‘Family Picnic,’ a Short Story by Robert Coover

December 5, 2016 - Picnic Time

Photos by Harry Griffin

This story seemed in a December emanate of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

To applaud their new car, Dad offers to expostulate a family into a nation for a picnic. The level flowers will be in bloom! he exclaims. Mom prepares a basket of boiled chicken, potato salad, and cherry pie. Sis remembers a butterfly spray. Gran remembers a gin.

Buddy says a automobile is unequivocally cool. It has all a latest innovations and an overwhelming spaceship dashboard. It all nonetheless drives itself, Dad says. It even smells new, says Mom.

Sis says she loves a color, that is a glossy magenta with a bronze glaze in a sun. No one else has one like it. That’s since we chose it, her father says.

The neighbor and his mom come over to admire a new car. WE’RE GOING ON A PICNIC! Gran shouts as nonetheless a neighbors were as tough of conference as she is.

Buddy shows them how a protracted existence on a windshield works. It’s good during night! You can see all a mile around you! Oh, I’d never learn how to use that! a neighbor says, jolt his conduct ruefully. Really, Buddy says, quoting a online primer that he has called adult on his smartphone, this automobile is a finish modernized mobile record platform! The neighbor’s mom giggles abashedly during that. Stop display off, Buddy, Sis says.


They all raise into a new automobile with Gran in a center of a backseat to keep Sis and Buddy separated. There are 5 whirs and clicks as a seatbelts bind themselves around them. They call goodbye to a neighbors, hire in a sunlit expostulate with saddening smiles on their soothing spin faces, and they’re off, Buddy creation vroom! vroom! noises.

The highway, some-more or reduction dull during first, starts stuffing adult and shortly they find themselves held adult in bumper-to-bumper traffic. All a lanes are jammed. There contingency be an collision adult ahead, Dad says. It’s a good day, says Mom, everyone’s out for a drive. Mom is not looking on a splendid side. She’s arguing with Dad.

The automobile behind bumps them impatiently in a rear. Dad unbuckles and stairs out to protest about this and his doorway touches a doorway of a murky pickup beside them. The owners jumps out and final money, indicating during his behind fender, not a door. He’s a hairy tattooed associate in a sleeveless undershirt with a can of drink in his fist. Dad apologizes, nonetheless kindly refuses, examination that no repairs has been done. The male asks again, Dad says no, and a male rears behind and kicks a hole in their new automobile with his steel-toed boot. We’re even, he says, and blesses himself with a volcanic belch.

Dad examines a dent. It saddens him, nonetheless it’s zero that can’t be fixed. The trade has changed brazen a integrate of feet, so Dad gets behind in a driver’s chair and pulls ahead.

Are we going to let yourself be bullied by that meathead? Buddy asks. Blessed are a meek, says Sis, quoting a technical primer of another age. They strike a kitty if they can hang in to a end. Games aren’t like that anymore, Buddy says disdainfully.

The male behind continues to pile-up into them and honk his horn. Maybe we should spin back, Mom says. It’s impossible, Dad says. Just demeanour around.

ONE THING GRAMPS ALWAYS SAYS, Gran yells, IF YOU CAN’T WALK, FLY. Gramps has been upheld for some-more than 10 years, nonetheless she still speaks of him in a benefaction tense. Mom says to make certain a doors are sealed so a aged bird can’t get out and start fluttering her wings. Gran has left totally off a rails, Buddy says.

No, I’m a intelligent one, it’s a rest of we who are nuts, says Gran, screwing a tip off a solitaire bottle.

I didn’t consider we could hear me.

WHAT? she shouts, and tips a bottle up. we said—oh, never mind, we loony aged bat.

That’s no proceed to pronounce to your mother’s mother, Buddy, Dad says. Oh, let him, says Mom. She is a loony aged bat.

But we don’t mind your craziness, Gran says with a small burp. It relieves my constipation.

What is she saying? Dad asks. That we give her a shits, says Mom grimly. Why is Gran observant all these foolish things, Dad?

She’s removing old, son. Be kind.

Why is Buddy seeking all these foolish questions, Dad? Sis asks—Ow! You usually knocked Gran’s eyeglasses off, Buddy!

I SEE BETTER WITHOUT ‘EM! Gran shouts good-naturedly and takes another inexhaustible swig.

Sis retrieves a eyeglasses for Gran and sets them behind on her nose. It’s removing extremely prohibited in here, Sis says.

There’s a cabin cooling system, Dad says. But we don’t know how to spin it on. we consider we usually speak to it, Buddy says. Air-conditioning, please, Dad says. Nothing happens, solely that a cross-traffic warning sensors start beeping wildly.

WHOOPEE! cries Gran, fluttering a solitaire bottle about dangerously. WHEREZA MUNCHIES?

Probably you’re not ostensible to say, “Please,” Buddy says.

Sis shouts she’s got used to a new automobile now and she wants to go home, and Buddy, reaching over a front chair to spin off a beeping sensors, says it would be improved to go where all these people emptied out from. We have a cruise list in a backyard, Mom says. What’s wrong with it?

Stop complaining, guys, we’re carrying fun in a new car, Dad says, smiling a happy smile. I’m not carrying any fun, Dad, Sis says. Well, we’re not there yet, honey.

Why is a box open? asks Mom, looking over her shoulder.

