Tag: picnic

Charlie’s Room: A Hiking Guide

Yet again, Charlie read the entry in the guide book out loud. “… beyond the footbridge, the trail descends, switching back and forth along the sides of the adjacent hills…”

Isaac smiled and looked down at the book they were reading as a bedtime story. He hadn’t read any of it, because Charlie was busy reading to himself, excited about the hike.

“…and then we get to the water fall. We’ll have a picnic there, right?” Charlie asked.

“That’s right. Now it’s time to go to bed.” Isaac put the book back into its place on the shelf.

“What?” Charlie sat up and looked down from his loft bed. “But we haven’t read a story yet. We always read a story.”

“We read the story of tomorrow’s hike,” Isaac said.

“That’s not the same thing.” Charlie crossed his arms. “Besides. I read that. You have to be the one who read the bedtime story. It’s the rules.”

“I don’t remember there being any bedtime story rules.” Isaac chuckled as he stood up.

“There’s rules, because that’s how we always do it. I won’t get to sleep without a bedtime story, and then I’ll be tired for the hike tomorrow.”

“It’s late,” Isaac said. “I’ll turn the light out and let you try to sleep. In a half hour, I’ll check on you. If you’re still awake, I’ll read you a few pages.”

“I’ll get to bed quicker if you read to me now.”

“We’ll see.” Isaac turned out the light and left the room. When he returned fifteen minutes later and peeked inside the room, Charlie was already asleep.

The next morning, Charlie was the first one awake. He ran around the house, filling the end of Isaac’s dreams with herds of elephants. As he’d been dreaming of building card towers, it was an odd way to end things.

Isaac shuffled down the hallway in his pajamas and looked at the bulging backpack Charlie was carrying looped over one shoulder. “It sounded like you were running a 5k inside the house. What did you put in your bag?”

“Stuff I’ll need.” Charlie held out the backpack, and Isaac looked inside.

“First aid kit, sunscreen, board game, towel, swimsuit, change of clothes…” He dug through the bag. “You won’t need all this for a day hike. We won’t be swimming, and there won’t be time for board games or card games or writing letters.”

“I was thinking maybe on the drive there…”

Isaac frowned. “You get car sick.”

“Fine, fine.” Charlie held out his arms for the back pack. “I’ll go through all this again. Are you sure we won’t go swimming?”

“It’s not safe to swim there.”

Charlie sighed and put his swimsuit, towel, and change of clothes in a pile. He added the games and the writing materials. “The guide doesn’t say all the stuff you can’t do.“

“Maybe there were too many things to mention.”

Charlie grinned. “Like baking cookies? Or going surfing?”

“Or playing golf or vacuuming or planting sunflowers…” Isaac added.

“Or petting dinosaurs or going ice skating or building a house…”

“Or forging a sword or piloting a UFO or traveling through time…”

Marianne shuffled into the living room, still in her pajamas. “Are you trying to pick a movie to watch? I thought we were going hiking today.” She looked down at the piles of things on the floor. “You know we can’t go swimming, right?”

“Or vacuuming or surfing,” Charlie said, kicking at the pile with his swimsuit. “The hiking guide wasn’t very helpful.”

“Vacuuming? Who would go vacuuming out in the woods?” Marianne shook her head. “I’m going to go get dressed. Can you clean up the stuff here?”

Charlie looked up at Isaac. “So what do I need to bring on a hike?”

“Am I your hiking guide now?”

“Well, you seem to know more about what I don’t need than the book did.”

“Honestly, I think you have most of what you need, except for the water and the picnic food. Let your mom and I take care of that.”

“Wow. I guess didn’t need a hiking guide.”

“Well, I think it made a nice bedtime story.”

Charlie frowned and zipped up his backpack. “No. I want a real story tonight.” He looped the bag over one shoulder and started picking up the piles of extra things.

Isaac picked up a few things to help put away. “Fair enough. We’ll save the hiking guide for special occasions.”

Charlie’s Room: The Open Window

It was a sunny day after several days of gray skies and rain. Marianne and Charlie woke up early and checked their list twice. They left for the garden center, the nice one two towns over, before Isaac had finished eating his cereal. They wouldn’t be home until after lunch.

Isaac whistled as he did the breakfast dishes. Sunlight streamed in through the window above the sink. It was the weekend, and it was a beautiful day. It was wonderful.

He went on a walk. There was a little breeze that made the leaves rustle together, keeping the temperatures from being uncomfortably warm. The sound reminded him of the ocean. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine the waves crashing on the shore and then drawing back again.

