“Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

Home Movies – Rosalyn Drexler, 1963

“Picnic” is A.E. Weisgerber‘s potent & evocative flash fiction from our killer & cinematic Spring 2017 issue. (Fun fact: “Picnic” was also selected by Michael Ray at Zoetrope: All-Story for inclusion in the super-cool Cafe Zoetrope Short Story Dispenser!)

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IT WAS DRIZZLY AND FRIDAY AND THEY WERE POOR, so Yves and his new wife Della decided to dig out the 8mm. The projector—Bell & Howell, heavy and gray with a square-handled top—was passed down from the coat closet, followed by the Thom McCan shoe box, holding its small library of little films, each in a yellow and black cardboard box marked with catchall names like Cabin 1960, Aunt Belle, St. Anne, and such.

“Don’t forget to get that pen,” Yves said. “You can mark the one with your cousin in it.”

Della’s cousin, Pat Farelly, was back in the newspapers as his verdict was due shortly.

“Oh. Gosh right. What if they let him go?” Della brought the box into the living room.

“I don’t think he’s got a chance. Did you see the newspaper? those shackles?” Yves set down the bulky projector, unhasped its pebbly gray clamshell, shucked it. “With his limp on top of that?” The threading wasn’t so tricky, but once that lamp kicked on, it had to keep running or acrid smoke would announce holes burning through the celluloid.

With a china crayon, Della added ‘killer’ to the little carton’s subject line, and set it aside. “Remember how he locked all the doors?”  Della always selected the same films, and it wouldn’t be an official movie night without watching Honeymoon, the time the old Falcon got stuck in the snow.

Then she requested Aunt Belle for its walk around the circle of chairs down at the shore house in Lavallette.  Already, three of its stars were gone. Della said, “That’s Gram! There’s Uncle Joe. There’s Mommy! Did you know she won the best legs contest at the Palisades in her day? There’s Ruth and Shay. Uncle Shay! He wore out three wooden legs!” Della laughed and Yves smiled to see her laugh, to be with her while she laughed.  Uncle Shay kept those legs lined up in his and Aunt Ruth’s kitchen, as conversation starters and closers. There had been a winter fire, a bad one with the loss of a child, and although he was the chief he was active and his boot had filled with water and his foot froze. That was that. The stories poured out after the legs screwed on.

Della laughed so easily, she good-naturedly unpacked stories about comical relatives with their happy lives of crammed apartments filled with Jesuit cranks, thrown shoes, mechanical Charley Weaver toys, and the crucifix with its secret drawer that held its corked vial of fragrant chrism, one slender beige candle, one match.

But all she did now, as the day keeled dreamily into the sparkling silk pillow of a summer night, was chitchat. And she bided time, film by little film, and happily anticipated a glimpse of what was once her cousin: that killer.

Yves felt peculiar this time as Picnic came close. He stared at their wedding gift from his family. They had taken it off the wall to show the films. It was a painting, a picture of a farm scene, which wasn’t very good but for its inviting rooster in the foreground and the shadow of a bull in a distant stall. Della had her head on his shoulder, and it suddenly felt ugly and heavy to him. His leg was falling asleep. He smelled camphor and pine sap.

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A.E. WEISGERBER’s work has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. Her fiction appears in SmokeLong QuarterlyStructo MagazineThe CollapsarDIAGRAM, and Gravel. Recent non-fiction in The Alaska StarAlternating CurrentThe Review Reviewand Change Seven. She reads for Wigleaf and Pithead Chapeland is working on an illustrated storybook called “Lives of the Saints.” Follow her @aeweisgerber, or visit  http://anneweisgerber.com

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