The boxed wine seemed like a good idea. So did the cheese—smoked Gouda and Wisconsin cheddar that came in thick blocks and occupied all the real estate on a fancy cracker dusted with sea salt. So the place mats were arranged on the weathered picnic table that in another lifetime was painted a deep, forest green that chipped and faded into something very shabby chic, and the couple sat next to each other on the bench.
“Did you bring the glasses?” the man asks.
“Of course,” the woman with the pixie haircut replies, reaching into a vinyl cooler. “I refrigerated them first.”
The sky is brilliant and blue. It is supposed to rain, but maybe it won’t; either way, whatever is looming on the radar wasn’t enough to deter the outdoor happy hour. Sparsely needled pine trees soar above them. In the lake, bullfrogs are becoming symphonic, mallards are taking flight, and fishermen are casting lines in the hopes of reeling something in.
“We should do this every day,” the woman says, handing him a glass. “It’s so peaceful here. Plus, I need to get out of the house.”
“Why not?” he agrees, twisting open the plastic spout, white wine gushing into his glass.
On the picnic table are two white ceramic plates—one for cheese, one for crackers—and a small, silver cheese knife with a wood handle that came from Williams Sonoma or Pottery Barn. “Good thing I didn’t throw this away,” she says, using it to slice into Gouda. As she does, another couple arrives, having parked their red SUV in the nearly empty lot and carrying with them takeout bags from Chick-Fil-A and a white bed sheet printed with tiny, pink flowers that they’ll use as a table cloth.
A blue heron glides across the water just as one of the fishermen, wearing rubber waders, catches a golden trout from the lake, which is swollen and looking like a pool of melted chocolate thanks to the rain.
“They got takeout and are having their dinner here,” the man says, sipping from his glass. “Pass me one, please.”
“We should do that tomorrow,” she replies, adding a neatly sliced block of cheddar to his cracker. “Bring our dinner here, I mean.”
He chews thoughtfully, watching the fisherman unhook the trout and take a photo with an iPhone in a camouflage case before he tosses it back into the water. Plunk! The mallards glide into the ripples it creates, on the heels of two white-haired women along the shore who show up, every day, with a plastic bag half filled with stale bread that’s been torn into smaller pieces.
“Look,” the woman says, pointing in their direction as she twists the plastic opening and wine pours out. “Those ducks know exactly who to go to when they want something. They’ve been so well trained.”
“Haven’t we all?” he replies, raising his glass.