A group of youths decide to have a picnic in the park. They bring cushions from their couches and blankets from their beds to lounge on. They settle in the mud. Their bodies are clean despite being scented by cigarette smoke. Their breaths smell strongly of beer and/or soda. The covers of the cushions and the fabric of the blankets are stained beyond cleansing by the soil. They will have to be thrown away. New ones will have to be found.

The meat of drug-addicted animals, fruits (i.e. apples, oranges) grown in a mixture of post-consumer and post-industrial waste: sealed with paper and plastic wrap, stamped with labels and lists of ingredients, estimated dates of expiration. These bodies, objects, and lifeless lifelike products are produced somewhere impossibly hidden to be sold at supermarkets and some gas stations across the country; packaged with little packets of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise in remembrance of individual decision.

The youths leave all their belongings behind to play in the softest spots of mud. Their bodies remain clean while they ruin their clothes. Daylight reveals every pore on every face and brings to peak saturation the green in every leaf of grass. The youths close their eyes to revel in sensation.

Nearby, toddlers in the playground go down the long slide towards endless happiness. The slide’s supports wilt slowly and senselessly under their weight. While no one is looking, the planet spins to make itself feel different, dizzy, spins just an inch, turning itself away from the sky, giving the sun an excuse to sink.

One of the youths starts throwing pennies at another. Another takes a pencil from their backpack and breaks it in half against their head. Another sits alone tearing grass up nervously. Another cracks their knuckles against the ground.

Everything will have to be replaced.

 

by Emmitt Conklin

 

Emmitt Conklin lives in San Francisco, where he works at City Lights Bookstore and studies English Literature at San Francisco State University. His work has been published in Transfer Magazine and Lotus Eater Magazine, the latter having nominated him for the Pushcart Prize.

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