THE NEIGHBORHOOD PICNIC

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story in which the same line recurs three times.... view prompt

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Coming of Age Kids American

Driscoll Street was preparing for the annual Independence Day

picnic. The different streets of the neighborhood were permitted to

reserve picnic tables to spend the day with their neighbors. Some

folks would wander around the big park known as Creedmoor Rest

for quite a period in the hopes of meeting new friends and old and

making themselves known as well. Such activities were proof

positive of a friendly, cohesive neighborhood.

         Driscoll Street was a part of this active, cohesive

neighborhood. Like any other street, it predominantly consisted of

adults and children. The adults spent the majority of their time

working their jobs, doing the household chores or child-rearing.

         Yes, two distinct demographic groups accordingly to age and

responsibilities constituted Driscoll Street or the neighborhood

society.

         As the adults were responsible for the children, let’s get a

quick glimpse of the second group and their backgrounds.

         Some children were withdrawn. For whatever reason, they felt

ill-equipped to deal with their peers.

         Some children, the library gang, spent much of their time

reading and carrying around books. They often occurred in small

packs.

         The heavy thinkers were philosophical and spent much of

their time contemplating ramifications. These were the chess

players.

         Similar to the heavy thinkers, but simpler, were the chronic

board game players, to include a deck of cards, of course.

         The sports kids were in a league all their own. Always full of

energy and ideas, they lived for games of active sports. Some were

very imaginative and creative. Overall, most showed little concern

for detail. During the summer months the boys would start their

play with throwing their shirts in a pile to allow breathing room for

their own sweat. At quitting time, one by one any shirt would be

grabbed and donned as they all left the park.

         The mothers of Driscoll Street became very familiar with all

the boys shirts as sooner or later they would be washing and

ironing them.

         Any of the boys could belong to the down, dirty and bloody

group, whether they desired membership or not.

         There were a few that were loners. Belonging to no group,

they were often troubled in their attempts to deal with coming of

age and being in control. Oh, the taste of control!

         The young girls were in their own world of dolls and sidewalk

games. Being little trouble at a younger age, most were gathering

strength to cause havoc as young ladies.

         Just a few days prior to the picnic, the fellas, still yet to pull on

their chosen shirt, were having an “en-route” group conversation.

         “Well, he’s stupid, just stupid,” one chimed in.

         “Don’t call Joey stupid. He knows he is. He just doesn’t need to

be reminded that he is, so lay off, you scumbag!

         “The problem with Jimmy is that we all know he’s a scumbag,

but the difference is we all don’t keep reminding him that he is. We

all need space to think and plan,” Darren insisted.

         “Then what’s the difference?” Mark ventured to ask.

         “Think about it, man. Would you rather be stupid or a

scumbag?” Jack asked Mark.

         A member of the heavy thinker group might be of help right

now!

         “Neither,” Mark quipped.

“Proves my point, then. You’ll grow up to be neither. Maybe you’ll

grow up to be a milkman like your old man,” Jack said assertively.

“Yeah, a smart old milkman,” Mark nodded.

“You would do yourself better to be a gangster along with Joey.

Now that makes for a great job! There’s good money to be made . . .”

Jack bragged with the wink of his eye. “Folks need to be protected.”

Jack was a few years older than his street friends. There was a

covert reason for this. When it came to hiding or laying very low,

Jack was your young man of the street.

Mark had been practicing for two weeks for the egg toss and the

100-meter run. The various races would go on through most of the

afternoon. No charge to compete with a silver dollar going to the

winner.

Mark was scheduled for the egg toss listed early on the roster. He

and Susan came in second out of about thirty contestants. Lucky

for Mark, the egg broke as Susan attempted the catch.

Good old-fashioned fun. That is how Susan described it years

later to her fellow nuns at the convent.

The pressure was now on for Mark to win the 100-meter run.

Jack had made him a bet that he wouldn’t win either event. A very

daring bet considering that Mark was the fastest runner in the

neighborhood. Loser gives winner a silver dollar, cut and dry.

The picnic food was ready to be served by the middle of the

afternoon. The serving lines moved fast as each was handed the

same standard plate.

