This Ain’t No Picnic

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

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Funny Fiction Friendship

           “This is so going to be worth getting up early in the morning for,” Ace said. “A day at the beach. Sun and surf capped off by a picnic.”

           “You’re sure you packed everything, Daria?” Hugh asked.

           “Don’t be such a buzzkill,” Daria replied. “I got it all. Towels, blankets, sunscreen, snacks, even binoculars.” 

           “It’s just that organization is not one of your skill sets,” Hugh pointed out.

           Daria huffed. “Is that a dig about the Halloween party? One little mistake…”

           “You put lit candles on the scarecrows,” Hugh teased.

           “The fire department was able to save the building,” Daria replied. “This trip is gonna be smooth sailing. You’ll see.”

           “Fine. But you can’t light the grill,” Hugh joked.

           Despite their differences, the four twenty-somethings had developed a solid friendship. Alan “Ace” Ducey had the confident, charming, spontaneous attributes of a surfer dude. Daria Devine's thick black mascara and blood-red lipstick accentuated her snarky, fearless personality. Hugh Stark’s thick aviator glasses made him look like a nerd, but his quick wit and party boy stamina made him popular. He was hoping to impress Alana Cash, Daria’s cousin, a well-proportioned, witty blonde.

           The undaunted partiers should have recognized a sign of things to come when Daria’s cell phone slid off the dashboard. The four of them watched it fly out of the passenger window and onto the parkway, where it was crushed by a tractor-trailer.

           Arriving at Gilgo Beach before the other sun worshippers, the quartet carved out a section of sand for themselves. The humidity immediately forced them into the water. Being poor swimmers, Hugh and Alana stayed close to the shore, while Ace and Daria engaged in a marathon race to the diving bell half a mile out to sea.

           Hugh tried his hand at body surfing. After successfully riding the waves a few times, Hugh moved farther out.

           He went one step too far.

           Walking off a ledge, he suddenly found himself plummeting through the opaque water. Unable to stand, Hugh panicked, but managed to thrash his way to the surface. Gasping for air, spitting out saltwater, Hugh looked for Alana along the beach.

           The beach and everyone on it was a blur. His glasses were gone.

           “Look out!” Alana yelled, pointing behind him.

           The world may have become a blur, but Hugh could see that a fifteen-foot wave was about to annihilate him.

           The wave assaulted Hugh, pulling him down, smashing him against rocks, and dragging him along the sand.

           When the wave receded, Hugh found himself sitting on the beach.

           Alana helped him up.

           “Wow! That was a tsunami! Are you okay?”

           “What are the chances my glasses washed up on shore?”

           “Zip,” Alana replied. “But don’t worry, I’ll guide you around. It’ll give us an excuse to hold hands. Just one thing, though… What’s that on the left side of your face?”

           “I dunno. In fact, I can’t feel the left side of my face. Whatever it is, get it off!”

           “Oh, no, baby, I’m not touching it. It looks like something out of an episode of Star Trek.”

           When Ace and Daria got a look at Hugh’s face, they agreed.

           “Definitely alien,” Ace said.

           “You numbskulls, it’s a jellyfish,” Daria chided.

           “I don’t care what kind of fish it is, get it off my face.”

           “There are only two ways to get it off,” Daria said. “One is to pee on it.”

           “We’re bros, but I ain’t doin’ that,” Ace said.

           They looked at Alana.

           “Sorry, that’s too kinky for a third date.”

           “What’s the second option?” Hugh asked.

           Daria reached in her pocketbook, producing a lighter.

           “Flame on!”

           Before Hugh could say “Be careful,” Daria was torching the side of his face.

           “Got it,” Daria declared as the scorched jellyfish loosened its grip, dropping to the sand.

           “What’s that smell?” Hugh asked.

           “Fried fish,” Ace replied.

           Looking at Hugh’s face, Daria smiled sheepishly.

           “Guess I may have singed your skin a bit. Some Vitamin A and the redness should disappear in a few days, or not. As for your hair…”

           “What did you do to it?”

           “I may have burned some of it off. It’ll grow back.”

           “Yeah, bro, you’re gonna wanna hit the barbershop when we get home to even out your look,” Ace added.

           “Great. I’m blind and bald.”

           “But still cute,” Alana said, reaching for his hand.

