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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Activity · #2262324
A fourth of July picnic with some missing ingredients leads to love.
Kevin poked through the contents of his cooler in growing frustration—where on earth was the ground beef? He had offered to make All-American Hamburgers for the July 4th picnic. He had onions, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, American cheese slices, all the rest. But no ground beef. He was going to look like an idiot at his first family gathering in fifteen years.

“Marion,” he said to his second cousin at the other end of the picnic table, “I seem to have mislaid the ground beef. Can I run to a store to pick some up?”

“Sorry, Kevin. You wouldn’t get back in time for supper. We’ll just have to figure something out.”

Marion was glad to have Kevin there. She’d had a heavy crush on him when they were ten years old. Then Kevin’s family had moved away and they’d lost track. Now, he was back, looking as good as ever, taller, more muscular, more mature. And the way she felt when he smiled at her made her realize some of that puppy love was still snuggling in her heart.

“Oddly enough, I’m missing an ingredient, too.” Her contribution to the picnic was Buffalo Grilled Corn-on-the cob, but she couldn’t find the hot sauce. “Where on earth have I put the hot sauce? It just won’t be buffalo corn without hot sauce.” Kevin grinned at her, stirring little flutters in her tummy.

To distract herself, she looked around. Everything else seemed to be going okay, with people bustling about and setting out their contributions to the picnic supper.

For drinks, Dad had set up a cooler full of ice with beer for the adults and sodas for the kids. Delcie was making a new recipe, Firecracker Milkshakes, a concoction that looked like red flames shooting up through blue sky into fluffy whipped-cream clouds. Marion thought they looked icky-sweet, but still looked forward to sampling one.

Mom had the potato salad under control. Her contribution was always a delicious complement to the burgers and hot dogs. Aunt Julie had set out her home-made dill pickles and bread-and-butter-pickles. Cousin Mike had put bowls of potato chips and other munchies next to the spud salad, then taken off to jump in the creek. Mom stood guard, slapping hands when kids tried to dip into the snacks before dinner was ready. She scooted them back to go splash in the creek until they were called.

Marion could smell burning charcoal. She ran to put her corn cobs on to grill, since they’d take longer than the wieners, then returned to Kevin. They somehow had a little island of privacy in the swirl of family conversation and hi-jinks.

“I feel so stupid, forgetting the main ingredient of a hamburger,” he confessed.

“Well, yeah, noodle-head. You always did have less brains than a guppy.”

He laughed, “Nobody’s called me a noodle-head since we moved away. Besides, worm-brain, guppies are smart little fishies. And who are you to call me a noodle-head? You’re the one who forgot the hot sauce!”

Marion enjoyed the banter, feeling the comfort of an old relationship spiced with the warmth of something new.

“You know, I didn’t realize until now just how much I’ve missed you,” he said. The gleam in his eye told her he was feeling a little spice too.

“Hey, Marion, how about this? When Dave gets the wieners grilling for hot dogs, I’ll put the hamburger buns on to toast. I’ll add the cheese and melt it. Instead of burgers, we’ll have All American Grilled Cheese Sandwiches."

"That sounds like a plan. But what can I do about my un-buffalo corn? I always do a few plain, but most like ‘em spicy."

"Would chili sauce work? I have chili sauce. And Worcestershire sauce."

"Might work. We'll give it a try."


When everyone gathered to eat, there was a lot of laughter at Kevin’s expense, but people enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwiches. Everyone admired Delcie's colorful milkshakes and the kids slurped them down with gusto while gobbling Dave’s hot dogs. Mom's potato salad was a hit as usual. As for the buffalo grilled corn, nobody seemed to notice the substitution, though Dad commented that "they seemed hotter last year."

After supper, in the gathering dusk, Dad and Mike set off fireworks in the meadow adjacent to Spencer Creek. Kevin and Marion found a spot where the brilliance in the sky was reflected in the creek, and sat holding hands. She leaned her head on his shoulder.

"It's so nice to have you back, Kevin," she said.

"It's great to be back. It seems we're the missing ingredients in each other’s lives."


The Recipes:
All American Hamburgers - https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/all-american-hamburgers/
Classic Potato Salad - https://www.foodiecrush.com/how-to-make-the-best-potato-salad/
Firecracker Milkshake - https://www.readyseteat.com/recipes-Firecracker-Shakes-9606
Buffalo Grilled Corn - https://www.seriouseats.com/grilled-corn-buffalo-recipe
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