Oh no. That male behind us contingency have strike us tough adequate to cocktail it, Dad says. I’ll go tighten it. When he returns, ducking a drink can thrown playfully by a pickup driver, a happy grin is gone. The cruise basket has been stolen, he says. And also a apparatus pack and a gangling wheel.

Maybe we should demeanour for a motel, Mom suggests. YAY! LET’S GO WATCH A DIRTY MOVIE! shouts Gran. Dad snorts scornfully.

They in. brazen again. There’s ostensible to be a special underline regulating satellite record that allows we to see what’s on a highway ahead, Dad says. It’s like a transparent ball. But we don’t know where a on-switch is. Buddy shows him and how to work it. Hah! It seems there’s some kind of limit adult ahead, Dad says, indicating to a picture appearing on a dashboard screen.

A limit to what? Mom asks.

I don’t know. But it looks like an general one. There are a lot of flags and uniformed guys with guns.

Cool, says Buddy.

What’s an general limit doing out here on a prairie? Mom asks. IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD! shouts Gran cheerfully.

Everything has stopped. People are out of their cars, conversing, fighting, holding photos, shouting, kissing. The midday object is prohibited and garments are entrance off. A integrate of people are dancing on a automobile roof in their underwear. Buddy remarks on a extraordinary sight, grabbing images on his smartphone. Gran wants to take her garments off, too, nonetheless she can’t do that nonetheless removing out of a car, and Sis won’t open a door. Spare us, please, Gran, she says. There are a few gunshots and sirens, nonetheless a protected stretch away.

Dad turns off a motor, unbuckles, and squeezes out of a car. I’ll see if anyone knows what’s going on, he says. He speckled that blonde over there in a marigold convertible, Mom says. The one descending out of her relating tank top. We competence be here awhile.

Gran tips a bottle up: HAIR O’ THE DUGS! she shouts.

Mom is right. Time passes. Dad is nowhere to be seen. Gran falls defunct and starts to snore as aloud as she talks.

Sis texts a friend, who texts back. Lisa’s removing married, Sis reports. That’s nice, says Mom bitterly. No, it isn’t. Lisa’s usually 12, like me. Old maid, Buddy says, his thumbs drumming during his shade like small bird beaks.

The trade duration has changed brazen a integrate of feet and a people behind them are honking. You should keep adult with a others, Buddy says. If this is such a intelligent car, Mom says sullenly, it can damn good expostulate itself. Buddy unbuckles and crawls into a driver’s seat, takes it out of gear, and, one palm on a palm brake, lets a male behind them strike them forward. I’m failing of thirst, Sis says.

After a while, Dad and a blonde seem during a automobile window. Dad’s shirttails are out. Her automobile has overheated, he says amiably. They have brought pretzels and sodas for everybody. Also a cherry pie. we baked it myself! says a blonde. Isn’t that amazing! Dad says.

The cake gets upheld around and ends adult in Mom’s lap. It looks like a one she bought this morning in a supermarket. But all pies demeanour comparison to her, so what does she know?

When Sis asks, a blonde says, we don’t know where we are! Isn’t it usually fantastic? Buddy takes a oblique print of a blonde’s bosom.

Well, Dad says jovially. What’ll we do now? I’d usually love to expostulate your beautiful new car, a blonde says.

Dad gives her a keys and opens a doorway for her. Mom presses opposite a newcomer doorway and looks away. The brats in a subsequent automobile are adhering their tongues out during her. Maybe she should chuck a cake during them.

Buddy crawls into a behind again, brushing opposite a blonde and her bosom. He rolls his eyes, bobs his brows. You’re not funny, Buddy, Sis says. Buddy creates an descent noise, as his seatbelt whirs and clicks.

The blonde has her conduct down with a engine running, perplexing to figure out where a stop is, and she smashes into a automobile ahead. Dad’s in difficulty again. Oh, I’m sorry, says a blonde with a small giggle. Out pops a other car’s motorist in a red-faced rage, and Dad backs divided a step.

The pile-up has awakened Gran. WHERE AM I? she yells. Sis retrieves a eyeglasses and sets them on Gran’s nose again. We’re still stranded in traffic, Gran, Sis says. You haven’t missed a thing.

The blonde gets out and goes to apologize to a motorist of a other car. He nods and she crawls into his backseat with him. She winks during Dad and blows him a kiss. Mom gets absolved of a pie.

THESE PRETZELS TASTE LIKE TEN-YEAR-OLD DOG POOP! Gran shouts. Have we eaten ten-year-old dog poop, Gran? Buddy asks in astonishment.

Dad earnings to a driver’s chair and sits in a pie. He jumps adult usually as a seatbelt is whirring and clicking, and a dashboard warning lights start flashing like a pinball machine.

Traffic starts to pierce again around them, nonetheless they’re stranded now behind a automobile they’ve hit. There’s a lot of honking and buffer crunches as cars try to fist around them. The dashboard is creation binging and bonging noises to go with a flashing lights. Can’t we spin that darned thing off? Mom shouts. Dad fumbles with a buttons and dials on a orchestration quarrel and sets off a groan alarm.

I have to find a bathroom, Sis says, and she stairs out of a automobile and disappears.

