Jonah at the Picnic

Jonah is tall, fleshy, some would call him chubby. In stature he appears fully grown, but on close examination, his eyes are downcast, startled, and he relies too much on sly jokes followed up with razor-blip smiles. The latter will literally dart up and out, because a joke or retort will occur to him, and he’ll surface with what he thinks is a treasure. But, like all adolescents, his timing is off. The remark usually enters the conversation like a poorly executed toot from a horn and is two, maybe three beats late. The adults, and this always happens around the adults, the adults must double back and catch him, or gesture wide and laugh.

They laugh. They laugh at missteps, and not always because they’re funny. They laugh and sometimes rock or slap someone else’s knee. They are so fully formed in their bodies. Their mannerisms are secured. Once again, Jonah must be retrieved from shame by an aunt’s touch or an uncle’s half-shake or hand clasp and side-bump. Their responses bring an immense blood rush of shame, followed swiftly by the awareness of love. Thus exposed, Jonah is subsequently led to feel beloved, protected, and guided. The youngest, clumsy thoughtful boy? Perhaps. But as the years pass, the family has come to appreciate and even relish his provocations.

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