Potato Salad

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Write a story about an afternoon picnic gone wrong.... view prompt

30 comments

Fiction Drama Sad

They didn’t even bring potato salad.

A picnic with no potato salad.

I mean, what is the point, Grace?

I ask you--

What is the point?

I know, I know--

Take what you can get.

When you’re an ant--

Mark says we’re bugs, but I disagree.

There is a difference between an ant and a bug, and if you’ve ever spent time with a ladybug, you understand the difference.

The point is, we take what we can get.

That being said, there are certain expectations you have when you’re at a picnic.

Nobody tries anymore.

That’s the difficulty.

Pasta salad.

That’s what they bring.

Pasta salad with barely any seasoning.

I mean, you’re lucky if they remember the paprika.

The Queen before me told stories that the Queen before her and the Queen before her passed down about picnics where there was so much food, the ants would be feasting for days afterwards. Not scraps either. Entire sandwiches. Ham on rye. Turkey on white. Ham on wheat. Turkey on rye. Every combination. It makes your antennae tingle.

What did we get today?

A few cookie crumbs and half a tuna melt from Subway.

From Subway.

These people have no shame.

Nobody has any shame, Grace, it’s why…

Well.

I might as well address it.

The elephant in the anthill.

I’m sure you’ve heard already.

It’s a small colony after all.

Mark is leaving me.

Technically, he already left.

We agreed to do one more picnic together for all 300,000 of the kids, but I think they could tell that my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t even stay for the fireworks. I told everybody I had to go back to the hill and lay more eggs, but that wasn’t true.

Seeing Mark under the fireworks and knowing it would be the last time…

I don’t know much about the other woman.

Only that she’s a honeybee.

He always did badger me to use my wings more. It didn’t matter that they were mostly for show. He thought it was a waste to have them and not take flight.

Mark, I would say to him, Where would I go? I have responsibilities. I can’t be flying around like some kind of hummingbird.

I’m surprised he didn’t leave me for a hummingbird.

Truthfully, I think he resented how much I worked.

The first time we mated, I excused myself to go start the colony. I had to populate right away, and worker ants don’t just appear out of nowhere, you know.

But he never understood or he never tried to understand.

I wanted to make it work, Grace. You know I did.

Did you see me at the picnic? Trying my hardest to show him what a team player I can be?

How was I supposed to make the best of things when the humans couldn’t even be bothered to bring potato salad?

I knew that if Mark and I could carry a little piece of celery on our backs--

Yes, Grace, I was willing to demoralize myself by carrying food on my back like some kind of carpenter all to show that I wasn’t going to let my pride get in the way of me loving my soulmate.

I forgot myself.

The fireworks reminded me.

That first pop of red lit me up and I felt every inch the Queen I am.

Mark looked over at me and I could see him realize that no matter how much he took on, I could still take much more.

And I would never have to.

Even over the explosions, I could hear the buzzing.

The bee had come to take away my man.

Maybe I could have used a little more honey over the years.

Who can say?

This morning, I snuck out to get some air. The revelers had left one of their baskets behind, and I climbed up the wicker and down into the refuse.

What did I find there?

Discarded tin foil.

A cracked thermos.

Empty beer cans.

People used to try.

Even then, they would fall out of love.

Things would disintegrate.

You’d feel a scorching heat.

You’d look up.

A magnifying glass held by a wayward teenager.

We’re lucky to be alive.

Maybe asking for more than that is asking too much.

When I met Mark, he looked so strong.

A blue firework went up over him last night and I saw him for how weak he’s become.

There’s nothing inside him he can bring out that will change how he feels.

About me.

About himself.

He needs it from the outside.

He needs a woman to lift him up.

My wings have fallen off, Grace.

It can’t be me.

Do you want to hear a secret?

After they fell off, I ate them.

They were--disgusting.

Terrible.

They tasted like dust.

Like ashes.

Have you ever consumed a dead lover?

That’s what it tasted like.

No amount of honey could mask that taste.

Am I frightening you?

This is how I talk now, Grace.

I used to whine and whine and whine.

Now I speak plainly.

The only pettiness I allow myself is a critique of the menu at a picnic.

I sat inside that basket and I resented those humans for not even presenting me with a fighting chance. Because if they had simply tried--

If they had put in even the slightest effort--

When day after day, hour after hour, that’s all I do.

All I do is give myself over to the greater--

To the greater--

To something bigger than myself.

First community, then love, and now, I suppose--

Community again.

Again.

Again.

All they had to do was make a potato salad.

It’s the easiest thing in the world.

Once you peel the potatoes, it’s all…

Of course, I shouldn’t say that.

Because I’ve never made one.

Maybe it’s not as easy as it appears it would be.

Things are like that sometimes, you know.

They look so easy and then…

A little morsel on your back.

How hard could it be?

From where the people at that picnic stood, looking down, we must not seem all that impressive.

Only we know how heavy it is.

Only we know how much we can carry.

Only we know the line between what will sustain us and what will break us.

We pick up more and more and more.

The fireworks pop and we try not to let anything fall.

We want to take more.

We want to take so much more.

But we’re so small, aren’t we?

We forget that, but it’s true, Grace.

