Newton's Picnic

His Father led their way out of the forest after their hike. It was hard to keep up with him, even more so as he saw the clearing. He even let a stray branch swing back to hit João in the face. João rubbed his forehead and looked up just as his Mother smiled widely from across the clearing and motioned them to the picnic table. The ornate table sat at the base of a massive stone ledge that jutted out like a wilting leaf over the picturesque valley.

His parents had spoken often of their hikes and fancy picnics on this exact rock. They had fallen in love on this mountain and had hinted on too many occasions that they had conceived João up here. His parents also often lamented how work and parenthood prevented such leisurely excursions these days. Even though he had seen plenty of photos, this was his first time here.

His mother beamed with pride and motioned them to the table. It looked magnificent. She had been setting it up before since before he and his Father had started on their crazy hike. A massive plate of lamb sat as the centerpiece of the small, but perfectly appointed table. Small covered dishes crowded the place settings. João was disappointed to see that his Mother had set his place with his back to the valley.

They all took their seats. As he moved his chair out from the table, he noticed the ease with which it glided on the smooth, aged surface of the slab. His parents sat facing each other. His Mother raised a glass of wine, quickly followed by his Father. João picked up the small glass milk in front of him.

"To family!" His Father shouted. The toast echoed across the valley, and João felt his chair slip backward just a little.

As he leaned forward to toast his parents, his chair slipped back again on the rock. He frowned and leaned further out, but his chair slid back, and his glass didn't meet his parent's. His Father furrowed his brow.

"After all the work your mother did for this picnic, you won't even toast? Stop joking around Jo."

João reached forward again, and his chair slipped back again. His Mother took a sip from her glass and then stared into her lap pulling at the fringe of her napkin.

"I'm sorry Father, but my chair keeps slip..." but even as João spoke his chair slipped further back. He stopped talking.

His Father shook his head in disgust, took the full glass of wine in a single gulp and poured himself another.

"Well that's just fine!" he shouted. His Mother reached over to stroke his Father's arm, but he jerked it away. Wine spilled from his glass creating a red splatter on the pale rock face.

João tried to get up out of the chair to move it back toward the table, but it slipped under him as his weight shifted. Looking over his shoulder at the deep valley behind him, he sat carefully back into his seat. He watched as his Mother made up the plates and passed them around. She lay his plate down in front of him, and his father stared him down with eyes that may as well have been looking for a weapon.

The table now seemed miles away, but João thought if he cautiously, slowly reached out, he could grab his plate. His chair lost purchase and slipped back even further, and he dropped his hands carefully to his side.

"Oh! That's great! What a joker everyone!" His Father boomed, "So you won't even eat the food your mother worked so hard on?"

His Mother grabbed his Father by the arm. "Don't ruin it. Please. It's been such a nice day. He's just having another episode is all."

João tried to protest, but his Father's voice flushed the birds from the trees. "Me ruin it? Me?!"

At this point, João's chair was steadily slipping backward no matter what he did or how still he tried to be. As a last ditch effort, he attempted to ask for help, but his arguing parents were too loud and too far away to hear him. He could barely even make out the details of his Father's stern face. He looked back over his shoulder at the quickly approaching ledge.