Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)
TITLE: Everything's Better
By Marita Thelander
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
I’ve been called obsessive compulsive by many, but I prefer to say that I’m neat and organized. There’s no <i>disorder</i> about me. My wife called me uptight. She was my total opposite; free spirited and messy. Even our names suited us—David and Misty. She made me complete.
I generally prefer to submit to my wallowing moodiness on Saturday mornings. After a long week of business meetings and taxing my brain cells beyond their grief stricken capabilities, I deserved one maudlin morning every week. Saturdays were the only time I ventured over to the cold side of my bed and pulled Misty’s pillow into my embrace and wept.
Sheesh. I’m so pathetically anal, I even schedule mourning time. I have to keep myself together for Willow’s sake—at least that’s my excuse.
Willow. How’s that for a name?
The sound of Willow’s bunny slippers shuffled across the floor and alerted me before she pulled the string on my blinds. Slow and methodic, she watched the light seep into the room and spread to my side of the bed.
Our eyes met but there were no words. There never is. So much for my weekend weep.
She began to open my drawers.
“What are you doing?”
She smiled—a good sign. I sat up and watched her pull out my khaki shorts, clean boxers, white socks, and a yellow polo shirt. She opened my closet and chose my bright white sneakers and set them next to the neatly laid clothes.
“I take it you have plans for today?”
Willow beamed and skipped out of my room.
Showered, shaved, and dressed, I rounded the corner to the kitchen. “My goodness, Willow, you’ve been busy.”
Her face glowed like the morning sunshine and my heart pitter-pattered. She looked so much like her mother, yet the tidy containers stacked perfectly inside the insulated picnic bag proved she inherited my OCD gene.
She stood in front of the table and blocked my view.
“I don’t get to see what you packed?”
She shook her head no.
“Okay, I trust you.” Seeing that her father’s side was clearly at play in the packaging of everything, what wasn’t there to trust?
Her smile changed to an impish grin—her mother’s expression.
She zipped up the food bag and glared a warning in my direction before she hurried off to her room. I gathered a blanket and the food and took it out to the car. A beautiful angel joined me, stunning with her mid-July tan, bright summery yellow sundress, white sandals, and an adorable white headband with a daisy positioned perfectly over her left sided part.
“So, Little Miss Sunshine, where are we going?”
She handed me a picture.
“You want to picnic here?”
She nodded emphatically, and with a twinge of rebellion, she ignored the open door to her booster seat in the back and climbed into the front passenger seat. How could I deny her?
I drove into the cemetery feeling a bit foolish in our bright colored attire. I barely noticed the fresh dirt two rows over and the evidence of someone’s grief stricken moment. I was too busy pushing through mine to care.
Willow busied herself and spread her secret fare over the blanket. My eyes were riveted to the headstone. Two years ago today we lost our Misty because of a careless teen texter. Helplessly strapped into her car-seat, Willow watched her take her last ragged breath. How does someone so young remember the exact date?
I sucked in a sob and laughed at the same time when I saw our lunch. Willow scooped out a huge mound of peanut-butter onto a plate. Individual containers circled the oozing blob: apple slices, bananas, celery, mini raisin bagels, chocolate chips, graham crackers, and crunchy Vlasic pickles.
“She would’ve liked this,” I slurped and motioned with my peanut-butter laden pickle towards the headstone. “You were her peanut-butter baby. When she was pregnant she’d say: <i>Everything’s better…with pea-nut-butter.”</i>
Something in the distance caught Willow’s eye and she stood and walked behind me.
Two rows over from my Misty, our Willow, enveloped in a sunny, golden, angelic aura, knelt next to a fresh mound of dirt and wrapped her arms around a weeping woman—and offered her a peanut-butter pickle.
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