In today’s New Voices, we’re excited to share with you Nathan Alling Long’s “The Picnic.” This flash fiction is written as one long sentence, clauses cascading over clauses as Long’s characters embrace during an evening picnic, memories and feelings washing over. Long’s omniscient narrator illuminates the lives of both of these characters, their picnic accessories functioning as windows into their shared histories. “The Picnic” will stay with you long after the sun sets on their evening.
they lay down on all the patches, their bodies filled with good food and wine, fingers entwined, feeling a euphoria that pulsed through their bodies, every cell at once, in waves that rushed from their feet—naked and free—to their heads, pounding with alcohol and thoughts, thoughts of the past and future, but settling eventually on the present
They were there in the field after the picnic (of cheeses and a loaf of fresh sour dough that he had baked that morning, which filled the car with the scent of roasted wheat, and of cold grilled asparagus and tomatoes she had picked from the garden she had been cultivating all summer, of peaches they’d bought from a roadside stand and cookies sent from his mother,
who mailed him care packages once a week, as though he were still in college, as though she had no one else in the world to love, and of course there was wine, lots of it, or at least enough—a liter bottle from Argentina, his favorite pinot gris,
which in the end they slipped peach slices into and polished off), and then they lay down on the old quilt they kept in the car, the quilt they’d bought together at a yard sale, a crazy quilt, her mother would have called it—she herself a quilter and not a quitter,
as he had written on the card to her mother while she went through chemo a few years back, and though the word play had made her smile—she told them so, a week later—it hadn’t proved to be true and later there was that awkward moment when they were cleaning out her mother’s house and she came across his card and showed it to him and cried and beat against his chest, as though he had not only been wrong but had caused all the wrong that had happened,
and she went on beating out all of her sorrow and frustrations with their relationship and her own life, and beat out the ways he could not understand any of this, no matter how long she beat things into him, because his mother was still alive and well and bird-watched on weekends and visited each season and in between sent them cookies and packages of fruits from her garden, or in winter, from expensive companies that wrapped each pear in gold foil
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