Gran mugs behind during a brats in a subsequent car. The littlest one starts to cry. The father comes over and says a aged lady has fearful his child, nonetheless Dad can’t hear him since of a sound his dashboard is making. In exasperation, a father breaks off an outward rearview counterpart and binds it adult to Gran. She blows a lick to her thoughtfulness and bobs about to a stroke of a bings and bongs. PARTY TIME! she yells. The male throws a counterpart down in disgust, stomps on it a few times, and earnings to his car.

Finally, a blonde emerges from a automobile in front, carrying her shorts, blows another lick during Dad, and trots off, Dad examination her rebound away. Somehow that turns off a bells and flashing dashboard lights, or else Dad in his fad has bumped something useful with his knee. The radio comes on by itself, personification golden oldies. The one personification now is “Never Too Old,” and Dad hums along, to Mom’s disgust. The motorist of a other car, pulling adult his shorts, gets behind in his front chair and starts adult and they climb brazen again until a limit channel comes into view.

They are not alone. There are acres of cars radiant in a blazing sun. At slightest half of them are glossy magenta with a bronze sheen. PRAIRIE FLOWERS! hoots Gran. All these cars demeanour usually like ours, says Mom, Sis will never find her proceed back. She won’t be missed, says Buddy.

There are organisation in uniform logging about. Do we consider they’re going to ask for a passports? Mom asks. Don’t be silly, dear, Dad says.

A practice officer appears during their window and asks for their passports. Mom grunts smugly.

Dad explains to a officer that they were usually going on a nation picnic, they hadn’t designed on channel any general borders. The officer snaps a doorway open, hauls Dad out, shoves him face-first opposite a car, reaches into his slot for his wallet. He dumps a driver’s permit and all a word and credit cards onto a highway, takes a fistful of income out, and shakes a bills angrily in Dad’s face. You can have them, Dad whispers meekly, if you’ll only—

This offer enrages a officer and he whips out his semiautomatic pistol and puts it to Dad’s head. Whoa, says Dad.

HEY, CUTIE PIE! shouts Gran, fluttering her bottle. HOW’S YER OLE TOMATA? The officer hesitates, squints, looks around, afterwards holsters a gun and accepts a bottle. He tips it adult for a prolonged guzzle and hands it back, winking during Gran and observant something in a unfamiliar language.

Thanks, Gran, Dad says, that is substantially some-more or reduction what a practice officer has said, and he gathers adult a things spilled from his wallet. He starts to yield behind into a driver’s seat, nonetheless a officer slams him face-first opposite a automobile again, rips his pie-stained pants and shorts down. He has a cosmetic ladle in his hand.

A comparison officer arrives and dismisses a officer acid Dad, grouping him to take a ladle out immediately. The youth officer protests, and a comparison officer cuffs him imperiously with a behind of his hand, afterwards rises his attack purloin and repeats his order. Spoon and youth officer are quick gone. we saw your ring, a comparison officer whispers to Dad in a unfamiliar accent, and shows him his possess matching one. He and Dad sell a tip handshake and Dad pulls his pants up.

The comparison officer blows his alarm and orders a other cars to fist aside adequate to let Dad through, and gradually, with usually a few teenager dings, they are brought to a conduct of a queue.

But where’s Sis? Mom asks. She’ll locate up, Dad says. We don’t wish to skip this smashing opportunity! Sis usually texted me that she has been kidnapped by terrorists, Buddy says. Mom gasps and Buddy tells her not to worry, Sis has a lot in common with terrorists.

As they proceed a border, people see that Dad enjoys a adored station and they leave their cars and throng into a backseat around Gran and Buddy, scrunching down during their feet to censor from limit control, pleading to be taken opposite with them. A rugged mustachioed male punches his proceed in and takes reason of a ankles of a profound lady during Gran’s feet to wrench her out. Gran kicks him in a teeth, promulgation him hurtling behind out a door. GOAL! Gran hollers. She’s carrying a good time.

On a radio, a golden oldies give proceed to a news circular about a invention of synthetic H2O as a means of gripping a universe going a small longer, followed by a continue and trade report: fever and high temperatures. Traffic normal. Have a good day. The song resumes: a church choir singing baleful eremite songs.

Sis texts Buddy that a riotous personality is a genuine hunk, they competence get married. He reads this content aloud and Mom starts to cry. Sis writes, If Lisa can do it, we can do it, too—I’m roughly 13!

The officer with a tip multitude ring returns, bringing other confidence personnel, and they detain a backseat stowaways. The immature lady on a building is going into labor, so a confidence crew leave her there. As a stowaways are led away, Gran jumps out and tries to join them. THOSE CRAZY PEOPLE HAVE KIDNAPPED ME! she shouts. Is this one yours? a officer asks. Dad nods, and a confidence crew collect her adult and lapse her to a behind seat. RAPE! Gran whoops gleefully.

On a building in a back, a baby’s lustrous conduct is showing. Buddy, branch pale, videos it emerging. we didn’t comprehend this was how it worked, he gasps. If Sis were here, she’d be laughing. In and around her grunts and yelps, a lady on a building says she’ll give Buddy her email residence so he can send her a video. I’ll post it online, he wheezes.

The overhanging church song on a radio is interrupted for a special proclamation about a world’s overpopulation. we consider we’re being tracked, Buddy says, and a radio switches itself off.

The comparison practice officer earnings with 12-hour visas for everyone, including one for Sis, wherever she is. The officer says he’s sorry, it was a best he could do. Dad expresses his fraternal appreciation. But we’ll take this one with us, a officer says, collaring Buddy. Mom, during a dilemma of hysteria, protests, nonetheless is kindly ignored.