           “Forget about it, bro, it’s just hair,” Ace said. “You hungry? We can have some burgers before Big John gets here with the main course.”

           Ace fired up his mini hibachi grill while Daria kneaded the meat.

           Daria showed off her promised skills as an organizer, laying out the condiments, including a sealed container of pungent onions.

           Cracking open a few beverages, the couples settled down to lunch.

           Something odd assaulted their palates when they bit into their hamburgers.

           “Crunchy,” Ace commented.

           “Yeah. Is there a special ingredient?” Alana asked.

           They discovered what it was after a few more bites.

           “Sand,” Hugh said. “You made sand burgers.”

           Unfazed, Ace continued eating. “A little grit never hurt anybody.”

           After washing down their sand burgers, the couples loaded the car, driving to meet Big John at the state park.

           Although they were late, Big John was nowhere in sight.

           “I thought you said Big John was going to be here,” Hugh said.

           “You know Big John, he’ll be late for his own funeral,” Ace replied.

           “You’re sure he’s coming?” Hugh asked.

           “I spoke to him last night. He’s already got chicken, steak, all kinds of stuff.”

           “I hope he remembered to refrigerate it,” Alana said.

           “He’s crazy, but he’s not stupid,” Ace replied.

           “Well, what’ll we do while we’re waiting for the chuck wagon to arrive?” Daria asked.

           “I came prepared,” Ace said. “How about a few rounds of croquet?”

           The couples picked out a field near the picnic tables. They were having a spirited game of croquet when they were interrupted by the obnoxious sound of a car grinding its gears.

           “Whoever’s drivin’ that car is tearin’ that engine apart,” Ace noted.

           A large sedan bounded over the hill, taking flight directly above them.

           Screaming, mallets flying, the quartet scattered.

           With a destructive crash of twisted metal and broken glass, the car landed in the middle of their croquet court.

           The car sat flush against the ground, its wheels bent upward. Steam hissed from its ruptured engine.

           The door creaked open. Big John Belliveau stepped out, looking unbowed, proud, and powerful.

           “WE’RE HERE!”

           His wife, Ursula, and Dizzy Lizzy Luce wobbled out. Happy to still be in one piece, Dizzy Lizzie kissed the ground.

           At 6’ 5” and 270 pounds, the bearded, Bunyanesque Big John Belliveau enjoyed a good fight as much as a strong drink. As a result, he could be charming one moment and intolerable the next. His 6’ 2” wife, Ursula, was a sensible, rosy-cheeked kewpie doll with enough moxie to tame Big John’s temper. They were joined for this trip by bushy-maned Dizzy Lizzy Luce. Big John had just started working for the Luce family as their landscaper and thought it would be politically correct to invite their daughters to the picnic. Dizzy Lizzie had accepted. She’d been pinned with the nickname Dizzy Lizzy by her friends because she was perceived to have a dearth of functioning brain cells.

           A massive mongrel of an indeterminant breed darted out of the ruined car, running around wildly.            

           Selecting Daria as an object of interest, the dog knocked her to the ground.

           “Heel Stamford!” Big John commanded.

           “Get this Clydesdale off me!” Daria demanded. “He’s humping me!”

           Ace rescued Daria while Dizzy Lizzy and Ursula unloaded the car.

           “Your antics spilled some of the food, John,” Ursula observed. “There’s ambrosia all over the place.”

           “Doesn’t matter, “ Bid John replied. “Nobody even knows what that stuff is, so they certainly weren’t gonna eat it.”

           Hugh examined Big John’s car. “This is going to play hell with your insurance. This car’s totaled.”

           Big John laughed heartily. “It’s a rental. They’ll send me a new one while we’re partying. Third one this week!”

           Big John and the others quickly went about laying out an impressive picnic supper.

           “Since we can’t play croquet, you wanna throw a ball around?” Ace asked Hugh.

           Hugh barely saw the baseball glove Ace tossed to him.

           “You wanna see my curveball?” Ace asked.

           Hugh squinted. “Actually, I’ll settle for seeing you.”

           Winding up, Ace threw the ball like Sandy Koufax pitching in the World Series.

           Hugh tried to track the ball, blindly stabbing at where he hoped it was.

           The ball hit him between the eyes, caroming into the woods.

