One Last Summer Barbeque
Art by Paul Rios
The other day was a beautiful day. One of those days when summer meets fall, or as I like to refer to it as…Sumfall. The sun was out and not a cloud in sight. There was a cool breeze on the wind that helped keep the scorch of the sun to a minimum. It was the kind of day perfect for one last summer family Barbeque and that’s exactly what my family was doing. Hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, a fresh cob salad, freshly squeezed lemonade and some warm apple pie straight out of the oven for dessert. An awesome summer spread for an awesome end of summer day.
My dad was tending to the Barbeque, flipping the burgers and turning the dogs, making sure every piece of meat was cooked evenly and all the way through. He used a charcoal Barbeque, he didn’t believe in that propane shit. To my dad, propane’s about the worst thing for any Barbeque, a sheer disrespect to the art that is Barbeque. He loves the control and the way charcoal gives a smoky flavor to anything that touches his grill. He’s a grill master and he’s damn proud of it.
My mom was setting the picnic table with all the proper utensils and place settings. There would be no paper plates, plastic cups or plastic utensils. My mom’s a perfectionist, everything has to be beautiful and to her, beautiful means perfect. She laid out your stereotypical red and white checkerboard tablecloth, wicker placemats, with red cloth napkins, shiny silverware, white ceramic plates and serving dishes and glass drinking cups. My mom’s barbeque setups are something straight out of a magazine, picture perfect.
My sister and I were playing on our old slide and swing set, don’t ask me why. Probably just because we could. We were each daring the other to see how high we could go. We kept going higher and higher. I’m pretty sure I could have kicked the sky. Unfortunate for me, my tiny sister kept swinging higher and I was getting somewhat upset that I couldn’t outdo her. I guess there’s not much of an advantage to bigger people–not that I’m big by any means–plus I’m pretty sure my swing was too old and most obviously defective.
My sister was in mid gloat when our mom called out, “Dinner time kids!”
Both my sister and I forgot all about our swinging dual and darted to the picnic table to grab some food. Before we could eat, we were led in a prayer, blessing all the wonderous things we have and are grateful for…meh.
After grace, us kids dove into the food, making a bit of a mess to our mom’s dismay. I grabbed my burger, mouth watering, ready to bite into the juicy meat my dad just grilled up. I was in mid bite, my tongue barely having been able to taste this masterpiece, when a terrifying scream tore through the air. We all stopped and stared at one another and then toward the direction the scream seemed to come from. The scream appeared to have come from only a couple houses down.
“Someone must have their TV up too loud,” my dad said with an uneasy smile and an uncertain chuckle.
I went back to taking a bite of my burger and then it happened again, another scream. Normally I would have been pissed that I had been interrupted not once, but twice from being able to eat, but this time the scream didn’t stop. The screaming sounded like Mrs. Maybelle from two houses down. We couldn’t make out what she was screaming about, it seemed to be incoherent gibberish, but it sounded as if she was scared for her life. We sat frozen, just staring toward the direction of the Maybelle’s house. Then more screams came, but these were coming from more directions than just the Maybelle’s. Sheer panic blanketed the picnic table. Among the terrified screams, there were strange moans and rabid snarls that seemed to be chasing the frenzied cries. Probably just dogs getting all riled up from the commotion.
I stood up. I grabbed the knife we were going to use to cut the warm apple pie. I walked over to the fence in the direction of the original screams. As I reached the fence there was a crashing thud that hit the opposite side of where I was standing. Immediately, I jumped back. I froze, hands trembling, sweat running down my face. Taking a couple steps closer to the fence, I tried to see what caused the thud.
The fence splintered and sent me flying back toward the ground. Before I realized what happened, a man pounced on me with speed I didn’t know any human had. Teeth clamped down hard on my right arm, tearing away a thick chunk of flesh. I could see white bone glistening with red. The man’s hands wildly tore at my clothes, ripping and shredding them apart along with my skin, exposing fresh flesh that the man promptly bit into. I could feel a prickly pain surge through my veins, like something was attacking my insides, hunting for my brain. I kicked and flailed trying to fight off this man, while my family sat watching, horrorstruck. I tried with all my might to bring the knife up to the man’s throat. I had to save my family, but I was helpless. The man was too strong. I could feel my body go limp while my mind faded to dark. The last image I remember was my family running away from Mr. Maybelle, scrambling for their lives.
They didn’t get far.