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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)

TITLE: We'll Be Fine
By Addie Pleasance
07/09/12


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Twenty-two years married. It’s an accomplishment, but when I look at Kent reading the newspaper in his leather chair, it occurs to me that I have nothing in common with this man. We were great at parenting, but those years are behind us; now our evenings are mostly spent in amiable silence.

I miss the fellow I married, the one who gave nicknames to strangers and played the accordion for an hour every Saturday afternoon.

He turns a page; an idea occurs to me. “Let’s have a picnic tomorrow,” I say.

Kent looks up for a few beats, then turns the page again. “Hmm,” he says. “Sure.”

We have thirty acres, much of it wooded. The next day we head to a wild field near the edge of the woods and I set out a lovely spread. We share a polite meal, commenting mostly on the crustiness of the bread and the overly ripe peaches. Kent looks toward the house often, and I know he’s wishing he’d brought something to read.

He’s finishing the last of the macaroons and I’m packing up the basket when we hear the sound of something crashing through the trees. He drops his cookie just as a young kid steps out toward us, eyes wide.

I know immediately who he is. The local news flashed his picture last night; he’s only fourteen, and he made a colossally stupid attempt at a robbery of a gas station half a mile from our house. He grabbed more than he could carry, mostly donuts and jerky, and then tried to snag a carton of Mountain Dew on his way out. He ended up dropping it all, then ran away before the startled clerk could dial 911. He’s been missing for three days.

Ronan—that’s his name. Ronan is looking at us, panting, a hand in his jacket pocket. Kent sits up slowly and says, “Well, hey there.” The boy glances past us, sees the house in the distance, then looks at the remnants of our meal. “You hungry, son?” says my husband. I watch carefully the hand in Ronan’s pocket.

The kid sways a little and stares at our food. It’s too warm for the jacket, and he’s sweating, filthy. He’s probably been hiding in our woods since he ran away from the gas station.

I haven’t moved; I’m still holding a checkered napkin in one hand and a few plastic forks in the other. Kent speaks again. “My wife packed way too much. We’re happy to share. Pull up a patch of weeds and sit down, willya?”

Ronan still hasn’t spoken, but his shoulders slump. His eyes dart—Kent, me, the food, the house. Kent is still sitting on the blanket, and he slowly reaches to his left for a third of a baguette. He holds it out as if trying to coax a frightened animal. “C’mon, kid. We’re done, aren’t we, Liz?”

I nod, very still.

Ronan snatches the bread from Kent’s hand and shoves it in his mouth. I’m not sure why he doesn’t run back into the woods until the boy folds down with a sigh, legs collapsing. He must be exhausted. Kent gestures to me: give him something to drink. I reach into the basket for a small bottle of grape juice.

The kid guzzles the drink, then leans back until he’s resting on a nearby tree. His hand is still in his pocket. Kent launches into a crazy monologue—the tire swing that used to hang from that tree, the time he broke his nose, gas prices. Ronan slips sideways, jerks, then crumples to the weeds, eyes closed.

A minute or two passes; no one moves. Kent leans forward and reaches into the boy’s pocket, retrieving a tiny jackknife. The boy twitches, coughs, settles again. My husband stands and takes me into his arms. “Go to the house and call the police,” he says.

“But—”

“I’m fine, sweetheart.” He hasn’t called me sweetheart in years. “We’ll be fine.”

I rest my head on Kent’s shoulder and he breathes into my hair. I feel a whispered kiss, and I head for the house.

When I look back, I see that Kent is sitting next to Ronan, who is still asleep on the ground. Kent’s back is against the tree, and one hand rests on Ronan’s shoulder, a blessing. They are still there when the police come in twenty minutes, and Kent holds up a hand. “Wait,” he says. “I’ll wake him.”


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This article has been read 458 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/12/12
Wow! You took me where I didn't expect to go and what a treat it was! I could so relate to the MC watching her husband as if watching a stranger. I often feel like we are just people who happen to live in the same house.

I thought this would be a slightly sappy love story with a message of hope. Instead I found myself on a roller coaster ride full of suspense and twists and turns.

I like the open ending. Even though part of me was hoping the MC would take the boy in and give him a life where he didn't need to worry about feeling hungry. But that would have been tying it up into a neat little bow and making the story less believable. It is a story of hope but not the story I was expecting and for me that's a touch of genius!
CD Swanson 07/13/12
This sobering piece hit the topic perfectly, and held a virtual cornucopia of truth. Nicely told and done. Good job. I loved the touching ending. God bless~
Noel Mitaxa 07/14/12
Very skillful and economical writing, which invites us into the scenario and gives us room to get our own feel for all that is happening. It could have been melodramatic, but you kept that element right out of the picture. Very well done.
Dannie Hawley 07/14/12
Beautifully done!
Genia Gilbert07/15/12
This is touching and has a great flow, as well as the underlying fresh touch between the MC and hubby. I loved it.
Leola Ogle 07/16/12
This is definitely one of my favorites! Engaging and interesting from start to finish! You did an excellent job. Such an enjoyable read! God Bless!
Hiram Claudio07/18/12
A great story and so wonderfully expressed. The transition from the couple that had grown distant to the trio that now involved a fugitive teenager was so seemless and well done. Then to sneak in the moment the couple shared before the MC goes to call the police and him saying "We'll be fine" ... I sensed that had a meaning for the wife on many levels as she gained - or regained - some insight into her husband.

This was such a blessing in so many ways. Awesome job!
CD Swanson 07/19/12
Congratulations! God bless~
Genia Gilbert07/19/12
Congratulations! This was very deserving of your placement.
Leola Ogle 07/19/12
Congrats Addie! Good job!
Jody Day 07/19/12
What a ride! This one hooked me in from the beginning. I identified immediately with the time of life, and then the unexpected twist topped it off. Congratulations!
Hiram Claudio07/19/12
Congratulations on your well deserved 1st place ribbon!
Noel Mitaxa 07/19/12
Congratulations on your win. You packed so much into this entry, but the judges found just enough space for a first placing - and it fits pefectly! Well done.
Ellen Carr 07/20/12
Congratulations on your first placing! This is gripping and moving writing. Well done!
Charla Diehl 07/20/12
This was interesting from start to finish. Great pacing and a smart choice in avoiding a sappy fairy tale ending. Congrats on placing 4th in the EC list.
Addie Pleasance07/25/12
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CD Swanson 07/26/12
Congrats! God Bless~
Janice Fitzpatrick08/12/12
Oh this is so relatable! Well done. I can't really add much more than what others have mentioned already but this piece with its unexpected turn is so cleverly written. I love the little repeek that the MC had of her husband's character and the moment they shared when he called her sweeetheart. I too was hoping that the couple could maybe take the youth in and help him but the ending was more realistic. You could continue this story I think with so many possibilities...like ministering to the teen who fell asleep nearby.:)Great job!
Janice Fitzpatrick08/12/12
Congratulations on your win!~(I forgot to add that to my previous comment.) :)