           Hugh stiffened, falling backward.

           “You killed my boyfriend!” Alana shouted, running to his side.

           “Worse, he lost my ball,” Ace complained.

           Stamford darted into the woods in pursuit of the ball.

           “I been teachin’ him to be a bird dog,” Big John said proudly. “He’ll find it.”

           Moments later, Stamford emerged from the woods, his jaws firmly locked around an object.

           “That doesn’t look like a softball,” Ursula noted as the dog brought the object closer to the group.

           “That’s a yellow jacket’s nest!” Dizzy Lizzie screamed.

           Big John, Ursula, Ace, and Daria yelped as they ran away, a horde of yellow jackets in pursuit.

           “Stand still!” Dizzy Lizzie advised. “They’re attracted to movement!”

           Dizzy Lizzy, Hugh, and Alana remained still, watching the others get stung.

           “The public school system obviously failed them,” Dizzy Lizzie commented.

           Using alcohol externally, and especially internally, Big John, Ursula, Ace, and Daria were able to ease the pain of their yellow jacket stings.

           “I still got plenty of booze and beer left,” Big John declared. “How ‘bout playin’ a drinkin’ game while we wait for the chicken and steak to cook?”

           Any drinking game between reasonably fit twenty-year-olds was bound to turn into a marathon. So Big John insisted they play a game of dare.

           He opened by daring everyone to take three shots of vodka. The ladies demurred. Hugh and Ace accepted, smiling confidently as the liquid burned a trail down their throats.

           In a matter of minutes, the challenges belonged in the Guinness Book of World Records.

           “Vodka, grain alcohol, schnapps, and beer, two shots each,” Hugh challenged.

           Only Big John accepted the dare.

           Big John sailed through the challenge, letting out a mountainous, self-satisfied belch. Wishing he’d come up with something else less mind-numbing, Hugh felt his sand burger charge up his throat as he downed his last shot.

           “Are you macho idiots done yet?” Daria asked.

           “Nobody beats Big John… My turn,” he said.

           He looked around the table at the assortment of liquor.

           “I know how much you hate whiskey, Hugh,” Big John said.

           Big John grabbed two glasses, pouring whiskey, vodka, grain alcohol, and sambuca into each one.

           “Drink,” he challenged.

           Turning to Alana, Hugh said, “Please don’t hold me responsible for my actions after this.”

           “You sure haven’t been very responsible so far,” she replied.

           Big John held up his glass.

           “Wait a minute,” Hugh said.

           Reaching for a toothpick, Hugh stabbed a piece of watermelon, cubes of cantaloupe and pepperoni, and an olive. He made two sets, dropping them in his glass. Tilting back his glass, he swallowed the concoction, including the toothpicks.

           Smiling at a steamed Big John, he slammed his glass down on the picnic table.

           An enraged Big John downed his glass without the toothpicks and hors d'oeuvres. “Okay, Hugh, you win that round. Round two. Watch this!”

           Big John finished the remaining bottle of vodka, then half a bottle of whiskey, followed by the remaining few sips of grain alcohol.

           Standing up, towering over everyone, Big John slammed his chest, bellowing like Tarzan.

           “HA! NOBODY BEATS BIG JOHN!”

           Big John’s victorious smile went slack. His body hit the picnic table, breaking two of the thick wooden slats of in half.

           “Aw, look what you’ve done,” Ursula moaned. “You ever try to lift John up?”

           “Are you happy, champ?” Alana asked.

           “Not really. I’m blind, burnt, bruised, and blitzed. But I’m a giant killer!” Hugh said as his head hit the table.

           The others laid Hugh and Big John out in the grass like Civil War corpses while they prepared to eat.

           “The Chef’s passed out,” Dizzy Lizzy noted. “Are we sure this stuff’s cooked?”

           Ursula stabbed a piece of steak, offering it to Dizzy Lizzie.

           The smoldering piece of meat burned the roof of Dizzy Lizzie’s mouth. She tried to spit it out, but it stuck to her lower lip. The others could hear it searing her flesh.

           She shrieked, waving her hands frantically until the meat fell to the ground.

           Stamford happily scooped it up.

           Dizzy Lizzie’s lower lip immediately began to swell. For the rest of the day, she sounded as if she was talking underwater.

