Gethsemane Picnic Time

One vile broiling August afternoon, Blodgett sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Ever the wheeler-dealer, he then immediately sold the mess of pottage to a wealthy fool for thirty pieces of silver. Blodgett licked his lips and punched the air with his hairy fist. “At last!” he thought, “I have sufficient funds to organise a picnic in the Garden of Gethsemane!”

Blodgett travelled thither by hot air balloon. He was accompanied by his next door neighbours at the time, a peevish couple who rarely spoke directly to each other but babbled incessantly at Blodgett, who eventually stuffed cotton wool into his ears. For all his faults, Blodgett was a singularly honourable fellow, and he felt a sense of obligation to Mr and Mrs Fagash for a favour done to him long ago, though he could no longer remember what it was. Thus he was able to kill two birds with one stone, as they say, by fulfilling a personal picnicking ambition at the same time as repaying a moral debt by providing a treat for an elderly impoverished couple.

The picnic hamper was an exact replica, scaled down, of the balloon basket. The wicker of which both were woven had even come from the same wicker factory. Blodgett had stocked the hamper before the voyage with much provender from his favourite picnic supplies shop. Without bothering to quiz Mr and Mrs Fagash on any dietary preferences they may harbour, he had spent some of his pieces of silver on sausages and lemonade and sandwich paste and pork scratchings and flan and jam and buns and sultanas and mashed potatoes and raw liver and meringue and plums and milk. The threesome took it in turns to keep flies away by waving fans, of the same wicker as the hamper and the balloon basket. Flies, they knew, would find a way to wriggle through the tiniest gaps in the wickerwork.

If it had been vile and broiling back at home, it was even more vile and more broiling in the Garden of Gethsemane when their balloon basket thumped to earth. Blodgett himself broke out in a sweat so deep it was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, like Christ. Hearing a series of bangs from inside the hamper, he realised the sausages were exploding. Mrs Fagash, who was a devout Catholic, suggested they seek shelter from the sun in the misnamed Grotto of the Agony, and as they staggered towards it, she explained the misnomer, dating back to the removal of a stone in the fourteenth century. Blodgett found it hard to follow what she was saying, and resolved to consult a reference work when he returned home after the picnic. He was beginning to wonder how sinful it would be to abandon Mr and Mrs Fagash in the grotto and make the trip back alone.

In all the years he had dreamed of this picnic, Blodgett never envisaged that he would find himself sitting in a dark cave eating raw liver in the company of a pair of scowling geriatrics. Even the lemonade had gone flat, due to a bottling mishap. As he chewed and glugged and swatted away flies, he reflected that perhaps he would have been better not to sell his mess of pottage, which even now the wealthy fool would be lapping up in the cool luxury of a shaded arbour. And he further reflected that it might have been better never to have sold his birthright for the mess of pottage in the first place. For what had he gained?, what had he gained?

It was this thought, as gloomy as the gloom of the grotto, that was bloating in Blodgett’s brain when, inside the hamper, the last unexploded sausage exploded with a mighty bang. Birds scattered from the branches of the olive trees outside.

“Forgive me, Mr and Mrs Fagash, for I know not what I do,” blurted Blodgett. He stood up, flicked crumbs from his person, and sprinted out of the Grotto of the Agony across the garden to the hot air balloon. He clambered into the basket and set the burners roaring, and very soon he was aloft, and he sailed away into the blue.

Source : Picnics Of Disillusionment by Dobson (out of print)

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