The new mother-in-progress snatches a additional visa. For my baby, she grunts, blustering her cheeks out. Then she screams, crumpling a visa in her sweaty fist, and a baby oozes out. IT’S A BOY! Gran shouts and bites off a navel string. She rises a baby by his ankles and swats him to make him cry, afterwards baptizes him upside down with a shower of gin. NO, THAT’S ALL YOU GET! she shouts during a screaming baby, capping a bottle, and offers a placenta to a new mother. Save it! gasps a mother. we wish to prepare it first! we have a recipe!

Isn’t that cannibalism? Mom cries, her voice rising.

Well, technically, Dad says, or starts to say, when they are rocked by a absolute explosion. What was that? Mom screams. It’s substantially usually a protracted reality, Dad says calmly, something function on a windshield that we can’t see since of a sunlight. With sound effects? Shock waves? Mom is still screaming. It’s a unequivocally intelligent car, Dad reminds her. I wish to go home! Mom wails during a tip of her voice.

Haw! Me, too, lady, mumbles a red-nosed dipsomaniac in a billed cap, disposition his vast conduct into Mom’s window. She’s so startled, she sets her seatbelt binging and bonging again. Help! Mom cries. Ain’ this my car? a dipsomaniac asks. Looks like it! He is dressed in lavender-and-green-checked pants, pinkish polo shirt, and tangerine-colored golf cap. It was followin’ me, nonetheless it musta got lost.

The special underline jigger on a dashboard display what lies brazen has left ominously dark. Perhaps they’ve mislaid reception. The yell of sirens returns, louder than ever, possibly from outward a automobile or inside a dashboard. Are those gunshots? Mom screams.

Whoo, we gotta siddown a min so’s not to tumble over, a dipsomaniac growls, collapsing into a backseat beside Gran. The new mother, propped opposite a distant doorway where Buddy was sitting, is nursing her baby. Nice tits, a dipsomaniac says blurrily. In his unfocused state, it’s not certain whose he’s referring to, so, usually in case, Gran shouts: TEN CENTS A LICK!

Haw! Too cheap! exclaims a drunk. He drops a fistful of bills and a golf turn in Gran’s lap, afterwards leans behind and commences to snore. Gran binds a drunk’s whiskey bottle adult opposite a light. There’s some-more left in his bottle than in hers, so she swaps with him.

They are bumped again from behind. That same automobile has somehow snuck along behind them. The motorist leans on his horn and bangs into them harder than before, a box pops open and a male leaps out, glancing frantically in all directions. There is a clap of gunfire and a male writhes and crumples.

Oh no! That was my husband! cries a lady with a baby. We usually got married—and I’m already a widow!

Interesting, says Dad.

The immature mom deposits her baby in Gran’s path and jumps out to check on a male who has been shot, as sirens arise and fall. She kneels down and listens to his heart, shakes her conduct sadly. Tears using down her cheeks, she hurries around to a other side of a car. The dipsomaniac is still snoring, so she kisses her baby goodbye, asks Gran to take good caring of him, heaves a dipsomaniac over her shoulder, grabs adult a solitaire bottle, and staggers away, a dashboard binging and bonging louder than ever.

The drunk’s billed tip has depressed on a baby in Gran’s lap. He seems to be perplexing to eat it. Gran takes it divided from him and sets it down over her possess ears, and a baby starts to cry again.

There is a slight opening between dual cars ahead. Dad maneuvers delicately into a opening, nonetheless it is too tight. The automobile behind rams them and, with a lead shriek, they scratch by to a other side. It’s pass control! shouts Dad exultantly. We’ve finished it!

GO TEAM! Gran shouts from underneath a check of her cap.

But during a channel indicate they are stopped nonetheless again. It’s a same youth practice officer as before with a same cosmetic spoon, nonetheless now he’s a colonel with a chestful of brightly colored medals. Through a translator, he informs them that there has been a change of regime, and a aged one has been deleted. Which competence or competence not be a mistranslation.

Mom gasps, meditative of Buddy. Gran tips her tip during a colonel and he acknowledges her with a solemn wink. Dad is arrested for sum disregard toward a practice official, for attempted bribery, that here seems to be a collateral offense, and for breaching limit etiquette. The colonel drags him out of a automobile and he is marched away.

They’re during a border, they have usually to cranky over, nonetheless Mom, carrying so unexpected mislaid husband, daughter, and son, is too distraught to drive. The blonde in a marigold tank tip appears out of nowhere and jumps into a driver’s seat. She binds adult a crumpled 12-hour visa as a seatbelt whirs and clicks around her. we found it floating along on a ground, she says. Isn’t that amazing? She sees a baby Gran is holding. we commend him! she exclaims. He’s famous on amicable media! You’re so lucky!

Gran says she doesn’t feel lucky. HE JUST LET GO IN MY LAP!

Babies are such great fun! a blonde exclaims, maneuvering a automobile toward a limit crossing. Here, she says, unbuckling and stripping off her tank tip as a seatbelt warning bell pings. Swaddle him in this!

Before they can cranky to safety, a colonel earnings to allocate their visas and incarcerate a car, informing them by his translator that they are all underneath detain as accomplices to Dad’s collateral crimes. We’re never going to make it! Mom wails. The baby is also wailing. The colonel, annoyed, points during him and barks something harsh.

