Brief Picnic with Flannery O’Connor

I was hopping the boulders at Belmont Street Harbor thinking about my life and doubting I would ever be a great artist, or even a good one, when I saw Flannery O’Connor eating a sandwich, legs dangling at the water’s lip.

I must have appeared disconsolate and she invited me to join her. She offered me a baloney and cheese with yellow mustard and chicory coffee from her thermos. I was famished from all my anxiety about the future so I accepted.

I mentioned what was burdening me. I’m an artist, not a therapist she reminded, so we changed the subject and talked about hidden maladies, unpleasant women who were irresistible, and the resurrection.

It was a beautiful warm day and as we watched the sailboats, the swimmers and their dogs enjoying the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan, the mushroom cloud appeared to the north.

Well, its about time she said, although I don’t know why they picked Milwaukee over Chicago. I agreed it was an odd choice. Who can comprehend the machinations of power I added, and we both laughed.

When the shock wave and heat blast swept through, the boats capsized, the swimmers sank, the lake boiled, and I thought it was a shame about all those dogs.

I never contemplated prophecy could be so unfulfilling. O’Connor touched me, all awkward tenderness, and whispered, I suppose this is the day that we’ve all been waiting for, but don’t worry, revenge and atonement sing to one another, like young peacocks. One is a psalm, the other a gospel.

There are no wise or good men, even the lame are depraved. We have only hallucinations designed by barbarians who use salvation to distract us from the savage parade. Art is a placebo. Hidey holes and camouflage are our only tools.

Then she was gone, but she left her sandwiches. Three children with singed hair and smoking books still in their hands approached and wordlessly tore into the scraps, devouring them whole, straight off the rocks, like catfish shoveling mud. 

The children stared at the water, with its bodies and broken boats. They were not afraid, no one could touch them. They were globes of glass that hold all the loneliness, the games and the monsters, as well as unblemished snow to blanket and silence them. 

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