I've brought a picnic
by David Leigh
Monday, April 21, 2003
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Again, I know this is not a poem but I really would like some feedback on this one. It was a wild writing exercise again and I am hoping to read it on community Radio.
I’ve brought a Picnic.
The pencil fell from his hand and clattered on the vinyl floor covering. Jeff knew the lead would be broken inside and left it where it had landed. His thoughts were on other matters. Besides it was her pencil.
The note lay on the desk like a rude reminder but he couldn’t bring himself to throw it away; it was all he had of her now. Even the toothpaste that she bought was gone. Her wardrobe was empty and all the drawers in the dresser. Her car was no longer parked in the street where it usually was.
They were supposed to be going on a picnic today, he’d come home early, especially. She loved picnics.
He picked up the pencil and put it on top of the note as if to stop it being blown away. Ironically the only breeze in the house was the wind of change. He read the note yet again and then, as if he had made some sort of decision, turned and left the room.
The library was full of school children, noisy, sarcastic, with back packs lying all over the floor. It was four thirty and he guessed they were killing time until their parents got home from work. Jeff picked his way through the bags and up to the counter.
“Is Jenny here?” he spoke to the woman with the stern face and silver hair.
“She’s not in today I’m afraid, can I help?” Not in a million years he thought, but he just shook his head.
On his way back home, something clicked in his mind. He pulled the note form under the pencil and brought it to his nose. There was an aroma, not the usual perfume; it had a strange smell to it, like smoke. No, he thought, not smoke; it smelt of oil.
It was Jenny’s hand writing, that’s what bothered him.It looked different somehow. It occurred to him that the writing was not sloping, it was upright; she sloped to the right. It was obviously written under stress by the way she had scrawled, not at all like her. Jeff knew now that this was a message from Jenny to him. He felt she was in trouble.
The duty sergeant took the note and read it for himself and then handed it back.
“We have quite a few cases like this one sir” he said condescendingly. “They often come home when the novelty wears off.” Jeff was mortified at the suggestion and told him so.
“Look mate! If I thought that was the case do you think I’d be in here now?” The sergeant seemed unperturbed.
“I’ll fill out a missing person’s report sir. That’s all I can do at the moment, unless… you have any more information.”
“What more do you need to know… she’s missing isn’t she… Isn’t that enough?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just left.
That smell was familiar, like old oil. It reminded him of a disused concrete tank where they played as kids. He drew the note to his nose again and sniffed it. There was no smell now. He wondered if he had imagined it before.
Why didn’t she say anything if she were dissatisfied with their relationship? There was no warning, nothing. He came home and she was gone.
“They say you never really know anybody” he mumbled to himself, but then knew it to be a lie. Jenny and he had been friends for most of their lives. They met at school, looked out for each other in the playground, went their separate ways but stayed in touch. Finally, after a fairly long courtship, they were married. That was five years ago now, and in all that time they had total honesty with each other. She couldn’t have secrets from him, could she?
Jeff went home again and looked around. There, on the windowsill, was a pair of earrings her father had given her. They were a cheap pair, just costume jewellery, but of real sentimental value to her. She would never have left those behind. He only died last year. Jeff picked them up.
This was a definite message. The earrings and the handwriting were saying something to him but what was it? He sat on the bed, head in hands. His thoughts were jumbled and disjointed like a broken jigsaw puzzle. There wasn’t even a straight edge from which he could start, or was there? He ran to the car.
The hill side was more overgrown than he had remembered. The path that they used as children was not there anymore. The wall was topped with barbed wire and security signs.
Jeff climbed the steep mountain track until he was above the property. He looked down at the old tank, with its rusty corrugated iron roof, then along the fence line until he found the break. As children they used to get through that hole. It seemed much smaller now and the fence was rusty, barely standing. He wriggled through tearing his shirt and cutting his hand.
The tree was still the only way down. He got onto the branch and clambered to the ground, not quite as nimbly as he’d remembered.
There was a van parked by the tank, a security van. The main gate was closed and he could see the chain and padlock in place. The door to the side of the tank was locked too. He walked around it until he found the small window on the opposite side. A tree that used to grow there was gone but he found a fallen branch and placed it at the opening.
Inside he could see Jenny lying on a mattress. An oil lamp lit the room and gave off a smell. Was it that he’d smelt on the note or some telepathic message? He searched around the room for whoever else was there.
Suddenly he hit the ground, hard. A heavy set man in uniform kicked him in the stomach and then in the head. There was a flash and darkness.
The room was dark, and musty with only a chink of light coming from an opening high on the wall. Jenny lay next to him on the mattress. He touched her face lovingly. She felt cold. He cuddled her for a long time trying to keep her warm.
The blood that soaked his shirt was his, coming from a wound in his chest and another in his stomach. He felt no pain, nothing at all really. He held onto Jenny until he drifted off.
Jenny woke him in that white dress she liked to wear on picnics. Taking his hand she pulled him to his feet. She was warm now and looked more radiant than she had ever looked. They left the darkness and walked out across meadows where butterflies played and flowers grew. Jenny turned to him smiling and handed him the pencil. “It’s okay you didn’t break it.” She said.
“By the way… I’ve brought a picnic”
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|Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
|Well ....I am thinking here!!!
|Reviewed by Sally Odgers
This has the makings of a really good story, but it needs another draft, I think. Some of the tenses are a bit dodgy, and the end is just a little bit too obscure for a single reading. I'm assuming Jenny was kidnapped and killed, and the protag. died too - so they were reunited as ghosts. But who was the man in uniform? If the protag. recognised him it would help.
Sallyo. (I'm a ms assessor in my mythical spare time...)
|Reviewed by Sandie Angel
|Well, I'm not sure what to think of this. I like stories with more dialogues.
I think this was too long, and that when he got to the station and didn't file a missing person's report serves no purpose to put that part in.
Too much emphasis on the pencil in the beginning. I knew the pencil was valuable to the main character, but cannot establish this closeness by just reading a few words about the pencil. Perhaps a little more on telling the audience how you came to have this pencil and how you had always treasured this would serve a better purpose that the readers can feel this closeness with you.
In the end you've found Jenny, but I'm sorry, perhaps it's just me, I could not understand what was going on at the end. She way lying there, but was she dead or alive?
Were you both dead or alive at the end?
I'm sorry I couldn't figure this out.
I like the last one you wrote, but I'm sorry I feel lost with this one.
.....Just MHO, you can just take it or leave it.
Sandie Angel :o)