Gran tries to palm a child off to a colonel. HE’LL GO QUIETLY! she shouts, nonetheless he is not still during all.

The colonel ignores her, his courtesy elsewhere. The topless blonde is smiling adult during him from a driver’s seat, beating her tip mouth solemnly with a tip of her tongue and gesturing suggestively with an index finger. She puts that finger in her mouth, stairs out of a car, reaches for a colonel’s belt with her other hand. The translator yells during her to stop, such function is particularly forbidden, nonetheless a colonel swats a translator divided and allows a blonde to do whatever she wants to do. As his groans enlarge and his uniform trousers unemployment to his knees, Buddy appears with a confidence organisation to detain him and, still groaning, he is hauled away. Buddy turns off a dashboard noises, nonetheless he can’t spin off a baby.

Mom is so vehement to see Buddy again, she is giggling and great during a same time. She jumps out of a automobile and runs to cuddle him, nonetheless he pushes her away. That’s child stuff, Mom. I’m an critical chairman now. She is hurt, nonetheless she is also unapproachable of him. Buddy’s usually 10 and, nonetheless a sleeves and pantlegs of his uniform are a few inches too long, her son is already fulfilling his stately destiny.

Gran wets a dilemma of a tank tip with whiskey and gives it to a baby to gnaw on.

Pity about Dad, Buddy says. We’ve brought we his possessions. One of a confidence guards hands her Dad’s clothing, fingernail clipper, shoestrings, dull wallet, even one of his summer sweaters and some pajama pants that he wasn’t wearing, or didn’t seem to be.

Oh no! Mom gasps, handkerchief during her mouth. Then, has he—? Have they—? Buddy shrugs.

Mom is weeping. But how did you—?

They indispensable a tech consultant, Buddy explains. They gave me unlimited entrance to their whole internal system, and we downloaded it onto my phone to have all some-more during hand. What we did initial was classify a detain of that screwball who was always bumping us from behind. He’s in a lot of trouble. It’s too bad, though, about a officer who was Dad’s friend. It was particularly opposite a manners to assistance us like that. Nothing we could do. His entrance formula has been terminally scrambled.

I usually love little guys in uniform, purrs a blonde.

But do we remember that tattooed ape in a pickup who kicked a car? we found out his permit had lapsed and now he’s sealed up. we was anticipating they competence govern him so we could watch, nonetheless he usually got 6 years. Buddy’s phone rings. He listens. Ah…! No, wait! They usually finished him a limit cop. We’ll be operative together.

When Mom asks, Buddy says that Sis texted to announce that she and her partner had usually blown adult a chief energy plant. we consider we listened that, says Mom. Sis pronounced it was unequivocally romantic. Is she married? Mom asks anxiously. we don’t consider so, Buddy says, or during slightest not to usually one of them. Mom starts to cry again. So does a baby, some-more vehemently than Mom. GRAMPS ALWAYS SAYS THAT BABIES ARE GOOD THINGS TO HAVE IN A PINCH! Gran hollers. Probably that’s what she’s doing to him.

Buddy introduces Mom to a confidence guards. They grin tenderly during her. Mom stops crying. She dabs her eyes with a handkerchief. She finds she is removing used to a thought of being a widow. She feels some-more appealing somehow and understands improved since Dad was always chasing them. It is roughly an obligation. She is not nonetheless practiced to a remarkable depart of her children, nonetheless she assumes a recovering will usually be a matter of time. She’ll join a predicament support group, maybe accommodate a good male there who has had identical perplexing experiences. She earnings to her chair in a car, forgetful of a improved future. Maybe Sis will have a baby, she thinks, and we can be a grandmother. Has to be improved than being a mother. She notices that a confidence guards are all ogling a blonde’s breasts and wonders if she should unclothed her own. She looks down during them. No, substantially not.

Buddy stamps their visas. He says they’d improved leave while they can, things keep changing here during a border. Can’t we come with us, Buddy? I’ve got to get back, Mom. They’ve arrested those people who took their garments off and danced on their cars, and I’ve been reserved to take their cinema for a justice record. It’s critical for my career. Career! You’re usually 10 years old, Buddy! You can never start too early, Mom.

Dad turns adult unexpected in an orange jail jumpsuit and laceless shoes. There was a ensure who was helpful, he explains rather breathlessly. Male or female? Mom asks. Dad doesn’t say, he usually asks Buddy to stamp his visa. Quickly, son! They’re after me! Mom had spin accustomed to being a widow. She’s not certain she can get used to being a mom again.

Those coveralls are so cute! a blonde says, slapping Dad’s behind affectionately. Then she leans down and gives Buddy a vast hug. My hero! she says. Police sirens are approaching.

HEY, BLONDIE! Gran yells, peering out during her from underneath a check of her cap. HERE’S YOUR SHIRT BACK! There’s a sucking and popping sound as a blonde pushes Buddy’s face away. Gran hands a swaddled baby to her by a automobile window as a sirens pull near, afterwards she closes a window before a blonde can palm it back. The baby immediately stops bawling and nuzzles where Buddy was nuzzling. For a initial time, a blonde looks uncertain of herself. Well, we don’t know…, she says. THEY’RE GREAT FUN! Gran yells by a sealed window, as a sirens pull near, afterwards she falls behind in a inebriated sprawl, cackling softly.