Once he returned home, he opened the window so that he could still hear the breeze blowing through the trees as he sorted through the paperwork at the kitchen table. He wanted to work where it was sunniest. It wasn’t fun to be paying bills on a day like this, but he told himself that if he could get everything done by lunchtime, he could eat out on the lawn. It was the perfect day for a picnic.

As he worked, Isaac realized he was leaning rather close to the papers in front of him. The room was darker than before. He looked out the window. Where had all the clouds come from? It was supposed to be sunny all day.

Just as he stood up to look out, a little rain cloud flew in through the open window. It sailed around the kitchen, pausing at the vase of flowers on the counter, and then swooped towards the window. It started to move through the window, but when the edges of the cloud touched the wall outside the window frame, it backed up.

Again it moved forward, trying to squeeze through the window. Again it paused and backed up when it didn’t all squeeze through at once. It seemed to be stuck. Isaac wasn’t sure what to do.

Maybe he could help somehow. He tried to help it gather itself at the edges, but his hands went right through. He picked up one of his file folders and tried to fan the cloud, hoping the breeze would push it through.

The cloud darted to the other side of the kitchen. Then it started to cry. Well, it started to rain, anyway. Isaac felt terrible. “I am so sorry,” he said. “I was trying to help. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sure there’s some way for you to get out. Do you think you could go through the front door?”

The cloud kept crying. The floor was quite wet at this point. Perhaps the little rain cloud was becoming dehydrated?

Isaac tried offering it a bowl of ice water. The cloud stopped raining and hovered over it for a moment, before moving away. It started to rain again.

“Oh, right. You can’t eat it like this. Hang on a moment, and I’ll boil you some water so you can eat the steam.” Isaac put the kettle on.

While he waited for the water to boil, he turned on the lights. It was really dark out. The breeze blowing in the window was chilly, and he considered going to get his coat. He didn’t want to close the window and trap the rain cloud inside.

The rain cloud wandered over to the flowers and hovered above them, overflowing the vase. Water ran over the edge of the counter, down the front of the cupboards, and onto the floor. The floor was really a large puddle at this point. Isaac wondered if it would be rude to lay out some towels to sop up the mess.

Outside, there was a sudden, loud rumble of thunder. The little rain cloud darted to the window. It was smaller now, probably because of all of the crying. It squeezed through the window.

Isaac hurried over to the window and closed it. He watched the little rain cloud sail higher and higher until it joined the other clouds floating far above the treetops.

There was another rumble of thunder and a few scattered raindrops. The rain didn’t start. The kettle whistled. Isaac turned away from the window and made himself a cup of peppermint tea.

While it cooled, he mopped the floor and wiped the counter and cupboards. He poured the extra water out of the vase. By the time everything was cleaned up, his peppermint tea was cold. Luckily, peppermint tea still tastes nice cold.

The bills were only slightly damp. They were dry by the time the paperwork was done. The sky was bright and blue again. Isaac turned the light off.

He made himself a sandwich and grabbed an apple. He ate them outside, in the sunshine. The grass was still a little wet, so he ate as he wandered around the yard, imagining the changes Marianne and Charlie would make when they got home.

They returned an hour later, and he helped them bring the potted plants and bags of fertilizer from the car to the back yard. When it was all unloaded, they went to the kitchen for glasses of ice water.

“You cleaned the kitchen,” Marianne said happily. “I thought you were going to do paperwork today. I’m not complaining, of course. It looks great!”

“I did the paperwork, too,” Isaac said. “It was just one of those days, I guess.”

“You should open the window,” Charlie said. “It’s really nice outside.”

“But what if something comes in through the window?” Isaac pointed out.

“If it’s small enough to get through the window screen, I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Marianne said. She opened the window. Luckily, this time, nothing came through. Not even a cloud.

Sloth Picnic

Finally, finally, one day the sloths all came together for a picnic. They’d been talking about it for maybe a hundred years or more. Someone brought it up every decade or so:

“Hey…what about that picnic idea?”

And a month or two later:

“I like picnics. It would be fun to invite everyone.”

Somehow, over time, this expanded at random times to include sloths volunteering a dish or suggesting a venue. And then, the sloths all started traveling in the same general direction.

When they all realized that somehow they were actually at the legendary picnic, it was all a bit confusing. They’d never even agreed on the games to play after lunch.

“I thought we had another decade to plan this,” some sloth said.

