had invited my coworker Margaret for a picnic lunch. It was raining outside so we brought our blanket into the foyer,which had enough raw wooden walls to feel like a  forest. As we spread out our blanket on the bench I watched her face carefully. It is impossible to hide your true emotions when you are faced with soggy cucumber sandwiches and a bottle of cheap wine. Margaret had made the sandwiches. I had brought the wine. I scraped the price tag off before I showed it to her, but I could tell by the way she held it in her mouth after sipping, the way you’d hold a live frog or maybe a  salamander, that she knew I hadn’t even paid ten dollars for it. I pretended not to know that she knew. Every time she drank half of her glass I’d fill it up again.

 

“You look awfully beautiful today,” I said, after the silence grew so large that I had to move over and give it space on the blanket. I was looking at the wooden wall. Margaret mumbled something that sounded like “well orange juice sweat” around a mouthful of soggy cucumber sandwich. I didn’t want to ask her to repeat it. For all I 

knew, she really did say “orange juice sweat.” Perhaps she had talked about orange juice sweat in the past and I just hadn’t been listening. Perhaps it was now some sort of inside joke between us, only there wasn’t anything between us at all because I hadn’t been paying attention when she told me about them. I was sure it must have been a very funny story. Margaret is often very funny. In fact, she was talking to me now, and I’m sure what she was saying was awfully amusing.  I laughed. She stopped talking. Her face went grey. I looked up at the wall again.

 

“That wasn’t funny at all,” she yelled. She hadn’t swallowed her bite of sandwich and blobs of cucumber rained down on me. They just kept raining and raining until I was stuck under a little cloud of soggy cucumber. The picnic was rained out.

I

Sarah Purow-Ruderman

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