We’re really so very, very small.

March 25, 2022 03:21

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30 comments

Zack Powell
17:37 Mar 25, 2022

I think what I love the most about your pieces, Kevin, is that you never overstay your welcome. I've seen quite a few stories lose a bit of their magical luster because they dragged on longer than they should, but it seems like you always know the appropriate stopping points for yours. Case in point, this one and your last one (congrats again on the win!). You got the point across concisely and endearingly, and you ended on such a strong note that the word count feels perfect. You didn't need to go any further or keep running the joke into t...

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Kevin Broccoli
17:46 Mar 25, 2022

When you're a playwright you always have a sense of when the audience is ready to check out so maybe that comes in handy for prose as well haha

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Kate Winchester
18:42 Apr 04, 2022

I loved the personification of the ant. Your story was funny, but we could also feel the emotions of the MC. You have an awesome balance of serious and funny. As I was reading this story, I was eating Subway. I laughed. The 300,000 kids part was also hilarious. Great job!

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Kevin Broccoli
18:45 Apr 04, 2022

Thank you so much, Kate.

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Kate Winchester
21:18 Apr 04, 2022

You’re welcome ☺️

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John Del Rio
02:40 Mar 30, 2022

More good stuff. I will read more. I like how you show that even queens can have problems.

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Kevin Broccoli
16:06 Mar 30, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Michał Przywara
20:41 Mar 29, 2022

Ha! Very funny story with a great opening. The narrator has a strong voice ("this is how I speak now" lol) and it's pretty deep, because it's about potato salad and it isn't about potato salad. Others have said it, but using ants for a picnic story was a great call. Thanks for sharing!

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Kevin Broccoli
21:07 Mar 29, 2022

Thank you so much.

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Bradon L
20:36 Mar 28, 2022

This was so good! You got deep and very serious without losing any humor. That is a skill I wish to master.

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Kevin Broccoli
21:09 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you so much.

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Ola Hotchpotch
04:06 Mar 28, 2022

nice story

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Kevin Broccoli
15:58 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you!

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Sharon Hancock
01:58 Mar 28, 2022

This is fantastic! Your writing never ceases to amaze me. “Ants” were my first thought when I read the prompt, but you took it on a completely different creative level and it works so well. I enjoyed every bit of it!😻

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Kevin Broccoli
15:58 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you so much! <3

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J.C. Lovero
00:58 Mar 28, 2022

Your writing always brings a smile to my face, Kevin. I ugly cackled when you dissed Subway. Even ANTS don't like it? The world is definitely coming to an end. Well done, friend!

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Kevin Broccoli
15:59 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you sir!

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Layla Robinson
22:38 Mar 27, 2022

As Shea mentioned, I forgot I was reading about ants after a while. Then, funny bits would pull me back into antdom, "We agreed to do one more picnic together for all 300,000 of the kids, but I think they could tell that my heart wasn’t in it." hahaha brilliant.

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Kevin Broccoli
15:59 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you Layla!

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L.M. Lydon
17:48 Mar 27, 2022

I love that you wrote this from the POV of an ant! I also enjoyed the musings about the modern day insufficiencies of a picnic. Her eating her wings is both ironic and sad. The part about one last picnic for all 300,000 kids is also great!

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Kevin Broccoli
18:27 Mar 27, 2022

Thank you so much.

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Clyde Laffan
02:49 Mar 26, 2022

The whole time I am reading this I just couldn't stop thinking of Kafka. I laughed and I laughed some more.

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Kevin Broccoli
18:41 Mar 26, 2022

Thank you Clyde!

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Riel Rosehill
22:08 Mar 25, 2022

Hi Kevin! I loved the ant's voice, and how much story, truth and emotion you could convert in a glorious rant about... potato salad. Or, the lack there of. The part about how she ate her wings definitely had the shock-factor! I loved the opening that drew me straight in and I really enjoyed the whole read. "Only we know how much we can carry." is such a great line. I wanted to write to this prompt and changed my mind because I just couldn't develop an idea well-enough, but you made amazing use of it. Of course there would be ants! It's ge...

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Kevin Broccoli
23:20 Mar 25, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Shea West
05:02 Mar 25, 2022

Kevin this reminded me of a cross between a Simon Rich story and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. Quite the mashup, but it's where my brain traveled to while reading this. The personification of ants here is done so well the reader almost forgets that you're speaking about ants. I also liked the imagery these lines create, "Only we know how heavy it is. Only we know how much we can carry." Because that's what ants do, they carry really heavy pieces of food... Way more than their little bodies can manage. But in a way, it's proba...

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Kevin Broccoli
16:14 Mar 25, 2022

Thank you Shea!!! <3

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Yenuli Y.
03:50 May 17, 2022

Loved the story . You can really feel the emotions and it was kinda poetic too I guess (?)

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Kevin Broccoli
04:41 May 17, 2022

Thank you, Yenuli.

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Lady Senie
21:13 Apr 04, 2022

It's a little jumbled and confusing, but I still liked the story. One question, though. Who exactly was Grace? The Queen's companion? Her child? Herself? I would have just dismissed it, but it kept creeping back into the story. Anyway, a good jaunt into an ant's life!

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