The short, orange shorts that Mrs. Gull had squeezed into gave

her the look of a walking card holding a croquet mallet at the mad

tea party. The mallets would often awaken during the game and

would be replaced. All Mrs. Gull needed was the nine of hearts on

her shirt. She commanded a square shape. She may have eaten the

tarts, but for certain she had eaten the big slice of watermelon

hand picked off Mark’s plate. She felt it her duty to swipe the

watermelon slice and keep walking without missing a step. She

assumed the kid to be just another nincompoop in a picnic area

ubiquitous with them.

About an hour later, the announcement for the 100-meter run

was made. The contestants lined up and most were nervous.

Donald, Mark’s training coach of two weeks, knelt down in front

of Mark for last minute words of encouragement.

Mark didn’t hear any of it. He was panicking, as the race was

about to begin with Donald still kneeling in front of him.

“You can do it,” Donald smiled and messed Mark’s hair. “It’s pizza

on me next Saturday and a silver dollar, too, if you do!”

Mark began to sense that he was being set-up.

Well great. That’s just great.

It was all that raced through Mark’s mind.

Mark placed fifth.

It was an upset!

“Jack, how could you pull that underhanded trick on me?” Mark

asked.

“Had no choice. I owed Donald fifty cents and he needed it for

tomorrow. Now you owe me a silver dollar. Just give me a buck and

I can give Donald what I owe him. I’m an honest man, always pay

my debts.”

The music and dancing were getting pretty close to getting

underway in the early evening.

The day had worn them out and the bored children meandered

throughout the picnic area purposely yawning to alert parents that

responsibilities were summoning them. Once parents delivered

their children back to the house where the baby-sitter awaited, the

parents were free to return to the picnic dance for a few hours of

stretching and merriment.

Mark’s older cousin, Diane, had agreed to baby-sit for them.

“Thanks, Diane.” Have them in bed by about 9:00 pm.

“Sure thing. Have a good time.”

The children had no intention of being in bed by 9:00 pm. If Mom

and Dad could stay up late, then so could they!

Jack left from the picnic dance when he could see the car return.

He would see Diane in just a few minutes.

Tradition is the soul of both family and community. Is it not? It is,

trust me. The shenanigans are a branch of tradition. The baby-

sitters would attest to that. They would also attest that both

parents and children each held their own tradition of shenanigans.

The parents were well aware of this as they had once been children

themselves.

However, the children were not aware of this as it had never

occurred to them. They considered themselves to be the new

pioneers.

Neighborhoods usually change in small ways over time and

occasionally their personality and character do also.

As with marriage, for better or worse.

Some neighborhoods just disappear entirely, seeming to

metamorphose into something ethereal. They continue to exist, but

only as sheer memories for a select few.

Driscoll Street and the immediate neighborhood had moved

forward in time by twelve years.

We are at Mark’s house during a Sunday afternoon family

gathering. The house and neighborhood haven’t changed much, but

people and relationships had.

Sarah, Mark’s fiancee, had a question to ask Mark.

“Is that man, Jack, a relative of yours?” Sarah eagerly asked.

“Not by my blood, thank my lucky stars. Jack is married to my

cousin, Diane,” Mark said with embarrassment. “I ended up with

Jack as my cousin-in-law. Is there no justice?”

“Mark, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to say that he is a real jerk. He’s stupid,

too,” Diane insisted.

“Which first?” Mark smiled as he asked.

“A real jerk,” she laughed.

“I agree. That is the general consensus,” Mark said as he laughed.

Well great. That’s just great.

“We totally agree on something, then,” Sarah soothed.

“It could be worse,” Sarah rationalized. “My sister ended up

married to a real jerk. He had a flat tire one night and he borrowed

a tire from my mom’s car. My parents found out about it the next

day when my mom left the house to go shopping. She saw that the

car was missing a tire. She knew that she could not make it on only

three tires. Think that scored him any points?”

“No, guess not,” Mark replied. “Guess we ought to nominate him

for the “Nincompoop Club” along with Jack?”

“Why go for something fancy, Mark?” Sarah questioned slyly.

“Why not just the plain Poop Club? I collect the annual dues for

that. So, you owe me one crisp hundred-dollar bill and one silver

dollar for a tip, which doubles by the day.”

Well great. That’s just great.

“Silver dollars can be hard to find. That can be a tall order!” Mike

pleaded playfully.

“Better get started right away. Might I suggest checking with Jack

for some pointers,” Sarah suggested.

July 09, 2021 22:06

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