothing like the violent tug of war of last night. “Idiot. Who said I was sad?”

“You look like a deflated balloon,” Evan replies matter-of-factly. He scoots closer to Michael. “I’m sorry I got us in trouble last night. I-I just— Foxy—“

Michael’s grown to recognize the signs of an impending meltdown from his brother. He’d never do this in front of his father or his friends, but when they’re alone, his mask slips off. He can be a big brother like he was supposed to be, instead of the bully he’s become. Michael wraps an arm around Evan, pulling him close. 

“I’m sorry too. I know that stupid stuffed animal means a lot to you. When we get home tonight, we’ll fix him up together, alright? And if we somehow make it worse I have some spare change in my piggy bank that father doesn’t know about. We’ll get you a shiny new stuffed animal for you to play pretend with. Or whatever it is you do with those weird things.”

Evan lets out a weak laugh, wiping at his eyes to catch the tears before they fall. “…thank you.”

“If anyone asks, this conversation never happened,” Michael says, standing up suddenly and stretching. He offers Evan a hand, pulling him up off the sidewalk as well. “I’ll shred every last one of your plushies if you say a word, got it?”

Evan gives a mock salute in response. Seemingly happy with that, Michael gives Fredbear back to him, and together they get to work on actually selling this darn lemonade. 

The diner itself may be closed for maintenance (or whatever their father is doing in there) but that doesn’t mean their lemonade stand is. And on a hot, summer afternoon like today, a cold glass of lemonade being sold by two scruffy looking kids outside of their family diner hits the spot just right. Michael talks to people who pass by, waves at cars that drive by, and manages to attract the attention of many. Evan handles passing out the lemonade, watching carefully to be sure they get their deserved five cents dropped in the money jar before he hands it to the customer. He fumbles and spills it a couple of times, but quickly readjusts and pours another glass. 

By the end of the day when Father and Elizabeth exit the diner and lock up shop for the day, the gallon of lemonade is emptied and Michael’s counting the coins they’ve gotten. Eighty seven cents in total. Not a whole lot, but they reached their goal of emptying the gallon, and that’s more than enough for both of them. 

“Wow,” Father says when he finishes buckling Lizzie into her seat, turning to face the two boys. He actually looks kinda impressed. “Didn’t think you had it in you. Michael, can you get the stand in the trunk?”

He takes the glass of money for himself, emptying the coins into his hands before putting it in a pocket in his wallet. Michael sucks in a deep breath and refrains from saying anything about the money being theirs and not his, because why does it matter anyway? It’s not like they earned that money or anything. He loads the stand into the trunk and slams it shut, helps Evan with his seatbelt, then climbs into the car himself. The car’s engine sputters to life, and they exit down the street, heading back to home sweet home. 

 

Evan pokes his head into Michael’s room later that evening, after dinner had ended and their father had returned to burying himself in his blueprints. He’s holding the severed head of the Foxy plush gingerly in his hands. “Mikey…?”

Mike’s at his desk, scribbling something down in a notepad. He looks up at the doorway where Evan’s standing with bleary eyes. “What do you want?”

“Um, you said we could—fix the plushie when we got home. But all I could find when I looked was it’s head.” Evan whimpers, walking next to the desk and setting the Foxy head on it for Michael to see. “I’m sorry.”

“Oh, crap, you’re right… I did say that, didn’t I? Don’t worry, little man. I’ve got the body right here.” Michael digs through a desk drawer for a moment before pulling out the body. Evan cheers with glee, watching as Michael digs through the same drawer some more. He pulls out a needle and some red thread. “Mom taught me a little bit about sewing, before she…”

“So you can put him back together?!” He looks so… hopeful.

“Probably. Hopefully.” Michael takes a deep breath, then gets to work stitching the toy up. Evan watches fervently over his shoulder. It takes a while, and he pokes himself with the needle more times than he would’ve liked, but eventually the plushie is back in working order. It’s definitely seen better days—the cotton inside is lacking, making the whole thing look deflated, and he thinks he sewed the head on slightly lopsided, not to mention the stitches in his neck—but Evan’s never looked happier in his life. 

“You did it!!” He exclaims, his eyes practically shining as he tackles Michael in a giant hug. “Thank you, thank you…”

“Oh, uh-“ Michael sputters for a moment, clearly at a loss for words. Evan’s never acted like this before. He’s so used to seeing Evan only upset or fearful, this infectious joy is new and strange—but Michael can’t say he minds. He carefully wraps an arm around his baby brother, using his other hand to ruffle up his hair. “It’s no biggie, you goof. It’s not like I did something big and crazy or saved your life or some crap like that. It’s just a toy.”

Evan giggles into Michael’s shirt. “Yeah, but you’ve never done something like this for me before…” He murmurs, and Michael realizes Evan’s crying as his shirt stains—happy tears, for once. Crybaby. “Thank you.”

“I get it, I get it, jeez,” Michael replies, but he’s still smiling as he gently pushes Evan off of him. He hands him the new and improved(?) Foxy plush off his desk, which Evan holds as if it’s a newborn baby. “Now go to sleep before we get in trouble again. ‘Cuz if you make me tear up another one of your toys, I won’t do this for you again. Got it?”

“Mhm. Goodnight, Mikey.” He slips out of the bedroom with a little wave, quiet footsteps echoing down the hallway before he hears the creak of a bedroom door softly closing. 

“Goodnight, Evan.”

Tonight, Evan sleeps with all of his stuffed toys on the bed with him. He holds the Fredbear plush close to his chest, and the Foxy one sits beside him on his spare pillow. It has been months since he’s slept with the Foxy plush—usually he kept it wedged in a corner of the room or hidden deep inside a dresser. Bonnie and Chica are on the edge of the bed, keeping watch over the room as Evan sleeps soundly for the first time this week. 

Tomorrow is another day.