Funny stories in under 500 words.

One Reason to Hate Picnics

Denise shook her head with motherly disapproval before pouring. “What are you doing in here anyway?”

“What do you mean, what am I doing here? I’m drinking.”

“No sweetie, I mean, why are you drinking here, today? I’m used to seeing you on Tuesday nights.” Denise cracked a smile, and set the glass of suds in front of him.

“It is a bar. That’s what people do at bars. Why wouldn’t I be drinking here?”

She rolled her eyes. He was missing the point, but she wouldn’t be a good bartender if she didn’t egg him on. Denise placed her hand on her hip, and continued. “I don’t know, maybe because it’s ninety degrees outside and it’s only three o’clock in the afternoon.”

Carl rose a finger, with one eye shuttering open. This ought to be good. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here. I have to be here. Trust me, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t.” Denise pointed towards the tavern’s door, which was propped open with a phonebook. “I’d be out there, basking in the beautiful sunshine.”

“And what am I supposed to be doing out there?” Carl was a dirty old bastard, but he asked sincerely like a five-year old lost in a grocery store.

“I don’t know. Fly a kite?”

“Not windy enough.” Carl grunted.

“Play Frisbee?” Denise tossed a coaster Carl’s way. She looked up to see a few snickering guests. Bingo. Happy drunks mean happy tips.

Carl snatched it out of the air and placed it under his beer. “No one to play with,” he responded.

“How about a picnic? That’s it—why don’t you go to the park and have a picnic?”

“I fucking hate picnics!” Carl pounded the table.

“Whoa, easy now.” He better not start something. As funny as that’d be, bloody guests are the worst tippers.

“Who hates picnics anyway?”

“I do! I literally just said that. Are you not listening?”

“What I mean is, why do you hate picnics?”

Carl took a gulp of beer. “When I was a kid, my parents took me to the park for a picnic. It was beautiful outside—just like today. I was so excited, having never been on a picnic before. Everything I knew of them was from what I saw on TV—cheeseburgers, potato salad, watermelon, and, ugck, tofu dogs. Then, just as we were about to eat, an entire swarm ants carried everything away forever, even my parents.”

Denise laughed like a Batman villain.

“Why are you laughing?” Carl growled.

“That story about your parents being carried off by ants—it’s just funny is all.”

“Well, it’s not that funny. Because it’s true.” Carl’s eyes began to water as he stared down into his now empty glass. “It actually happened. There must have been a million of those six-legged demons.”

Denise rested her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry buddy. I thought you were kidding around.”

“Well, I wasn’t.”

Denise was hard as a rusty nail, but her eyes swelled the sight Carl sobbing. “It must be hard losing your parents.”

After a few bouts of emotion in his sleeve, Carl sat up, and wiped his face with a cocktail napkin. “Oh, me hating picnics has nothing to do with losing those damn vegan hipsters. I hate picnics because the only thing those ants left was those damn tofu dogs. Nearly starved walking to KFC.”

Denise threw a napkin at his head, and the bar erupted in laughs. Best tips she’d ever gotten off a Tuesday afternoon shift.

This story was written by Jon Penfold. Jon is the author of The Road and the River: An American Adventure, which tells the true story of his travels across the United States by bicycle and down the Mississippi River by canoe. His short stories have been featured in numerous anthologies. For more of his writing, please visit


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