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December 6, 2022

on dolly, layers of lyrics & misdirected pardons / if only I hadn't drunk the lemonade *

Jen Schneider


  1. time on the road inspired thought. & thirst. i rode shotgun while my fiancé drove stick. dolly on all pre-set dials. he was stuck on time. dried leaves blanketed the jeep’s hood. my throat was sticky. felt stuck by the nine to five.

  2. i asked him to slow, then stop. i needed space. followed dolly’s lead. craved new islands. new streams. a shop was conveniently placed. 

  3. our conversation had grown heated. he was sweet on marriage. say forever you’ll be mine streamed. my stomach rolled. my feet felt cold. he parked the car under a weeping willow. its leaves richly textured. a coat of many colors. mixed of dark greens & blazing yellows. a few fell on the dashboard. i felt my spirits fall. craved a summer of Jolene. 

  4. his focus on the seasons was suffocating. spring or summer wedding, he asked. again. i needed space from the meddling. longed for a butterfly, perhaps monarch, migration.

  5. i ran up the shop’s leaf-strewn walk. i might have kept running (straight to parts unknown, my own Nashville of sorts) if not for the thirst. any lemonade, i asked a lad at the counter. he led me to coolers out back. stocks of bee sweet, minute maid, & country time smiled & swirled. 

  6. lady’s first, the lad teased. i grabbed & chugged a 16-ounce minute maid. then placed two bottles by the register. why the sour face, he asked, then dropped a lemon sour in my parcel. i winced. he winked. number? he added, right palm outstretched. i beg your pardon, i uttered. his extended left hand offered a pen. i scribbled. then ran to the car. 

  7. my fiancé gunned the engine & picked up where we left off. baby, i’m burnin streamed on the radio. he wanted roots. i craved adventure. it’s all wrong, I cried. but it’s all right, he said. compass dials on an ill-fitted rotation bubbled in my head. like leaves in wind. unsure where i’d settle. 

  8. the lad from the shop called the next day. i answered. more than once. it’s not you, it’s me, i told my fiancé. put breaks on the peddle. i can’t be that wrong, i still say.

  9. fast forward & circumstances change. halos and horns. turned ears and dried corn. puppy love and mourning doves. climates, too. each of us wildflowers in the wind. on a train. heartbreak express is its name. the lad met another chick. his shifts at the convenience store more than pumped gas & quenched thirst. candle flames mostly limp wicks.

  10. leaves continue to fall. wind continues to sweep. monarchs continue to migrate. amidst salty teardrops & clear blue mornings, i continue to weep. & remain thirsty. pure & simple. wishing to fall back. in time. to reclaim and rename. lyrics linger. lyrics layer. always. to lost love. i wonder—do i ever cross his mind.


if only i hadn’t drunk the lemonade


* with love and thanks to dolly / for always 
seeing the sun beyond the rain / and helping 
me start over / again 

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible InkOn Habits & Habitats, On Always Being an Outsider, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.


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