Dad’s behind in a driver’s seat—whirr! click!—and they’re channel a limit during last, usually as limit confidence vehicles representation up, sirens groan urgently, tires screeching. Nick of time! Dad cries out, laughing, and Gran laughs along with him, nonetheless some-more wildly.

There’s a kind of whooshing bump—FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS! Gran shouts—and a heat drops and a sky darkens and they are all alone on an dull highway. Dad turns on a windshield wipers, turns them off, turns on a headlamps. Hah! he says triumphantly.

Why is it so dim out? Mom asks.

Probably a opposite time zone, Dad says with a shrug. He is happy to be behind a circle of his new automobile and rolling openly down a highway, nonetheless it is substantially too late for a cruise and a automobile has rather mislaid a newness.

A opposite time zone! Oh no! If it’s after over here, a visas competence already be expired!

Dad wants to say, Don’t be silly, dear, nonetheless a final time he pronounced that he finished adult on genocide row, so instead he asks if Buddy brought her his clothes.

Yes, nonetheless we usually kept a few souvenirs, like your white shirt and your pajama bottoms.

I CAN’T SEE! Gran shouts drunkenly. TURN UP THE RADIO!

We’ll stop during a stuffing hire or a grill and I’ll change, Dad says. But zero is open. Everything is dark. He pulls adult finally in front of a sealed traveller information office, jumps out of a car, unbuttons a jail jumpsuit, and is usually stepping out of it in a light when Gran, entertaining FORE, throws her golf turn crashing by a traveller bureau window, environment off a shrill toll alarm. Gran doffs her tip as to a entertaining gallery. Distantly, entrance their way: some-more military sirens. Dad’s behind in his jail jumpsuit and they’re on a highway again.

I wish we knew where we are, whimpers Mom as they competition along, Dad examination a rearview mirrors nervously. That dull feeling she has when looking adult during a stars on a transparent night is what Mom’s feeling now. Cosmic confusion her clergyman called it, providing her a medication that creates it and all else go divided for a while, nonetheless she left a pills during home.

The special satellite underline on a dashboard is operative again, nonetheless it seems to be stranded behind during a border, where it’s still prohibited and sunny. They can see Buddy there. He appears to be impediment a blonde with a baby. Or she is impediment him. Or somebody else is impediment them both. It competence be that pickup lorry motorist who kicked their car.

It’s illuminated adult like day! Mom exclaims. Well, over there, it is day, says Dad.

The blonde is changing a baby on a lid of a vast rubbish bin. Is a pickup motorist perplexing to flog Buddy? The baby? The blonde throws a unwashed tank tip in his face. Buddy has a gun! Or else it’s his smartphone—

But now there are unexpected a million cars on a screen, all packaged together and radiant in a sunlight! It’s a trade jam before a border! Dad exclaims. Instead of observant ahead, we’re observant behind! Something’s wrong! He needs Buddy.

Hello, are we there, Dad? a voice asks.

Hah! Just meditative about you, son!

Buddy! Mom cries. Where are you?

That small shade subsequent to a one you’ve been examination is a video phone, a voice says. It’s so dim over here, Buddy! Mom wails.

Probably a opposite time zone, Mom. Now, spin on your interior lights, Dad, and I’ll uncover we how to get a video phone going. Also I’ll see we improved with a lights on.

Dad knows where a interior lights switch is, it’s accurately where it was in a aged car. He pulls over onto a shoulder and flicks it on, feeling astute. What next, son? he asks gravely. Buddy leads him by a steps. No, no, Dad! The one on a right! When a webcam finally comes on, there he is!

Buddy! Are we alright? Mom asks fearfully. What did that awful male in a unwashed undershirt do to you?

Nothing, Mom. The lady I’m with took caring of him. She’s unequivocally great!

Took caring of him?

She’s cold with firearms, Mom. But how did we see all that?

WHO IS THAT? Gran shouts drunkenly from a backseat. IS THAT GRAMPS?

The special satellite tracking underline is operative backward, Buddy, says Dad. Right now it’s display a wreck behind that lady’s stalled convertible.

Someone contingency have hacked into we and is personification games, Buddy says. YAY! LET’S PLAY GAMES! bellows Gran. Or it competence be one of those bumps a automobile got.

Maybe it would assistance if we could start adult a protracted existence on a windshield, Dad says.

Sure. Buddy tells him how to do that. It’s not like a dashboard feature, Dad. It usually shows what’s around we that we can’t see since of a dark, things like highway signs, billboards, roadkill—

Oh yes, we see now. We usually upheld a corn silo.

Gran is disposition brazen between a seats, squinting during a windshield. CHANGE THE CHANNEL! she shouts. THIS MOVIE IS CRAP!

Actually, with a full moon out, we can see many of those things anyway, Dad says, nonetheless now we can review a signs. We’re flitting one now. It says danger! and there’s a conformation of a helicopter. What can that mean?

I’m not sure, Dad, nonetheless we think—

Look out! Mom screams.

Suddenly they are pushing by thousands of brisk low-flying helicopters. They arise and fall, hover, fly laterally and backwards, glow flares, behind up, open forward, dip, dart off again, lift ships, dump radio delivery towers, remove their rotor blades and hurl over, glow missiles, pile-up into one another. Crashing is what they do best. There’s one entrance true during them, usually a feet off a ground—it rises usually adequate to strike their roof and raze behind them. we wish we were here to see this, Buddy! Dad shouts.

