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The Picnic

Marcus Grant | Managing Editor


Cinnamon wafted through the air, giving a warm hug to the man standing at the far corner of the small kitchen. A kitchen towel draped over his shoulder. Carefully, Danny placed an assortment of fruit, meat, and cheese into the bottom of a woven basket, leaving enough room for the pastry. The thought of breaking into the soft crust and smothering it in whipped cream made his stomach rumble. Thankfully, it was nearly ready. He pulled the hot tin out, crying a soft “ope” as his finger touched the metal where the oven mitt was frayed.

The arms of the basket, made of splintered wood glossed over with a dark glaze that had been worn with time, held a blanket in place. Admiring his handiwork, he tied a floppy bow to secure it. Another pile of dust that needed to be swept was beginning to form in the far corner of the kitchen. Sun peeked in through the tired curtains that decorated the room’s windows and reflected off the counter’s tile; all had a dragonfly hand-painted in the center. They let in a draft that moved the stagnant air from the space and brought a feeling of freshness back into the house. He looked at his watch.

Outside, he let the sun hit him, closing his eyes and allowing it to kiss the highest points of his face. The basket in his arms was heavy and kept him bound to Earth. Shielding his eyes, he looked past the sparse trees to the lake in front of him. The water was calm. Faint whirrs of boats in the distance mixed with the melody of birds chirping above. Discarding his shoes, he felt the sand flatten beneath him and found a place by the water to plant himself. The breeze carried the smell of oak and grass.

“Hey, Grandma.” Danny placed two plates on the plaid blanket set out before him. Piling a generous amount of food onto each plate, he smiled. “How’ve you been?” He shoveled a spoonful of pie into his mouth. “I brought apple pie. I know it’s your favorite. Not nearly as good as yours, though. What was it you always told me?” He laughed to himself, looking out at the water. “Too mushy?”

A few houses down, two children splashed in the water. Laughter erupted from the pair and filled the air as they threw water into the air. Their mother reached toward them. “Remember when Annie and I used to sneak into the lake when you were busy with laundry? You used to get so angry at us.”

Fresh watermelon beckoned him to reach for a piece. The crisp fruit sparkled under the sun, mimicking the way the waves sparkled ahead of him. “Annie just graduated. Got that big tech job she was hoping for. I know it’s not law like you wanted, but she seems happier. She hasn’t been around lately, running off to god knows where with her friends.”

“I don’t know,” he let out a deep breath and reached for a skewer of beef. It was charred a little too much for his taste, but he took a meager bite and let the savory flavor flow over his tongue. “I feel stuck. Work’s growing dull. It’s just ‘write this email,’ ‘answer so-and-so’s phone call,’ ‘copy this report,’ and repeat. But at least it pays the bills.”

He cupped a handful of sand. It spilled out of his lose fingers in bands of pale gold, forming small piles on the edge of the blanket. Picking up a rough, reddish rock, he turned it over, looking at striations of black running through it. He tossed it into the water, shaking his head. “You’d probably laugh at me. ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself and actually do something.’”

With a full belly, he laid his back down onto the warmth of the blanket. His long hair blew into his face, tickling his nose and cheeks. Clouds were beginning to pool in the sky, mottling it with obscure shapes of white, providing cover from the sun that was growing harsh on his skin. He closed his eyes.

A low buzz awoke him from the short-lived nap. Two dragonflies flew mere inches from

his eyes, dancing in the air as the breeze passed between them, whispering in a way only they

could understand. Smiling, he lifted a hand. One landed at the edge, looking out to the other for

assurance.

Tired of the stillness, they flew off, whisking between blades of tall grass and cattails and

eventually disappearing in the distance. He packed the empty containers back into the basket and

folded the blanket up. Placing Grandma’s plate by the edge of the shore, Danny faced the water.

“Eat well, Grandma. Take care of yourself. I’ll be back soon, ‘kay?"

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