Eat Outside

“Why don’t you take a seat, Wilmer?” Alana asked.

“I don’t want to,” Wilmer replied, looking at the three on the blanket.

“Oh, come on,” said Angela. “Join us.”

“Never! I will stand, thank you.”

“But it’s a picnic!” said Bess. “You should sit with us.”

“Yeah, come on,” Alana patted the blanket beside her.

“How will you eat if you keep standing?” Angela asked.

“I can eat standing up, thank you. And you all invited me to eat outside, not to have a picnic. I’m thoroughly unprepared for a picnic.”

“But you can – ” Angela started.

“I said no thank you. Please hand me a sandwich,” Wilbur said.

Angela was put off by the curtness in his voice, so didn’t move. Alana handed a sandwich up, but she made sure to give him one of the bad ones – the ones she was going to eat herself, not wanting to waste anything. She handed the good ones to her seated friends.

Everyone ate in silence, the tension mounting.

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Company Picnic

The picnic began, as all picnics do, with a hunt for a place to sit.

At the company picnic, however, everyone was looking for a place to sit, so they continuously ran in to each other. It being a company of headstrong, stubborn individuals, it meant few ever made way for the others. It was, therefore, an hour and a half before everyone was seated and comfortable.

No one was allowed to begin eating before Jules gave a speech, and concluded with the company mantra. Following that, he announced, “And now, we begin the company games! Winner gets a bite of everyone’s spread!”

The winner, of course, was Jules. Everyone remembered the lessons – either real or myth – of ten years’ previous, when everyone who came ahead of Jules was fired.

So Jules took the prize, doing slightly better than the previous year, as he had done for the past nine years. Everyone offered him a bite – or more – of their lunch. Everyone sat nervously as Jules made jokes at which they laughed, asked questions which they answered cautiously, and suggested lifestyle changes which were only feasible by people making the excessive salary Jules earned.

As the picnic began to wound down, Jules demanded people stay. Those who had already left, everyone knew, were now on a list. The HR team prepared themselves for the coming round of hires.

The company picnic was deemed a great success, and everyone, the memo informed them, was looking forward to next year’s.

Picnic

Shelly took off her jacket, shook it, and laid it down on the grass. She sat, looked around, the unzipped her backpack to take out the food.

Overhead, the clouds were dark, the air heavy.

A ziplock container holding a sandwich – chicken and cheese – and a smaller container with carrot sticks. She had a dip for the sticks, because, as she would say to her friends: “I’m not an animal.” And a bottle of orange juice mixed with champagne, a mimosa for her solitary picnic. “It’s not alcoholism if it’s only once,” she would say to the same friends.

Shelly sat on the coat and opened her carrot sticks and dip. She dipped, lifted, and crunched. The sticks were sweet, with just the right amount of crisp to make her delighted. She kept dipping and dipping, until they were gone.

Just as she lifted her sandwich container, the rain started. A few drops on the lid, then more, and before she could open it there was a full on downpour.

Shelly stayed sitting where she was, opened the container, and took a bite of the sandwich. She was careful to shield the bread under the lid, but otherwise continued to sit and enjoy her picnic.

When the sandwich was finished, and she was fully soaked through, she opened the mimosa. She sipped, savouring the sweet flavour, and looked around. No one else here, she thought. Strange. It’s only a little rain, and it’s warm rain; who wouldn’t want to enjoy this?

She continued to sip, delighting in the greenery around her, the water washing around her, down her. She smiled and lay back, full of happiness.

Picnic

Jamaal pulled the blanket out of his backpack. He shook it open and spread it out on the grass, then gestured.

Ines, looking at him shyly, kneeled on the blanket, carefully arranging her skirt. She smiled up at Jamaal, then held her own hand out, asking him to join her.

“So, umm,” Jamaal said, sitting down. “Do you…crap. Uh. No, not crap. Sorry. I just meant, uh…”

“Do I come here often?” she said with a laugh.