And then, usually as suddenly, they’ve driven by a overflow and a helicopters are left and it’s dim and still again.

Amazing! says Dad, borrowing from Buddy. It was, we know, cool!

YO! Gran shouts, fibbing asprawl in a backseat, usually one eye open. MORE!

It’s usually too much! Mom sobs. we don’t ever wish to leave my residence again!

I listened from Sis, Mom. She told me all about her jungle adventure.

Jungle? Out here?

She pronounced her riotous partner had a quick jet and they flew there. But they crashed.

Oh no! Mom is weeping.

Buddy, you’re upsetting your mother. You’re upsetting me!

Don’t worry, they didn’t pile-up hard. The craft was totaled, nonetheless they were means to travel away.

Thank goodness!

Only, afterwards they got prisoner by cannibals.

Stop! This is terrible!

No, it’s alright. They transient and finished it by a jungle behind to civilization. But afterwards a riotous forsaken her for an 11-year-old, who Sis pronounced was lovable nonetheless foolish and was still wearing braces. Sis pronounced it was a misfortune thing that ever happened to her in her whole life.

Oh please—!

She pronounced she satisfied for a initial time how unequivocally aged she was. But now she has a new boyfriend. Older guy, late espionage agent. He betrothed to assistance her get even with that insurgent intelligent alec who dumped her.

How much older?

There’s something fibbing on a highway ahead, Buddy!

Don’t stop, Dad! Run over it if we can.

It’s a person! says Dad, screeching to a stop.

I know, Dad, but—

The male in a highway leaps to his feet and points an attack purloin during Dad. He is wearing deception shirt and pants, a gunbelt, and a bright-green bandanna around his head.

I told you, says Buddy.

The male announces himself as a liberator and crawls into a backseat with Gran, gripping his purloin during Dad’s head. Gran is snoring again, clutching her whiskey bottle to her chest.

You should be some-more careful, Dad says. Without my augmented-reality underline to see we by, we competence have run over you!

I’m connected with explosives, you’d usually have blown yourself up.

Maybe, nonetheless that wouldn’t have finished we most good either.

Game of life, a liberator says with a shrug. Anyway, it was partial of a planning. Everybody has AR nowadays. It’s been customary on all a new models for years now. You did usually what we approaching we to do. But what’s with a jail kit? You been in a slammer?

In prison? Well, yes, nonetheless we was completely—

And now you’re on a run! Hey, maybe we can use you. Ever finished any self-murder bombing?

No, nonetheless we have a daughter who knows your leader, Dad says with a spirit of pride.

I’m a personality and we don’t know your daughter. She contingency be removing screwed by a opposition faction.

Mom gasps. Why can’t we usually go home? she pleads. we hate this place!

Keep driving! barks a liberator. Leave a highway during a subsequent off-ramp!

You’re on a screen, dude, says Buddy.

What? Who pronounced that? a liberator screams.

Dad points to a video phone. That’s a son. He’s with a authorities.

You’re being tracked, Buddy says. If we don’t change your coordinates immediately, you’ll be targeted.

The liberator shoots a video phone. Take that, copper! he yells, blustering divided with shot after shot, as Mom shrieks in alarm.

The prior warning stays in effect, says Buddy’s discarnate voice. There’s a worker on a proceed to take we out, buster. You have reduction than 60 seconds.

Fuck you, copper! we got all these hostages, including your aged lady and your aged man. He bats their heads with a tub of his rifle. Dad yelps. You gonna kill everybody?

No, that won’t be necessary.

Hey, are we a girl, scumbag? You sound like a small girl.

You’re going to make me unequivocally angry, says Buddy’s voice, rising in pitch. He does sound a small like a girl, Mom thinks, even in her terror. You have 30 seconds. Less.

La La! Mama’s small baby! a liberator sings out in scathing falsetto. You gonna strike me with your rattle, we clean-shaven twat? He laughs a snarling laugh, afterwards leans over and drops his conduct in Gran’s sprawled lap, as nonetheless to take a snooze there. Gran snoozes on.

Get him out of a car! Buddy commands. If he’s connected adult with explosives like he pronounced he was, he competence go off!

Dad brakes, jumps out, cautiously rises a liberator off Gran’s lap, and deposits him in a road, jumps behind in. What happened? he cries.

I flew a worker a distance of a butterfly into his ear, Buddy says. It was a lot of fun. Now hurry! Get as distant divided as we can!

As Dad guns it down a highway, a still night is lease with a vast detonation, cratering a highway behind them and spiderwebbing their unbreakable behind window. Little girl! Buddy’s voice mutters sourly. The creep!

Look during a shade on a dashboard! Mom gasps. It’s a neighborhood! And there’s a house!

The special satellite underline has reached behind to where they started. A vast relocating outpost is parked during a sunlit quell and organisation are stuffing it adult with all their belongings. Their neighbors are hire in a expostulate with plump smiles on their unhappy spin faces, directing a movers. There’s a FOR SALE pointer in a neighbors’ window. They’re ransacking a house! Dad exclaims. We have to get back!

What have we been revelation you? Mom says with a scathing sniff.

They view a food-and-fuel island brazen that is still illuminated up. We can fill adult a tank, Dad says, maybe find some peanuts. But all my money’s gone, my cards, too, so we’ll have to take everything.