           “Well, it seems to be hot enough,” Ursula said.

           Ace hacked into his steak. “It’s a little pink inside, but I like my cow still mooin’.”

           Hugh came around a few hours later while Stamford was licking his face. Mistaking Stamford for Alana, he kissed the canine on the lips.

           “Ugh. What’s happened to your breath?”

           Alana helped Hugh to his feet. She handed him a bottle of water, which he chugged in three gulps.

           “Be thankful Stamford didn’t try to mark his territory,” Alana said. “Are you hungry?”

           Hugh responded by throwing up.

           “I’ll take that as a no. Remind me not to wear open-toe sandals around you.”

           “Are we leaving?” Hugh asked.

           “As soon as we load Big John into his new rental. They delivered it while you two were imitating mummies.”

           Being the soberest of the bunch, Alana drove Ace’s car, while Dizzy Lizzy piloted Big John’s latest rental.

           Half an hour into the ride home, Alana clutched her stomach, groaning.

           “Maybe that meat wasn’t cooked after all.”

           Ace chuckled. “Lightweight.”

           Ace stopped laughing when he was hit in the gut with sharp, distressing pain.

           “I think I’m about to have an accident!”

           Daria’s stomach gurgled loudly. “I’m under attack!”

           Her eyes bulging as the pain knifed through her, Alana tightened her grip on the steering wheel.

           “Maybe… we… can… make… it… to… a … gas… station…,” she gasped.

           Hugh rolled his window all the way down. “Phew. I think Ace may have had his accident.”

           “Oh yeah? You wait until you try to pass them toothpicks,” Ace responded, clutching his stomach.

           “Bathroom! Now!” Daria demanded.

           Alana pulled into the next gas station, racing the others to the bathroom.

           Conscious again, Big John laughed at their desperation.

           Stamford scampered past him, beelining for the nearest tree.

           “Don’t be surprised if your dog tries to bite you, providing he comes back at all,” Hugh said.

           “This is why I swear by a liquid diet.”

           Exhausted, the poisoned picnickers returned to their vehicles.

           Alana followed Big John’s rental, promising God she’d go vegetarian if he alleviated her pain. Ace and Daria snoozed in the back seat.

           A few miles from home, Hugh noticed Dizzy Lizzie’s erratic driving.

           “Is she drunk? She handles the straightaways okay, but she doesn’t corner very well.”

           “Unlike you, champ, Dizzy Lizzie didn’t have anything to drink,” Alana replied.

           “Then why is she driving like Ray Charles?”

           “Maybe she’s nodding off.”

           “We should get them to pull over before something happens.”

           Then something did.

           The rental suddenly veered off the road, careening down a steep hill.

           Alana and Hugh gasped, pulling Ace’s car off the road.

           The couple ran to the scene of the accident. A cloud of thick smoke and dust emanated from the bottom of the hill, stinging their eyes.

           Stamford galloped up the hill, barking, and whining. He wrapped himself around Alana’s leg, shivering.

           “I don’t see their car,” Alana said.

           “I’ll go down and look.”

           “Wait. I see something moving.”

           Brushing aside bushes, branches, and weeds, Ursula appeared, followed by Dizzy Lizzy, whose frizzy hair was now adorned with poppies and dandelions.

           When they reached the crest of the hill, Ursula began shaking Dizzy Lizzie.

           “You dizzy idiot! Where’s John? You killed my husband!”

           Stepping between the angry Amazon and her astonished accomplice, Hugh stopped a murder in progress.

           Alana pointed down the hill. “Look! It’s a miracle!”

           Swatting aside everything in his path, Big John emerged from a clump of tall bushes.

           He was still carrying the door he’d held onto when the car plummeted down the hill.

           “You should have your licensed revoked,” he said to Dizzy Lizzie when he’d joined the others.

           “What license? I don’t have a license. I’m only sixteen.”

           Ursula smacked Big John in the back of the head. “You told me she was twenty-one!”

           “My sister’s twenty-one,” Dizzy Lizzie explained.

           Ursula smacked Big John in the head again. “You lummox! You brought the wrong sister!”

           Big John pulled out his mashed cell phone.

           “Turning yourself in for corrupting a minor?” Hugh asked.

           “Nah, I need another car.”

March 24, 2022 17:37

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