THE SHINE JOURNAL

Flash Literature, Poetry, Art and Photography!

 

 

The Picnic

 

by

 

Gay Walker

 

 

 

Lois smoothed the red-checked tablecloth for the hundredth time, straightened the knives, forks and spoons. Her friend Gert told her it was silly to bring her good tableware—everyone took plastic on picnics these days—but she hadn’t listened.  Clark was worth the effort. 

 

She’d packed her fluted champagne glasses and splurged on a vintage bottle of champagne, too. It had been so long since she’d seen him. Not since the scandal when folks had questioned whether he really knew Superman[i]. Unable to produce a photo to go along with his scoop, Clark had left the town in disgrace and left her without a forwarding address. She missed their shared late night deadlines, Clark’s head close to hers, his breath hot against her ear as they worked on the words, each struggling to resist the magnetic attraction.  Occasionally, they’d given in to desire, had drinks and a special celebration afterwards.  God, how she missed him. 

 

Then yesterday, out of the clear blue sky—and the sky had been blue, the color of a robin’s egg, a reporter of her caliber noticed these things—he’d rung her up and asked her to meet him in the middle of nowhere for a picnic.  She’d come straight from work at The Daily Planet, where it was strictly business suits for her, always had been—she had a reputation to uphold.  Not that she had much of a reputation left after those silly cartoons and movies about Superman.  One made the ridiculous claim that she was Superman’s wife, another that she disliked Clark. 

 

Well, of course she and Clark had to pretend to dislike each other—just think of the trouble they would have been in had their romantic inclinations been discovered.  There were rules against getting too friendly.  Yes, she thought, for the most part it had been complete hogwash—about as believable as three-headed aliens descending on Hollywood—but in this town, sometimes hogwash was all it took to ruin a reputation.

 

Here she was,waiting for Clark in the middle of some plowed field without a blessed thing to recommend it, and he was late as usual—probably getting some important scoop, if he was still the reporter she once knew.  Would probably even claim it involved Superman. She rooted in the bottom of the picnic basket, pulled out her book, War and Peace, and wondered if she perhaps should have brought a second in case she finished—she was already halfway through its pages.

 

She needn’t have been concerned. Before long, drowsiness caused Lois’ upper lids to drift downwards and War and Peace to settle for an extended truce on her chest.  Long work hours had taken their toll.  She slept until a growing chill in the air caused her to reach absent-mindedly for her comforter.  Finding none, she opened an eye to search for it, then sat up abruptly in alarm.

 

She was alone in a desolate cornfield under a threatening sky with a tornado rapidly approaching  from the direction of her car.

 

Large drops of rain began to pelt her.  Fully alert now, Lois tried to think what to do.  Should she run for the car?  No.  That would be foolish.  Think, she told herself.  Think.  Jimmy always said that her brain was her best asset, but that was usually when she wanted to scoop Clark. 

 

Damn Clark, anyway.  She should have learned her lesson years ago.  He was trouble.  Every time she let down her guard, she got herself into a mess, and more than once, it had taken Superman to save her.  No wonder those damn rumors had started.  But where was Superman now?  She hadn’t seen him in years—he seemed to have forgotten about helping people.  For all she knew, he’d grown evil, turned in his do-gooders costume for a license to lie, cheat and steal.  She’d have to take care of herself this time.

 

 

She reached in the picnic basket for her umbrella, the one she always carried.  No sense in letting her brand new suit get ruined—it was a Burberry, and she’d paid good money for it, more than a month’s wages.  She opened the umbrella, looked around, and spied a farmhouse perhaps a mile off.  She took off at a fast clip with the tornado arching, writhing, twisting, and rolling behind her and one goal in mind—make that farmhouse!  She didn’t want to think what would happen if the farmer had locked the cellar door… no, she’d worry about that if and when she arrived.  Otherwise—nothing or no one could save her—no one but Superman.

 

The tornado played a game of cat and mouse with Lois, sometimes edging closer, sometimes pulling farther away on its erratic path in her general direction.  Its seething fury grew so loud that she was no longer able to hear the sound of her pounding heart. 

 

Despite her ragged breathing, she willed herself to pump her legs faster, but it was as if time stood still, for she made no progress towards the farmhouse.  When she looked, the tornado was upon her.  It tore the umbrella from her hand, grabbed at her clothing, ripped at the fabric.  Another pull then, but this time upwards, and she was airborne.  She saw blue, robin’s egg blue, over her shoulder, felt warmth and strength and safety.  “Dorothy…” she said, “not… in… Kans…”.

 

It was near dark when Lois awakened.  She sat propped against her car, red-checked tablecloth around her shoulders.  Clark held a cup of brandy to her lips.

 

“Lois, are you OK?  I found your car off the road at an odd angle with the picnic basket tossed across the seat.  You’ve bumped your head.”

 

“Clark, you bastard.  I waited for you.  All afternoon I waited, until I was caught in the tornado and had to run for the farmhouse, but—”

 

“Tornado?” he said, turning his back.  “Look at the sky.  I hardly think so.  What next?  You were saved by Superman?”

 

Author’s note: Superman is a registered trademark of DC Comics. Burberry is a trademark of the Burberry Corporation.


 

GAY WALKER shares...

Self described new author GAY WALKER tells SHINE! that when she made a mid-life career shift from practicing medicine so that she could spend more time with her teenaged daughter, she began a roller-coaster ride filled with the unexpected that has included time to fulfill a lifelong dream of writing.  In addition to the publication of newspaper and magazine articles, and writing short stories, her serialized romantic farce, Norbert and Smedley, has developed a following on the internet and her first novel, The Learner's Permit, is near completion.

 

She lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and daughter, dog and two cats.

 

The short story "LOST" is scheduled for publication in The Mississippi Crow Issue #6 this Fall (River Muse Press, 2007).

 

 

 

MOTIVATION:

 

“My writers' group posts weekly prompts and challenges, and in early January, one member posted a small picture showing a women running through a field with a tornado in the background.  We were to write a story explaining the picture.  She'd seen it as a writing contest elsewhere.  As I kept asking myself why someone would be so well-dressed but still in a field, especially with a tornado coming, the story came to me.”