The other sloths all nodded. Slowly.

A little sloth looked around, clearly confused. “What kind of games do sloths play at picnics, anyway? I’ve never been to a picnic.”

An older sloth scratched her chin thoughtfully. “I saw a picnic once. They had a race. The winner got a prize.”

The sloths all nodded. “Of course. A race,” some sloth said. It was decided.

The lunch itself took a week, but eventually it was time to finish the meal and start the race. The older sloth directed a friend to watch the finish line. She stood at the other end of the dirt path in the rainforest clearing and waited.

The other sloths all lined up along the edges of the path. No one lined up along the starting line. “The racers need to come line up now,” the older sloth said.

There were no racers.

“Surely some sloth wants to win the fabulous prize,” she added.

“What’s the fabulous prize?” the littlest sloth asked.

“I haven’t thought of it yet,” the older sloth admitted.

They all waited and watched the starting line. Nothing happened, until suddenly it did. The bushes rustled and a turtle plodded over to the starting line. The sloths cheered.

“We need one more racer or there’s no point,” the older sloth said.

They waited. The next morning, a rabbit came bounding out of the jungle and stopped at the starting line. The sloths cheered.

“On your marks, get set, go!”

The rabbit hopped like a blur and disappeared somewhere. The sloths weren’t sure where it went. It was hard enough to keep track of the turtle, who was moving at a faster pace than the usual sloth.

They cheered on the turtle, shocked when he reached the finish line by mid-afternoon. The rabbit must have wandered off somewhere, because it wasn’t at the finish line. They declared it a forfeit, and awarded the turtle the leaves he found and was munching on near the finish line.

“Best picnic ever,” the littlest sloth said. “Can we do it again?”

Surprisingly, it took far less time to organize a second picnic. It happened when the littlest sloth was the oldest sloth, most likely hurried along by her fascinating descriptions of the original event. The second picnic followed the plan of the first, because it was now considered the traditional way that sloths arranged picnics.

And so, a week after they first sat down to eat, it was time to start the race. The oldest sloth calmly directed some sloth to wait at the finish line while she sat by the starting line. The other sloths stood along the path.

“So, who’s going to race?” the littlest sloth asked.

The oldest sloth smiled. “Someone will show up. They did last time after all. It was most exciting.”

They all knew the story, of course. Eagerly, they watched the nearby bushes. No sloth was surprised when a turtle plodded to the starting line. It was tradition now, after all.

What did surprise them, was the snail that slid in place next to the turtle at the starting line. Perhaps rabbits just weren’t good racers. The last one forfeited after all.

The racing snail was a clear match for the speedy turtle. The sloths couldn’t look away from the exciting match up between the former champion and the new challenger.

It was close, but the turtle won. He ate his victory clump of leaves, kindly sharing them with the snail.

“Will we ever have another picnic?” the littlest sloth asked.

“Of course we will,” the oldest sloth replied. “It’s tradition.”

“I hope the snail comes again,” the littlest sloth said. “Can that be a tradition too?”

“We’ll have to wait and see,” the oldest sloth said. But that was okay. Sloths are good at waiting.

The Heroic Picnic Table

Once upon a time, there was a happy picnic table who lived in the shade of a tall oak tree on the bank of a small stream that murmured cheerfully as it flowed over its bed of river rock. The leaves of the tree whispered in reply, and the picnic table was content to listen to the conversation as it waited for happy people to come picnicking. And they did come.

The people brought their baskets and coolers and rested in the shade of the tree and waded in the stream and they were happy. The children shrieked with laughter as they splashed each other with water and hung from branches. Adults smiled and talked quietly and gazed around in wonder, as if they’d forgotten how lovely the world could be.

The picnic table absorbed the happiness around it until it felt like it surely must glow in the dark. Those were the happy times. But the happy times didn’t last.

One summer, the weather grew hotter and hotter. At first, this meant more families came to splash in the stream. But the stream slowly ran dry. There was no more water. The leaves of the tall oak tree turned brown and began to fall early. The people stopped coming.

There was a late summer storm. The wind blew the rain harshly against the table, scouring the paint that had begun to peel in the summer sun. There was a horrible cracking sound, and the oak tree lost several large branches. It didn’t live much longer after that.

The picnic table was all alone. It had no stream, no tree, and no people. Everything was too quiet. But the picnic table had absorbed too much happiness to give up. It knew that life could be better than this. It just needed to find out how to make that happen.

