A Picnic in Oblivion – Basilike Pappa

It was fluffy and green as far as the eye could see, with the bluest sky above. Maro said it smelled like cotton candy.

She had to argue a little about it with Pandora, who was sure it smelled like cream pie. Thea said it wasn’t that important. To her it was honey cookies; the place smelled different to everyone.

In any case, all three agreed it was a beautiful day for a picnic. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the stream sounded like harps, Pandora said. Or Venetian lutes, Maro said. Or flutes, said Thea, tilting her face back to meet the golden caress of the sun.

‘Do you think it ever rains?’

‘I really hope it doesn’t,’ Maro said, taking some fruit out of the picnic basket. Fruit was all that was allowed – every kind except apples. They were a touchy subject.

‘Did it rain much then?’ Thea said, picking an orange.

‘Don’t you remember? Once it began, it forgot how to stop,’ Pandora said, and Maro shuddered just thinking of raindrops rolling down her neck.

‘There were orange groves,’ Thea said, looking at the orange in her hand as if it were a foreign planet. ‘We used to play hide and seek there when we were kids.’

‘Some of us used to play doctor there when we were older,’ Pandora said, moving closer to the basket to inspect its contents.

Maro smiled at the memory. ‘That was behind the fortress.’

‘You should remember.’

‘You could have played too. As you can see, it didn’t stop me from being here.’

‘Girls, girls,’ Thea said. ‘Let’s enjoy our picnic.’ She peeled the orange and divided it among the three of them.

‘Do you think we’ll ever have meat again?’ Pandora said.

‘What, here? Where the hen lays eggs next to the fox?’ Maro said.

‘The sheep lies next to the lion. Don’t be disrespectful.’

‘Come on, Pandora,’ Thea laughed. ‘Maro was always a little disrespectful. Here, have some plums and pretend they are meatballs.’

‘But I don’t know if she can go on being like that here. What if she is heard and sent… you know… down under?’

‘Would you miss me?’ Maro teased.

‘Let’s not find out.’

‘I’d miss you,’ Thea said.

‘You are so good you’d miss anyone,’ Maro said, licking orange juice off her fingers.

‘I’m not always good.’ Thea grabbed a handful of cherries and threw them at Maro.

‘Shit! These leave stains on white.’

‘Will you stop–’ Pandora started. She paused, thinking for a moment.

‘It sounds good,’ she said. ‘Shit. The way it hisses through your teeth. Shit. I must have said this word many times, it comes so naturally. Shshshit.’

A clap of thunder sounded overhead, making them collapse into peals of laughter.

‘We used to have a good time, didn’t we?’ Thea said. She took a bottle of pomegranate juice out of the basket, filled a cup and drank it all in one breath. ‘How did we meet, again?’

‘School. Remember?’ Pandora said.

‘Not prison?’

Pandora rolled her eyes. ‘For the hundredth time, Maro: that building was our school.’

‘And the hospital?’ Thea said. ‘Didn’t we meet at a hospital?’

Pandora let out a long sigh of resignation. ‘You were a doctor.’

‘There was rain and oranges,’ Thea mused. ‘A fortress and a school. I met you, and then I was a doctor.’

‘See what a good influence we were?’ Maro said. ‘Now may I have some of that pomegranate juice? Pandora?’

‘Yes, please.’

In the beginning they had all complained about the lack of wine or anything stronger. But the taste of pomegranate juice had a way of growing on them. Pandora took a swig, and gave Thea a perplexed look.

‘You look very young for a doctor, you know. No older than eighteen. What’s your secret?’

‘I wanted to ask you the same question,’ Thea said. ‘You haven’t aged a day since the last time I saw you, both of you.’

‘Really? They say prison can age a person,’ Maro said. ‘No, wait! It wasn’t a prison. It was a company. I remember now. I had a computer. But to what purpose I can’t say.’

‘Sometimes there are voices in my head – many of them,’ Pandora said. ‘Faces too. Children. As if I spent all my life at school. Is it possible? Other things must have happened between school and here. There must have been time.’  

They thought about it in silence, only the stream babbling next to them. It didn’t sound like harps, or lutes, or flutes anymore. It sounded like water – fluent, forgetful, rolling away.

‘Do you think this place might be different if the old gods were still around?’ Maro said.

‘We’d have forgotten everything,’ Thea said. ‘We would have drunk the waters of the Lethe.’

‘As if we remember now,’ Pandora snorted. ‘We keep forgetting what we did or what our hometown was like.’

‘I bet our hometown doesn’t remember us either. That makes us even,’ Maro said. More pomegranate juice?’

 


 

Basilike Pappa is a bookmonger and a wordcubine. She believes that in poetry an image must montage the mind with false cognates, and that god is sun on a copper coffee pot. Her prose has appeared in Life & Art Magazine, Intrinsick and Timeless Tales, and her poetry in Rat’s Ass Review, Surreal Poetics, Bones – Journal for Contemporary Haiku, Visual Verse and in Nicholas Gagnier’s anthology All the Lonely People. Most of the time she can be found reading near a window in Greece. You can see more of her work on her blog Silent Hour.

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