No Mere Walk in the Park

by Carl D. Orr

It was a beautiful day for a picnic. The sun beat down, occasionally mitigated by a cotton-ball cloud drifting across the sky. Bobby dropped his basket near the bottom of the hill near the creek. His titanic 350-pound frame appeared no less burdened by losing the weight of his cargo. Floundering on the grass, he spread a blanket, and began unloading.

Bobby's weight problem, and his lack of friends, was caused by his passion for cheese. Block after block, wedge after wedge, came out of the basket. Gouda, Swiss, raclette, Brie with almonds, Monterey Jack, some Mexican "queso fresco" he had picked up at a hispanic grocery, feta, a tub of port wine, top quality Wisconsin sharp cheddar, and a full two-pound box of Velveeta. A French baguette and a quart bottle of Miller Lite made Bobby's afternoon complete. Upon unloading the cheese, he encountered a full smoked ham at the bottom of the basket. Funny; he hadn't remembered packing that. He couldn't even remember buying it. No matter. Out it came.

Bobby tucked a napkin under his mammoth chin. Now, to start with, the international appeal of the Swedish raclette, or go with the classics? After much deliberation, Bobby decided cheddar would have to suffice. And he began eating.

At the top of the hill, Rupert and Felicia were finishing a somewhat more orthodox spread. Rupert belched loudly as he stood. "Gotta go make my bladder gladder," he said as he lumbered toward a copse of trees. Felicia sighed as he walked away; he was so crass, so unromantic, and yet she hungered for him so.

One of the great things about being a guy, Rupert thought to himself. The world is your bathroom. Amidst the trees, going about his business, he noticed a plastic barrel placed under a shrub. Funny place for a trash can, he thought, nobody would know it's here to use it. Having completed his mission, he decided to move the barrel to a better location. Do a public service, he thought.

Much to his surprise, the barrel was no trash can. There was a lid on it, and it apparently contained some sort of liquid. Rotating it bit by bit, he managed to move it away from the trees into the clear. Out of curiosity, he opened it. The barrel contained a thick, brownish liquid, with a stench approximating formaldehyde that almost dropped Rupert on the spot. He reeled from the aroma. The bizarre chemical had a disorienting effect on him...he wandered almost blindly back into the trees, wondering where he was...then he realized he was being attacked by small animals that no one else could see. Snakes nipped at his ankles, opossums clung to his back, his pants were full of eels and fish, a barn owl gripped his head with its talons and refused to let go. He screamed in terror and bolted back toward the clearing. Chasing imaginary flies with his open hands, Rupert knocked over the barrel. Its contents flowed. The fumes finally overwhelmed him, and he fell. Into the viscous brown fluid, and he rolled down the hill. Directly towards Bobby, who was finishing his Velveeta.

Felicia was beginning to wonder what had happened to Rupert when she heard him shout. She looked up to see him rolling down the hill, through a spillway of brown slime that had apparently come from the downed plastic barrel. She screamed his name as she jumped up and attempted to run to his aid. She was met there by the drastic shape of Bobby, clutching the smoked ham which he had decided would be his dessert. "Ewwwww! What's that smell?!" he whined nasally.

Cautiously, she moved away from the strange man and his ham. She didn't want any trouble. Something had happened to Rupert, and that was bad enough. Just then she heard a strange gurgling noise, and she turned to where Rupert had landed in a heap. The brown ooze was having some strange effect on his body...he rose from his fetal position, babbling incoherently and increasing in volume. The ooze was eating away at his clothing, and turning his skin a mottled brown and white. His eyeballs were bulging out of his head, and held an almost inconceivable mania. "Hrahhh... brahh... hahhh... WWWWRRRREEAAAAHHH!!!" His mumblings increased to a shriek, and he lunged for Felicia, clearly intending to strangle what he saw as an eight-foot tall carrot in samurai garb brandishing a machete.

At that moment, Bobby did the first brave thing he had ever done in his pathetic life. He stepped forward and belted the monster Rupert had become with his ham. And in that particular moment of bravery, he also had his first instance of good luck ever. He managed to clock Rupert just hard enough, just in the right location on the side of the head, to knock him out. A park maintenance man was passing on his lawn mower, and called the authorities on his walkie-talkie.

Rupert was admitted to the hospital, and had to be restrained for a time, but eventually regained his senses. The skin discoloration remained permanent, however. Felicia realized what a jerk Rupert was, and fell in love with Bobby for his selfless act. Instilled with confidence by Felicia's affections, Bobby lost 175 pounds and opened a cheese shop, which eventually became a gigantic multinational corporation. Bobby and Felicia got married, and were filthy rich.

The moral of the story: If you find a mysterious ham in your possession, don't complain. It might just change your life.

All rights retained by the author, thank you very much.