A SECRET PICNIC
Standing outside before entry, butterflies stirred up a storm in my
stomach. That muscle that some call a heart strained itself to pump life
through my flabby flapping body. Approaching that door I felt fear take hold
of my small and fragile wings. Clipped and cut from the clouds, my angel was
waiting for me inside that house. All I had to do was fly in and meet him.
The door opened and we were welcomed into the house by a small women dressed
in a white uniform. Her forced delight towards visitors is evident in her
face. The four of us followed the women into the house. Along the hall hung
numerous pictures. As we entered the sitting room Shayne turned to me. He
spoke in a comical and brash tone, “Did you notice the picture outside?”. I
responded with yes even though I hadn’t because my powers of perception were
clearly focused on my ability to comprehend this new situation, or maybe it
was that stronger growing smell coming from the sitting room. Entering the
room, the root of the smell became clear. Smudged on the couch were human
excretions. In the corner of the room there was a TV inside of a cage. The
rest of the room was stripped bare. The lady leading us had an embarrassed
look upon her face and with a strange calmness spoke indirectly to us all,
“I apologise for the mess. Laura had an accident just before you came in. It
will be cleaned up as soon as we have her sorted out”.
The nurse then opened the door that led into the living room. Sitting at the
table was a little old man, hunched staring into space. That picturesque
painting of a moment, that tasted of the suffering of time and emotion. Our
silly lives of snakes and ladders, chance chooses the roll of the dice and
chance chose his. A pregnant mother contracting rubella with her first
child. Born to this world eternally beautiful in his difference. I find it
easy to see the innocence inside of him as I looked through his thinning
hair and pleasant papery skin. The art of origami always introduced
enticement to me.
Anita and Ann swiftly moved their sweets into the kitchen so as to not
attract his attention. His food and gifts had to be rationed to him like a
soldier of war. I remember being told once that life is just a great battle,
whether your wearing a Kevlar helmet or just a simple tweed cap, your life
is still just as fragile on a long enough timescale. Anita and Ann put
everything away except for a yoghurt carton and a carton of apple juice.
Myself and Shayne stood in the living room quietly observing him. The
silence broke when he sporadically jumped from his chair and with a roguish
smile began disjointedly leaping around the room. Rooting through bag after
bag, not fully understanding the concept of emptiness. Shayne let out an
uncomfortable laugh and its silent echoes found both Anita and Ann
reappearing from the kitchen with some of their treats in hand. “You are
such a rogue”, said Anita, “Come here with me and you can have a little
treat”, putting her arm around him and guiding him back to his seat she then
opened the carton of apple juice and slowly poured a cup for him.
Standing there, looking at him staring at that cup, I felt the emotion of
those past fifty-seven years. Looking into those eyes I saw him conversing
with the masters who teach us how to live. He takes his first sip from the
glass of juice that Anita poured for him. He spills the contents all over
his face. Not wearing his bib, it drops slowly onto his new shirt that he
had a tender tugging affection towards. Such an innocent beautiful thing,
meeting him for the first time. The spontaneous nature of my eventual
arrival in this place of suburban surprise. Flying through me all the
memories of that meeting. The fear of something being forged in reality
between the imagined image and the shear unknown.
“Mmmmm isn’t it really nice. You’re a great boy”, said Anita to her gawming
“Don’t give him too much now Anita, we don’t want him getting greedy”,
spluttered Ann mid dragging desperately on a cigarette. As he sipped away on
his juice Anita began opening a small yoghurt carton.
“Now, would you like a little yoghurt pet?”, Anita caringly asked not
expecting an answer.
She placed one hand gently on the back of his head to hold it still. With
her other hand she held the spoon gently dropping the yoghurt into the
toothless chasm that was his mouth. I remember that stabbing glass in my
heart as I watched her spoon feeding him from the yoghurt container. That
slimy white mass washed down with the forbidden fruit meant more to him than
any joyous epiphany I could ever have and for that I envied him. His stout
proud jaw shook as he began to smile. My uncle sat in the corner lying with
ease against the uniformly painted walls, struggling to hold onto his
strong image that he had wrestled to keep since his fathers sudden death.
