Picnic with the Dead

March 31, 2018
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Cotton white clouds spiraled against the bright sky like dancing ribbons as the sun flickered golden light. Saturdays were seldom a busy visiting day at the cemetery, for many chose to mourn the dead on God’s holy day instead. Nathaniel Evers, however, often reserved Saturday afternoons for driving up the graveyard’s gravel road and parking right beneath the tall oak tree. The “click” of the red station wagon’s alarm echoed throughout the arrays of gravestones as Nathaniel stepped on the damp grass, each emerald blade kissed with morning dew. In one hand he held a small woven basket and in the other a bouquet of lavender lilies. He marched up the sloped hill, his timeworn knees crumbling, and he finally reached Anna’s gravestone.
It was fairly puny, but the sun’s rays reflected off of the marble granite, lighting up the engraved date: 1958-2015. Her name was boldly etched on the stone, the lowercase “a” twirling around to complete the style. Tears welled up inside Nathaniel’s eyes but instead of giving into his emotions and crying, he reached into the basket and pulled out a tainted yellow blanket and spread it atop the grass. The early spring winds gently tugged at the edges as Nathaniel slowly sunk to the ground, sitting on the tattered fabric and emptying the picnic basket’s contents: a
soggy sandwich with a slice of processed ham and rugged Swiss cheese in between two pieces of stale rye bread, a plastic baggy full of sliced baby carrots, and a mini carton of chocolate milk close to its expiration date. He then took out a warm, gooey cookie with melted chocolate chips and sat it in an unfolded napkin.
         “I baked this for you,” Nathaniel said, staring at the name engraved on the stone. “I tried
following your recipe, but I know no one can make it quite like you. I added a pinch of salt this time.” He placed the cookie on the grass near the stone along with the bouquet of lilies, a few petals detaching from the stem. Nathaniel took a breath, inhaling the cemetery’s bitter spring air, and when he looked down, he noticed a coil of ants crawling towards the cookie.






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