(This was as far as we got unpacking the basket when the Beagle and his Human walked by the 1st time!)
Unfortunately, due to the diet of worst-case-scenarios, my subconscious fed my waking mind all day. Wood and I arrived at Remembrance Park ninety minutes earlier than anticipated. Add to that the number of dogs who apparently called this neighborhood home, Wood and I discovered a few more people lurking in and around the pocket-sized park than expected.
All of whom eyed our plethora of provisions warily – the humans, not the dogs – the pooches didn’t bother to give us more than a passing sniff.
Due to the aforementioned number of canines out on their nightly constitutional, Wood and I wordlessly bypassed the park’s fringe of grass and set our supplies on the single picnic table it offered to its patrons.
By the time I’d inflated the solar camping lanterns, using my mighty lung power, Wood had finished disseminating the acrylic blankets between our persons and the table. And one nosey neighbor worked up enough nerve to lazily paraded his beagle past us.
The Beagle’s Companion (pointedly glancing at his watch): “Evening.”
Me (giving him a friendly smile): “Evening.”
Wood, ignoring everything other than the nibbles, started making quiet nummy noises over the wax wrapped sandwiches, cartons of sides, and thermoses of coffee inside the hamper. From the corner of my eye, I watched the Beagle lead his Companion around the base of the statue, past a trashcan, and behind the diminutive gazebo. (While endeavoring to keep Wood from spooning all the baked beans onto his plate.) By the time the two reemerged on the other side, we’d finished doling out our spectacular spread.
The Beagle’s Companion (craning his neck ever so slightly to take in our heaving table): “Evening.”
Wood (bobbing his head): “Evening.”
The Beagle, apparently annoyed at the lackadaisical pace, strained against his leash towards the street. No longer occupied by laying the table and unable to face my plate or wait until the dog & his human walked out of sight, I wobbled off the bench.
Me (gathering up our debris): “You start, I’m going to get this out the way.”
Wood, who’d just taken a sizable bite of a chocolate cupcake, nodded.
Putting my feet on auto-pilot. I followed the line the Beagle took around the statue to the trashcan, using my Knack to scan for the lingering Vita leftover from the unknown Errant’s Flare. What I read left me torn between engaging in a wild bout of weeping or succumbing to a fit of giggles.
Either way, the knots in my stomach slackened.
Disposing of my handful of detritus in the trash, I continued around to the back of the dainty gazebo, pulling up only after I lost sight of Wood and the Beagle’s overly interested Companion. Working quickly, I pulled the pen knife out of my pocket and used its keen edge to prick both my thumbs. Stepping into the shadowy interior, carefully crossing its creaky floor, I paused for a moment at the park-side entrance to give the thread of lingering Vita a quick tug.
Me (my exhaled words bellowing in the cold air): “Abraham, please meet me here tonight.”
Pressing my bloody thumbs on the posts on either side of the entrance, I set the beacon. Finished, I danced a happy half jig all the way back to the picnic table.
Wood (turning in his seat at the sound of my shoes scuffing across the pavement, shot me a grin): “If we start dancing underneath the full moon, someone will definitely call the cops on us.”
Me (sitting down at the table): “Okay, no dancing.”
(Thankfully, Wood chose not to question what I cut my thumbs on – he just passed me his travel-sized first-aid kit.)
Wood (piecing on the morsels left on his plate): “So how did you plan on passing the time until your guy arrives? I assume you brought something in those bags…”
Me (replying thickly between bites of potato salad): “Parlor games.”
Wood: (in mock disappointment): “Parlor games? You invite me out for a spot of midnight Moon Bathing, and you brought tiddlywinks? Wow, Morticia….”
Me (grinning around a bite of bacon/beef/elk meatloaf sandwich): “Never fear Dourwood Utley I’ve devised something more diverting than tiddlywinks for you.”