Thursday, December 8, 2016

albert's picnic

by emily de villaincourt

illustrations by eddie el greco

albert woke up.

it was his day off.

he had planned to go on a picnic with his friend bertrand.

but bertrand had left a note under albert’s door explaining that “something had come up” and that he could not go on the picnic.

after some hesitation, albert decided to go on the picnic by himself.

he put his picnic basket on his arm and started down the street.

as you may have suspected, he was greeted by howls of derision and laughter by the people on the street.

“look at that poor slob going on a picnic by himself!”

“hey, bro, you look like you just lost your best friend!”


the laughter and finger pointing continued until albert had almost reached the outskirts of town, and the country road which he would take to get to the woods where he would have his picnic.

on the one hand albert felt humiliated and depressed by the hazing he had endured, but on the other hand he felt relieved that his ordeal was over without his actually having been physically attacked.

also, he was looking forward with real eagerness to consuming the food and beverages in the picnic basket, especially the shrimp salad he had made the night before, and which he would not now have to share with bertrand.

just as albert was almost at the country road, he encountered a young woman walking along the last stretch of highway.

she was rather ordinary looking, but she had a nice smile, albert thought.

unlike the other persons he had met, she did not laugh or point at his picnic basket, but greeted him with her nice smile.

“good heavens,” the young woman exclaimed, “it must have been a singular set of circumstances that led you to go on a picnic by yourself!”

“indeed it was,” albert replied ruefully. “my good friend had planned to accompany me, but at the last minute was called away unexpectedly.”

the young woman’s eyes widened. “good friend, my aunt matilda! he must have been a perfidious rascal indeed, to leave you in the lurch in such manner, though the very heavens fall on him!”

“oh no,’ albert assured her. “i am sure his reason must have been pressing indeed, and that he will explain it all satisfactorily when we meet again.”

“it shows that you have a good heart that you say that,” said the young woman. “my name is cynthia, by the way. what is yours?”

“my name is albert.”

“you seem like a nice person, albert. if it is not too presumptuous of me, i would like to go on your picnic with you, because you seem such a nice person, and a real gentleman.”

“that sounds like a very good idea,” albert replied.

the young woman calling herself cynthia turned and pointed to a line of trees behind her. albert could make out a little house behind them.

“i live there,” cynthia said. “with my grandmother. wait here, and i will go get a bottle of my grandmother’ s homemade strawberry wine. that will make a nice addition to the picnic, and naturally i wish to make a contribution to the picnic and not be some kind of freeloader.”

albert had no objection to make to this, and cynthia departed and came back in short order with the bottle of strawberry wine.

they went on their way into the woods. they came to the spot where albert had planned to have his picnic with bertrand, but cynthia pointed down the forest path and said, “oh, i know a much nicer spot., and it is not much further away.”

albert acquiesced, and they proceeded on their way, albert with the picnic basket, and cynthia with the bottle of strawberry wine.

they arrived at the spot selected by cynthia. albert did not think it looked any nicer than the one he and bertrand had chosen, but he did not say so.

albert spread his blanket on the ground under a chestnut tree.

cynthia found a paper cup in albert’s picnic basket, poured some strawberry wine into it and offered it to albert.

“taste this,” she told albert with her sweet smile. “i am sure you will agree you have never tasted anything quite like it.”

as soon as albert tasted the strawberry wine, he knew that something was wrong.

the world spun around him, he gasped for breath, and collapsed to the ground.

he had been poisoned!

“you poor fool,” cyntha exclaimed. “did not anyone ever teach you not to trust strangers? or to trust anybody at all, for that matter?”

albert quickly expired.

cynthia, who was an old hand at the game, rolled up her sleeves and immediately got to work disposing of albert’s body.

she had a grave already dug a few yards away. it had been filled in with loose earth, and covered with twigs, but it was an easy matter to dig it out again with the shovel she had concealed nearby.

after taking possession of albert’s wallet and watch, and a couple of rings from his fingers, she rolled his body into the grave, filled it in again, tamped it down and covered it with twigs and leaves .

cynthia had a good thing going, waylaying innocent travelers in this way, murdering them and taking their money and valuables.

as it was not a particularly warm day, and she was in excellent health, cynthia was not much tired by her exertions. she sat down and sampled some of the wares in albert’s basket, and found them quite tasty, especially the shrimp salad - which he had prepared with such care - and the deviled eggs.

after taking a last look around to be sure everything was tidy, she returned to her little house with the picnic basket, which contained, besides the shrimp salad and the deviled eggs, a couple of neatly sliced and carefully wrapped tongue sandwiches, a small tin of caviar, a thermos of hot chocolate, two bottles of evian water, and four small cream tarts.

cynthia did not really share the house with her grandmother, but with two big nasty dogs, who could make short work of any intruder.

and her name was not really cynthia, but doris evans.

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