There’s copiousness of income in Gran’s lap, Mom says, reaching around for it. When we get there, we can call for help!

Who do we devise on calling? Dad asks contemptuously as they representation onto a off-ramp. We don’t know anyone over here. They competence all be crooks!

Wait a minute! cries Buddy’s voice. The police? suggests Mom. Dad grunts. Look during me. I’m a fugitive, remember? Stop! Stop! Buddy is shouting. What were we saying, Buddy? War zone! Go back!

But too late. Everything is floating adult around them. Overhead, bombers and load planes, dismissed on by sepulchral antiaircraft batteries, are drifting by searchlight beams and bursting shells, dropping bombs and parachutists. Let go of a wheel, Dad! Buddy shouts, his coercion creation him sound some-more like a small lady than ever. I’ll expostulate we out of this! On a ground, complicated artillery is shelling a tanks and armored cars rolling by a hull of a stuffing stations and restaurants. And keep your feet off a brake, Dad! Sorry, son. They are surrounded by waves of infantry aggressive one another with grenade and rocket launchers, flamethrowers, submachine guns, missiles. Fighter jets torpedo a battling troops, H2O bursts from inebriated mains, and balls of glow hurl into a atmosphere from oil deposits. The automobile bounces opposite bloody parking lots, races past bursting gas pumps, dodges a acrobatics waste and a low-flying jets, afterwards drops down into a ditch, weaves by a thick forest, splashes opposite a river, climbs a bank, wheels spinning in a mud, and lands finally on a darkened highway. Gran is still snoring with a happy grin on her face.

Where are we? Dad gasps, blinking.

Uh oh. More changes function here during a border, folks! Gotta go! Take over a wheel, Dad! Just keep going true ahead!

Wait, Buddy! Mom begs tearily. Don’t leave us out here!

All that’s left on a bullet-riddled video phone is a staticky rattle. Dad turns it off and starts adult a engine, seeing how wordless a night is.

The moonlit highway behind is eerily empty. No other cars or lights. Mom, firm with fear, is certain they will all be stopped during a limit since of their lapsed visas. Dad is still in his jail coveralls. They will detain him and govern him again. She feels terribly alone.

There’s a hitchhiker adult ahead. Don’t stop! Mom screams.

No, look! says Dad. It’s Sis! He pulls over and she slides in, Gran creation room with a exhausted call and uncapping a whiskey bottle again.

Sis leans brazen between a seats and kisses Mom on a cheek. You alright, Mom? No! she bawls. Have we been in jail, Dad?

A impulse of darkness, Dad says mysteriously.

I had to wear one of those orange jumpsuits until my husband’s friends flew a helicopter into a jail we was in and carried me out. They’re unequivocally comfortable. we consternation if they sell them during a mall.

You were married! Mom gasps.

Well, arrange of. Until a rivalry came and took a male divided to be shot, or whatever. With me, they usually wanted to have a party.

Good grief! Are we pregnant?

Oh, Mom…

They pass a sealed traveller bureau with a damaged window on a other side of a road. There are military cars over there, their blue lights solemnly wheeling, nonetheless it’s pestilent wordless and there is no one to be seen. It’s like someone has incited off a sound system, Sis observes. Mom, still tears softly, thinks it looks like a museum installation. Nothing living. At slightest we’re going a right direction, Dad says cheerfully.

They strech a border, nonetheless usually sparse papers and a few empty posts remain. Somebody is sitting alone on one of a posts personification a video game. It’s Buddy! He waves during them. Where’s a limit crossing? Dad asks. They came and took it away, Buddy says, crawling into a backseat beside Gran. They pronounced it was on a wrong road. Are we alright? Mom asks, perplexing not to scream. I’ve been laid off, Mom. They pronounced they’d be in touch.

They told me that, too, Sis says. Do we consider it’s usually a line?

They cranky into late afternoon fever and shortly they are pushing by light trade down a balmy highway, streamer for home, pieces and pieces of a new automobile descending off as they hurl along. Dad whistles a small tune. Everything is informed now, and so, being familiar, passes nonetheless notice. we know where we am, Mom says, her eyes closed, nonetheless I’m still lost. Back to a vast confusion pills, if a neighbors haven’t taken them.

They have. Everything is left solely a cruise table. Even a wall switches and a lightbulbs. The toilet paper holders. Maybe withdrawal a cruise list was dictated as a kindness.

Dad changes out of his jail jumpsuit into his pajama pants and white shirt, and he and Sis go for carryout, sodas, and a integrate of six-packs with Gran’s money. Mom is stationary on a wooden vital room building when they return, so they lift her out and set her on a cruise list in a twilit backyard, open a beers. The katydids acquire them. That outing was cool, Buddy says. It was all so real, Sis says, nonetheless like some-more than real, so not genuine during all. Augmented, Dad says, nonetheless usually to himself. What happened? asks Mom from a table. Where am I? It’s all a blur…

We went for a float in a new car, Gran says. Things happened. Then we came home again.

Mom’s awe is beclouded by bafflement. Her pills are gone. Someone took them.

What did we say, Gran? Sis asks.

Gran smiles, some-more or reduction toothlessly, and raises her whiskey bottle. FAMILY PICNIC! she yells.

This story seemed in a December emanate of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

source ⦿ http://www.vice.com/read/family-picnic-short-story-robert-coover-v23n9

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