“Umm, yeah,” Jamaal said, blushing.

“No, not at all. Only when nice boys ask me on dates.”

“Oh?” Jamaal said, raising an eyebrow.

“No, I mean, that’s not often. I don’t come here a lot. I just. I mean. This is the first time I’ve been here.” Her own cheeks flushed, and they looked away from each other, then met eyes again.

“Well, um, thanks. For coming on a picnic with me,” Jamaal said, picking at his jeans.

“My pleasure,” Ines said. After a beat, she gestured to his backpack. “Shall we?”

“Sure,” Jamaal said, digging into the pack. He pulled out an insulated lunchbag and a bottle of wine. “I only had plastic cups for the wine,” he said, setting one in front of her.

“That’s okay.”

“Also, I hope you like egg salad sandwiches.”

“Seriously?”

Jamaal’s eyes opened wide as his stomach dropped. “Umm, I mean, I can totally go and get you something else! There’s a corner store, like, five minutes walk from here. Really, it’s no trouble. Cheese? Chicken?”

“No, no,” Ines laughed. “I love egg salad. My Mom used to make it all the time.” Jamaal’s body relaxed as she continued, “I remember this one time, we were supposed to be meeting my aunt for dinner at some hoity-toity place, and my aunt being one of those well-to-do types who forgets where they came from decided she would show up ‘fashionably late’, which to her meant, like, an hour and a half after we had agreed to meet there. Well, after half an hour of waiting, Mom was having none of it, and was so pissed off she marched us all two blocks down the road and bought us egg salad sandwiches. We sat, we ate, then marched right back, and it was just then that my aunt was arriving. Mom said ‘We already ate, enjoy your dinner.’ It was so cold! But the sandwiches were delicious, and Mom took us to a movie. It was amazing.”

Jamaal was laughing, though unsure if he was supposed to. “That’s a great story,” he said. “Well, I hope mine are at least half as good.” He handed her a sandwich wrapped in tinfoil, then took one out for himself. He unwrapped his, and she did the same. “Umm, bon appetit,” Jamaal said.

“Bon appetit,” said Ines. They each took a bite, and smiled at each other as they chewed.

 

Picnic in the Park

“Can I interest you in a picnic?” Ryan said.

“Hmm. It depends, what’s involved?” said Mose, glancing up from his computer. His beard held crumbs from his toast at breakfast, and his shirt was stained and full of holes.

Ryan, impeccably dressed and hair coiffed, raised an eyebrow. “A shower, first. Then we take some bread and food stuffs to the park, sit on the grass, and enjoy our lunch there.”

“Hm. What sort of food?”

“Well, bread, as I said. Some cheese.” Ryan looked at Mose, gauging his reaction. When nothing registered on the face still staring at the screen, he continued. “Lettuce, tomato, some cold cuts. Maybe mustard?”

“Ugh.”

“Okay, how about mayo?”

“Better.”

“And some juice to drink.”

“Can you make it beer?”

“I can, though I think technically we’re not supposed to do that.”

“Technically shmechnically.”

“Alright, beer then.”

“And no shower.”

“Well, that’s kind of a requirement here. You can’t go out looking like that, Mose.”

“And why not?”

“Because you look like a slob! You have dinner from the past two nights on your shirt, your beard is a mess, and you’re starting to smell!”

“Yeah, well. If you can’t take me at my worst, then, you know, whatever.”

“Mose, come on, let’s get cleaned up and go out for lunch at the park. Then we can come back, and you can not clean yourself for another week.”

“No thanks. I’ll stay here.”

“Fine, I’m going anyway. I’ll have a picnic on my own.”

“K. Can you make me something before you go?”

“Not a chance.”

“Huh. Whatever.”

Ryan grabbed the picnic bag from the kitchen, then slammed the door on his way out. Mose kept staring at his screen, reaching over every few minutes to the bag of chips beside him.