It gathered some acorns and planted them next to the old oak tree. Then it followed the bed of the dry stream back towards its source. If the stream was blocked somewhere, the picnic table would figure out how to fix it.

It waddled along on stumpy legs through briar patches and cockleburs until it came to a small bridge. An even smaller troll was sitting under the bridge, curled up into a ball and radiating misery. As the table shuffled closer, the troll straightened up. “A table?” The troll stood up and shuffled over. “With the stream dried up, I’m all alone. If you are traveling to a better place, please take me with you.”

The table paused and lowered one of its benches and the troll hopped on. The misery had changed to hope. The table felt a little bit stronger. The troll and table followed the stream together, moving at night, and finding shade for the troll during the day. The troll ate roots and bugs when they stopped, and sang odd warbling songs as they traveled. The picnic table almost felt at home.

One night, as they trundled along, they heard a loud cracking sound in the dry river bank. The troll stopped singing, and the table crept closer. A grumpy river fairy looked up at them from a pile of broken river rocks. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“We’re on a quest,” the troll said.

“You and the table?” The fairy raised an eyebrow.

“We’re going to find a new home or save the river or something. I’m not really sure. But we’re going to do something,” the troll said.

The fairy nodded. “That sounds much better than staying here. I’ll come too.” The fairy jumped on the bench next to the troll. Anger shifted to hope. The table felt happy and strong. And now the fairy sang strange lilting tunes that wove around the troll’s songs on their journey.

And so they traveled on, picking up confused dryads and lonely wood elves and frightened water sprites. The benches were a full chorus of hope and happiness and determination to succeed. And the picnic bench strode forth, strong as a mountain and as bright with happiness as the sun.

And one day, they reached the source of the dried up river that fed the dried up little stream. It was a wide hollow area, with a large, round boulder where it was deepest. “The spring has dried up,” the grumpy fairy said sadly. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“What about the boulder? Maybe it’s blocking the water,” the troll said.

“I can take care of that,” the fairy said. He pointed at the rock and said something low and fierce. Nothing happened. “Why won’t my magic work?”

“Maybe the rock is too big,” the dryad said sadly.

One of the wood elves stood on the table. “Let’s move the boulder together! Together we can save the river.”

And they all jumped from the table and pushed with arms and legs and roots and magic. The picnic table shouldered its way in and pushed too. With a shudder, the boulder started to roll. And then a sound rang out like a clap of thunder, a crack appeared from top to bottom, and the boulder crumbled.

In the middle of the rubble, a baby dragon looked up at them with wide eyes. “Mom?” it asked, looking around. Just then, water gushed from the ground beneath the dragon. Everyone piled onto the table, dragging the dragon along with them. The picnic table waded to shore through the turbulent water of the rapidly filling spring.

The air almost seemed alive with happiness. Only the little dragon wasn’t happy. It was confused and sad and hungry. It cried louder and louder and louder. The dryads and sprites and elves all tried singing to the little dragon. The troll brought it some bugs and roots to eat, but that only helped for a moment or two. The little table, now stronger than a hundred mountains, scooped up the little dragon and flapped its benches.

The dragon egg could only have come from the highest peak, far overhead where the dragons nested during the hot, hot summers. Somewhere, high above them, a mother dragon must have lost an egg. The picnic table flew higher and higher, up through the clouds and higher still, until he reached the peaks where the dragons soared in the blistering sunlight.

The picnic table found a nest where there was only one baby dragon, instead of the usual two or three, and dropped off the little baby. A mother dragon swooped in to snuggle and feed the little dragon. A wave of happiness hit the little table, and it glided back down to the spring, strong enough to carry the earth on its back, bright enough to glow with happiness as long as there were people left to eat picnics.

Everyone climbed back on the table and rode downstream singing with happiness. They quickly returned home, the table last of all. A little sapling was waiting for it. The table had saved its home. And to its great joy, the people came back to picnic the very next day.

Charlie’s Room: The Umbrella

When Isaac left work, it was raining. Unfortunately, he’d had to park a block away because all the closer parking spots were full. He started to jog down the sidewalk, barely able to see a few feet ahead through the pouring rain, when he passed the antique shop and paused.

There was an umbrella displayed prominently in the front window. He knew that nearly every purchase he’d made at the shop had gone wrong somehow, but after a brief struggle, he stepped through the front door. After all, what could go wrong with an umbrella? The thought made him wince, as he suddenly thought of many, many things that could go wrong. He bought the umbrella anyway. Read More