The Last Picnic

By Richard Wayne Horton

Pulling into my driveway I saw the ambulance next door. Med guys rolled Tom out. Oh, no! No more Thursday card games.

We helped the widow in the next few days. I mowed the lawn over there.

Feeling very sorry for the widow, we drove her out to the lake for a nice picnic just like in the old days. Oops! Maybe reminding her of the old days was a mistake. We should have talked this thing over. I take full responsibility. I was about to hurt a tree for firewood but the widow took hold of my sleeve. Her eyes looked up. “No! Leave it be! Its arms … no!” I let go of the arm (branch). Sorry. I rubbed my hand against my pants. Then I walked around and opened the car trunk. I could at least pop beers for everybody. “Heeeyyy! How bout a cool one!” But when I saw the beer chest (casket) I thought of the cemetery hillside. The umbrellas, rain, big tree, hole. The beers in the ice. Waiting… The widow sat on the picnic bench and looked out at the placid water. Her shoulders drooped and her hands lay limply in her lap. Looking at the water myself, I noticed. How peaceful it was. I wanted to get away from it.

I kind of made a suggestion. “Want to move on?” (Oops! Damn!) I waited a moment, then took a chance and said, “There’s a place further on where there’s some dead … (gulp!) … well, some deceased wood for a fire.”

The widow’s silence was answer enough. No, I thought, don’t talk. Whatever you do, don’t talk.

But the decision was made. We would move. I jumped into action and went a little crazy, closing the trunk lid, and snatching up the potato chip bags. All the kids ran around and yelled. Me too. Everyone hopped in, laughing now. God forgive us. The doors slammed, and I hit the gas. I’m gone now. There’s no one here at the picnic table.

Tom gets nonchalantly up. He watches my car till it disappears around the bend, then thinks, “At least I won’t be paying on that damn life insurance policy any more. Or arguing with Lucy. It was me. I drank.” He strolls down to the edge of the water. “Bet I’m in trouble now. I cheated too. But what the hell! Now’s as good a time as any.” He puts his polished funeral shoe carefully on top of the water. It’s scary taking the first few steps out, on top of the water like that. How’s it even possible? No, don’t answer that. He pauses, teetering unsteadily. Then he thinks a cigarette would taste good about now. He pats his tuxedo pocket but then remembers,“Oh, yeah! I quit! That was stupid. I’m dead anyway.” Without a cigarette, he strolls as bravely as he can pretend, toward the disturbing thing the sky is doing.

""Richard Wayne Horton has published a chapbook, STICKS & BONES, available from Meat For Tea Press. He has published in Southern Pacific Review, Meat For Tea, Danse Macabre, and others. He was nominated for a Pushcart. Contact him at

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