Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Set your story on (or in) a winding river.... view prompt

4 comments

Drama Romance

My canoe feels like it glides through the water a little easier today. The sun is warm on my face but it’s not too hot out. All I can hear is my paddle creating ripples in the water, the hum of katydids, and the sweet songs of wood thrushes overhead. What I love most about this river is how it winds through the woods and the marshes and gives you a sense that a whole new world could be waiting around every curve. Maybe that’s what I need. A whole new world, I mean.


Lunch is peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. I thought the idea of mixing peanut butter and pickles was ludicrous the first time you did it, but I gave in and tried it since you were so excited. I’ve never liked it much, I prefer jelly, but I still eat it now because it reminds me of that smile on your face.


Around the next bend in the river, the woods begin to get darker. Long before they come into sight, I begin to hear the panicked cawing of crows. The sound gets louder and louder until I feel as though the sound and increasing darkness might consume me whole. With one more turn, I can see at least 50 crows lining the trees surrounding the river on both sides. They are agitated, and I can see why. One of their own lays on a rock beneath them, wings splayed, lifeless. The trees seem to be closing in around me as I approach the piece of river where the deceased crow lays, and I find myself pondering the universality of grief.


Can you call it grief if you are mourning the loss of someone who still lives? It’s been almost two years since I lost you. Everything I’ve read says that I should be over you by now, but I still cry when certain songs come on the radio that I used to hear you humming in the shower. You are everywhere. I see you in the way the sunlight dances on the floor through the window when the leaves on the tree outside flutter, and I am reminded of how you always wanted to dance with me, but I rarely gave in. I see you in the way the wind rustles the grass outside when I haven’t mowed it in far too many weeks, and I am reminded of how your hair always seemed to be blowing in front of your face when the windows in the car were down. Sometimes I leave the cap off my toothpaste on purpose because I know you hated it and I can pretend, just for a second, that you are going to come in the bedroom and complain to me about it. Grief is a tricky beast.


The chorus of cawing only becomes more distressed in tone as I continue to approach. The dead crow looks peaceful, blissfully unaware of the discord happening around it. I almost want to reach out and stroke its magnificent feathers. However, me simply being this close has pushed my luck too far and I am now being attacked. The first to act swoops down and just grazes the top of my head as I duck. Three more follow suit, each more aggressively scraping my head and shoulders than the last. I begin to paddle the best that I can, but I am encased in a mess of talons, beaks, and feathers. I try my best to shield my eyes as I feel the skin of my arms being torn. More and more join in on the assault against me to the point where I am nothing more than a grown man in the fetal position in the bottom of my canoe, ready to accept my unexpected fate. Then, as though a force beyond my senses beckoned the crows away, they all shot out of the trees toward the sky in a blanket of black that left nothing but the quivering of tree branches in their wake. In a state of panic, I look in all directions to determine the cause of their hasty departure. I haven’t seen you since that morning you left my apartment in tears saying “I can’t do this anymore,” but you look the exact same as I remember you.


On the bank opposite to where my canoe has washed up, there you are. You’re wearing that warm welcoming grin that drew me to you in the first place and that awful yellow sweater you knit. I try to yell to you, to say hello, but you just continue to grin. You wave me over and so I push my canoe back into the river to reach you. The river wasn’t very wide to begin with, but it seems like it is getting wider with every stroke of my paddle. Your lips are moving but I can’t quite figure out what you are trying to say. “I’m coming!” I try and yell, but all I can get out is a whisper. You keep getting farther and farther away, and the current starts to speed up. I’m paddling with all of my strength, but I can’t seem to get closer. You reach out to me, and I stand and stretch as far as I can go, desperate to hear the words coming out of your mouth. I know what I need them to be. I need you to tell me that it’s me. That it’s always been me. That you just got lost along the way, but you see me now. That you’re sorry you left... You begin to look frustrated that I can’t reach you. With a huff, you turn around and begin to walk away. I still can’t scream, and I can’t reach any farther. I see one last glimpse of your hair before you disappear into the trees, and that’s the last thing I see before I hit the water. I’m sinking, and no matter how much I swing my arms and my legs, I can’t swim. The water feels frigidly cold, and the surface begins to get fuzzy. I can see the bubbles rising from my mouth, my life force leaving my body. The cold enters my chest as my lungs are filled with ice.


I wake up with a gasp feeling as though I cannot breathe. I am in my bed, alone.

June 12, 2021 19:08

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4 comments

Amy Mayeaux
04:35 Jul 02, 2021

This was a nice read. I was captured by the quirky title, and wasn't disappointed by the turn of events. A great write on how grief of broken relationships and their lasting effects on people. I felt as if I was there, great work with the plot and vivid imagery!

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Ashley Cramer
14:32 Jul 02, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Nadia Woods
17:48 Jun 24, 2021

So vividly written! And I have been dive bombed by crows, so that sequence was not fun to read, haha.

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Ashley Cramer
14:35 Jul 02, 2021

Haha I’ve heard they can be quite aggressive under certain circumstances but I’ve never experienced it myself

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