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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: Everything's Better
By Marita Thelander


I love my blackout blinds. Monday through Friday they stay open to allow the morning light to filter through the airy linen curtains. Natural light trickled into the bedroom throughout the work week to help wake me.

I’ve been called obsessive compulsive by many, but I prefer to say that I’m neat and organized. There’s no disorder 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: Everything’s better…with pea-nut-butter.”

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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This article has been read 592 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 07/12/12
Oh my goodness! You made me cry. What an ending.
Beth LaBuff 07/12/12
oh man, you made me cry too. Wow! Love this! (super creativity for the topic!)
C D Swanson 07/13/12
And joining in on the tears...here I am! Wow - beautifully written, superbly executed and masterful in all aspects. A totally delightful yet poignant read. Thank you so much. God Bless~
Deborah Engle 07/13/12
A very poignant story, and wonderfully written.
Yvonne Blake 07/16/12
Ohhhh... pass the tissues down, girls! I love how your descriptions and how Willow "talks" without saying a word.
Great writing!
Mona Purvis07/16/12
Coping. This very gripping story depicts human agony and human strength; human frailty and human determination. Very well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/16/12
Wow! What an intense piece. I found myself leaning forward as I devoured every word. I did wonder why little Willow never spoke -- likely the trauma of seeing Mom die. Oh how sad yet beautiful is this story. The ending is perfect. i do believe this has been pushed up to one of my all-time favorites. The idea of a picnic in a cemetery is super creative.
lynn gipson 07/17/12
I got a lump in my throat. this is so touching...and the little girl in this picture comes straight from God. This should be the winner! God Bless...thank you
Lois Farrow07/18/12
Wow, ditto to all the above comments. Very moving.
C D Swanson 07/19/12
Congratulations! God bless~
Jody Day 07/19/12
Touching and very creative! Congratulations:)
Beth LaBuff 07/19/12
Congrats, Mari!!!
Charla Diehl 07/20/12
Wow--what an emotionally stirring story. Your words painted such sweet scenes in my mind, and the ending tugged at my heart. I wanted to reach out and hug little Willow. So young and already so caring. It's no surprise this ended up on the Editor's Choice list.Congrats.
C D Swanson 07/26/12
Congrats! God Bless~