Cheeseburger Brown CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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Reaper at the Picnic
A short story from Cheeseburger Brown
Reaper at the Picnic, a short story by Cheeseburger Brown, illustration by Matthew Hemming

PLEASE NOTE: This story contains mild profanity. Reader discretion is advised.


In the spring Sarah came home from school.

North of Huntsville the trees became shorter and the train slowed down, a collective cue for the passengers to begin gathering their kipple and pulling their jackets from the overhead bins. Sarah jammed a dog-eared paperback into her knapsack and put her shoes back on.

Because they were bored or anxious or just herdish the passengers queued up in the aisle even before the train had stopped. Sarah remained in her seat until she became too annoyed by being clipped by the bags of the careless as they milled, then stood up and wormed her way into the line, leaning impatiently first on one leg and then the other.

In her long fingers she fondled the claim check for her electronics: a Motorola music player telephone and a Casio composer with wireless earbuds.

She looked at her name on the check, mentally obscuring her maiden surname and imagining it already transformed. In less than an hour she would be telling everyone the news: on Mike's last leave they had ducked out to city hall in Toronto and, without pomp or fanfare, she had officially become Mrs. Cuthburtson.

Mom was going to shit.

Sarah stepped out of the car and on to ground which felt faintly as if it were moving. She lugged her knapsack while she used one thumb to tab through her text messages, squinting and tilting her phone away from the glare as she stepped out of the train's shadow.

Like all public spaces, the station was both charmed and eerie by the notably missing demographic of those overseas. They said conscription applied to both sexes equally, but it was the men who seemed to have born the brunt of the vanishing. Or maybe their absence just stood out more.

The crowd was all kids, women, seniors. And students.

Students were still safe.

Proceed to the next chapter of this story.

CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah Cheeseburger Brown
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