The Picnic

Trish O’Brien-Edwards

He sits across from her on the blanket spread across the ground in the park. He wears his work clothes, a navy shirt and pants, the same thing everyday. Even when he changes when he gets home, it is only a clean version of this. He fidgets, folding and unfolding his paper napkin, touching it to his clean mouth. He sits Indian style, then puts his legs out straight in front of him, settling on one leg up under. She knows he wants a chair to sit in, but doesn’t offer to move to a nearby picnic table.

She wears a lemon yellow dress, well worn from washing. She loves the way it forms to her breasts, making them appear larger, and the way it flares at the bottom. Sometimes she spins in the kitchen, watching the dress circle around her.

The baby lies on his back, trying to catch the sun falling down through the leaves. He concentrates, a frown on his face, wondering why he can never capture the light. Bored, he climbs into his mother’s lap, putting his sticky fingers in her hair.

He won’t look directly at his son, but always glances off to something more important in the distance. He doesn’t listen when she tells him that their son got his first tooth or took his first step.

She wants to tell him about the packed bags by the door, but her throat is dry and she doesn’t say anything. They eat in silence. She knows he’s thinking about going back to work after this respite. He’s always going back to work. Their lives follow not the sun, but his job. Their dinners are planned around it, their vacations.

“We’re really busy now,” he tells her every time she asks when they can go to the Grand Canyon or to see her parents across the state.

Finished, they pack the remnants, the plastic bags the chips came in, the waxed paper that held the sandwich with a touch of mustard still clinging. He wads his things up into balls, throwing them in the basket. She takes her time, patiently putting her things away. She wants to remember the wetness of the cooling pop cans, the way the air tastes of lilacs, the baby’s happy gurgles. She brushes the blanket free of crumbs and together they fold it up, each taking an end.

She smoothes the seat of her dress as she stands, takes the baby up into her arms then holds her hand out to her husband who carries the load of the basket. She’ll take it with her, to remember better times.


“I am a graduate of Iowa State University where I studied Literature and creative writing. I live in Ames, Iowa with my husband of twelve years.” E-mail: trishieo[at]

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