His emotional blockade showed through that thick paint. The great woman that
is my grandmother stood there with a cigarette holding her hand.
After he had his feed and all the treats were gone Anita began to converse
with him, “Who’s that over there?”, pointing towards Ann. Liam shakingly
“Yes that’s your mommy”.
With the situation stripped bare all I could see was the innocence that was
hiding under his colour coordinated tweed cap. Indulged innocence is
indestructible. Ann came closer to Liam and began to rub his fragile little
face, “You enjoyed those treats, didn’t ya, you poor auld divil ya”. As he
quivered under her words tears began to bubble under my eyes, I started to
realise why she never cries. All her tears had already dropped and with that
her emotions chopped. With her sentence complete she moved back to being a
spectator in the audience. Soon after Liam leaped up out of his chair and
ran over to Shayne in the corner. He began flicking and poking him, his
childish grin eradicating any malicious nature in his acts. He truly
appeared like a child trapped in a man’s body.
“Go on out of that you lunatic. Don’t be doing that to your little brother”.
Everyone took to giggling as Shayne led him back to his chair. Soon after
his reseating he began to make gestures of pouring and drinking. “He is
looking for some more juice! Can you please run into the kitchen and get
some more Jeremy?”. Ann looked at me with those eyes that don’t even give
you a chance to answer. I swiftly made my way out of the room and towards
the kitchen. Between the kitchen and the living room was the yard door. My
attention was caught mid route by activities outside. Staring out the window
I could see the inhabitants of the institution out in instability. Men who I
should be using as templates were wandering in endless circles. Their minds
twisting and turning in different directions. A very odd, gaunt man noticed
my observations and began a twisting performance for my viewing ‘pleasure’.
>From inside it looked as if the world had gone mad. It discomforted and
excited me simultaneously. I turned my attention back to the kitchen and the
world switched form again, a world where beauty and innocence are within
arms reach, but not always coherent. A form of happiness that shits on
itself if not watched carefully. A place where the unbalanced are always
walking the rope, a place where purity is looked after, so as not to become
a stagnant poison. I looked around, constantly observing everyone. Elements
I never saw came drifting from the shadows towards the light of the room. As
calm content conversing continued I realised in this sit among strangers I
Walking into the kitchen I instantaneously spotted the carton of apple juice
sitting on the counter top. The screams of the clean-up job upstairs
shimmered silently for a few seconds in the air but quickly disappeared.
It’s strange how such queer things can float under the surface, in our
perfect little world where we can stay happy in our ignorance. With the
chore complete Liam was soon found quietly drinking the apple juice that I
brought him. Everyone stood around him. The mood seemed to have loosened
itself and everyone seemed to be a little happier.
“I think it’s about time now that we leave”, whispered Ann’s voice,
re-tightning our tensions. Obediently following suit Anita pulled things
together by saying “Yeah ok, we’ll just say our goodbyes now then”. Anita
and Ann walked up to him and planted kisses on his cheeks. Looking into his
distant eyes Ann spoke again, “Now we shall see you soon you poor little
“Give us an auld hug, old man”, Shayne walked over to Liam and gave him a
gentle hug. Looking on at their brotherly embrace I felt upset at the shear
opposite nature of a bear bodied brother, hugging his handicapped sibling. A
likeness stood in both of their polished heads. Finally I gave him a hug and
a kiss. We left him and made our way out through the hall. Looking at the
picture I ignored on the way in I realised it was just an empty frame, no
picture to be seen. Like his life, the secret picnic, we just wrapped up our
things and left. Coming again someday soon to fill the frame again with a
new imagined image. Just at the point of exit we all turned around to have
one last glance towards the kitchen. To our surprise we saw Liam sitting up
on the kitchen counter perched like a proud peacock. Only this peacock’s
feathers where not easily seen. Plucked bare still standing proud against
the world. His forecast was for that of a short span in this realm.
Outliving this over ten fold he sat content in his simple kitchen, his
innocence changing the world each day he wakes.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Jeremiah Ambrose.
Published on e-Stories.org on 07.10.2008.