|White clouds skittered across blue skies, the wind gentle enough to keep the day from becoming too hot and humid. David watched them idly, as they billowed overhead.
Children’s shouts rose up as little boys kicked a ball around in an early game of soccer. Hair flying feet scuffling, the youths dribbled the ball, dodging, and then passing it to their team members. Dads stood on the side line cheering on their teams or shouting out words of advice to their sons, as both teams endeavored to score that elusive goal. Mothers chatted to each other catching up on the week’s gossip, as they shook out their checked table cloths and placed them over brown weather-worn wooden tables. The cloths created a splash of color amongst the browns and greens of the picnic site. Little girls played hop scotch on the permanently marked pathway, whilst others sat on the grass and waited their turn, whispering and giggling amongst themselves.
A dog barked, straining at the leash as his owner took him for a morning stroll along the grass edged path. Two runners jogged by, pacing themselves as they checked their stop watches. Snatches of conversation floated around the watcher….
“Watch the ball, Jimmy!”
“Getting ready for the 40k marathon next Sunday…”
“Don’t forget James is bringing that new girlfriend of his to tea tomorrow, dear,” from an elderly lady being pushed along in her wheelchair, by what looked like her long-suffering husband.
He bided his time sitting on the park bench with the folded newspaper lying on his bent leg, ankle resting on his knee. He could smell the newly cut lawn and vaguely registered the sound of the mower in the distance, but not close enough to be a disturbance. Now and then he would turn his face to the sun, close his eyes to the warm rays on his face, in mindless pleasure as the day progressed. He dozed…
He awoke with a start. He could smell the barbecue fires, smoke billowing into the air. The smell of fat dripping off the grills into the fire tantalized his taste buds, making his mouth water. He licked his lips. He could almost taste the smoky meat.
He sat quietly, looking around though a little more alert now. He assessed the various groups. The men were standing in little clusters around the barbecue fires, drinking cold beers and laughing as they used long forks or tongs to turn the sizzling meat. The ladies were setting out salads, swapping recipes and keeping a watchful eye on the children as they ran between the tables.
“Slow down, Tommy!” called out a woman, dressed in a soft summer dress. She was tall, attractive and she brushed her hair from her face, as she watched the boys running riot. Another woman laughed and said,
”Don’t worry, Janet. They’re just having fun.” She was shorter, plumper but with a pleasant manner. He had already matched her up with her husband, a prematurely balding man who seemed to make more trips to the cooler box than the others. Some of these people were new. He didn’t recall them from before.
Teenagers walked further away, keeping their distance from their families, secret trysts between the girls and boys. The girls were parading in their shorts showing off their pert little bottoms and tiny bikini tops, while the boys’ eyes roved; sweat damp on their lips, whether from the day’s warmth, or their lustful thoughts, he wasn’t sure. Their body language was so clear; he couldn’t believe that the parents of these teenagers hadn’t noticed what was going on beneath their very noses.
His eyes went back to the group of men; this was where his interest lay but it wasn’t time yet. The meat sizzled on the barbecues, and the mouth watering smell of cooking meat made him lick his lips again. He sat upright now, keeping the folded newspaper firmly on his lap. There were no other people walking along the pathway now, the midday sun was not conducive for strolling or jogging. The men started asking for platters now so they could take off the cooked steaks and sausages. Mothers started calling children.
“Wash your hands quickly, Jane and Timothy,” called a red faced woman, the sun making its mark on her fair complexion.
“Andrew, run and call your sister. Where has she gone? I told her not to go too far with Peter,” shouted another woman. Kim, he remembered, that was her name, and it was her daughter that he had noticed had the shortest pair of shorts. He had seen her going behind the public bathrooms with Peter.
He sat up now, still, every sense alert. He could feel the adrenaline racing through him, the perspiration running down his body underneath his shirt. He pulled his cap lower over his eyes. He swallowed, his mouth dry. He would have given anything for one of those ice cold beers. He watched closely as they gathered around dishing up, and then sitting on the long benches at the tables.
He paid close attention to where Paul was sitting, focusing only on him. He had avoided looking at him all this time. He had avoided looking at both of them. He had just been aware of his laughter booming out every now and then. He couldn’t pay too much attention to the two of them. He would have done it there and then, if he had allowed his mind to dwell on him too much. This way was better – much better. If it wasn’t for Paul, Jennifer would still be with him, instead of being there with Paul. His Jen. He gave a stifled sob. No! No! I’m not doing this now! Focus! Focus! He looked around again, noticing that the park was quiet, all the noise and activity centered around the tables.
He rubbed his hand across his forehead; to wipe away the sweat running into his eyes. He needed to be able to see clearly. He could smell the sweat from his body. He half opened up the newspaper, his hands shaking but determined. He could feel the perspiration underneath the surgical gloves. He slipped one hand underneath the newspaper, and felt the smooth cold metal of the gun. He sat there, stroking the metal. It gave him courage and calmed his nerves. He disengaged the safety catch under cover of the newspaper, and lifted it up; taking careful aim at the broad back of Paul’s back so conveniently turned towards him. It was meant to be, he thought, as he pulled the trigger. The gun boomed loudly, and in an attack of panic, he pulled the trigger three more times, before jumping up and immediately scuttling behind the bush situated just behind his bench, not looking. The brief scene played in his mind.
There has been a moment of silence as they heard the sound of the gun, then Paul fell. He has seen enough to know that he has shot Paul. He has seen Paul’s reaction, the jolt before Paul fell sideways. It was the screaming that had made him panic and now he knew he had shot some of the others. They had all reacted, some leapt up towards Paul, and others had thrown themselves down to the ground. The children’s screaming from the other table was shrill and hysterical, as they stood rooted to the spot. He had seen one of the women spin around, then fall back across the table, scattering plates. Then he had moved before they saw him. He pushed the gun under the bush, as far back as he could. It couldn’t be traced back to him. Then he pulled the gloves off and put them into his pocket. He would burn them later. He wiped the sweat from his hands on his jeans as he walked away.
He gloried in the sounds behind him. He exulted. He wished he could look again, but knew he had to get out of there. The route he has planned carried him away so that they couldn’t see him from the tables, not that they would be looking. This is for Jen, he thought. Paul would never touch his wife again. She had left him for Paul, and now Paul would never have her again.
He walked away, the sounds growing fainter. He would get tomorrow’s newspaper in the morning. For now, he would stop at that little bakery on the way home. He had noticed this morning how fresh their doughnuts smelled. His mouth watered in anticipation.