Tom Hazuka

I Used to Be a Pirate

My future father-in-law squints at me from under a bat­tered Red Sox cap.  “Is it true that it’s nev­er too late to start an exer­cise pro­gram?”

Sure,” I say.

OK, then I’ll wait.”  Ken guf­faws, breasts bounc­ing beneath his I BEAT ANOREXIA T-shirt.

I try to smile.  Ken is just a shade shy of mor­bid­ly obese, and might cross that line by the time this back­yard bar­be­cue is over.  I feel the heat on my neck as an enor­mous, unlucky pig slow­ly revolves on an elec­tric spit.  Horseshoes clank in the pair of pits across the yard.

Cheers, bud­dy.  Welcome to the fam­i­ly.”  Ken extends his beer and I raise mine to meet it; instead of a clink, our coozie-clad cans silent­ly bump foam rub­ber.

It’s great to be here,” I say, shat­ter­ing the com­mand­ment about bear­ing false wit­ness.

Ken cov­ers one eye with his beer.  “Did you know I used to be a pirate?”

Is there any answer I won’t regret?  “No kid­ding.”

Oh, yeah.  My favorite let­ter is ‘RRRR.’”

I know I’m expect­ed to laugh.  I feel my lips curl­ing in awk­ward direc­tions.

My theme song was ‘Yo ho ho and a bot­tle of Tums.’”

I’m doing the math in my head, won­der­ing how many times a year I’ll have to deal with this douche.  How did some­one as cool as Carole pos­si­bly spring from this guy‘s loins?

I grasp at a straw the size of a javelin: maybe he’s just test­ing me.  Maybe he’s check­ing to see if I love his daugh­ter enough to put up with this.

Good one, Ken.”

He leans a lit­tle too close.  “Did you know I’m watch­ing my weight?  I’m watch­ing it increase.” He points to my beer.  “Need anoth­er one?”

No thanks, I’m good.”  I still have half a can of mis­er­able Bud Light.  Carole warned me it’s what Ken would pro­vide, so I brought a six-pack of Sam Adams and added them to the cool­er.  When I returned after my first beer, they were all gone.

Suit your­self.”  He claps me on the shoul­der and stares into my eyes.  “Carole’s a very lucky girl, and so are you.”

I wait for the yucks because he called me a girl.  Instead, his eyes stay locked on mine.  “Promise me you’ll take good care of my baby.”

Definitely.  I promise.”

Who knows how long a fat bas­tard like me will be around, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Ah, come on, you—“

Yeah, I know, I’m in shape.  Round is a shape.”

He releas­es my shoul­der.  “Gotta go drain the drag­on,” he says, voice break­ing behind his grin.

I watch him wad­dle toward the non­de­script house that’s now part of my life.  On the deck in a light blue sun­dress, Carole waves and blows me a kiss, then takes her father’s arm as they walk inside.

Tom Hazuka has pub­lished three nov­els, The Road to the Island, In the City of the Disappeared, and Last Chance for First, as well as a book of non­fic­tion, A Method to March Madness: An Insider’s Look at the Final Four (co-writ­ten with C.J. Jones).  He has edit­ed or co-edit­ed six antholo­gies of short sto­ries: Flash Fiction; Flash Fiction Funny; Sudden Flash Youth; You Have Time for This; A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith; and Best American Flash Fiction of the 21st Century (Shanghai, China).  He teach­es fic­tion writ­ing at Central Connecticut State University.  Links to his writ­ing and orig­i­nal songs can be found at tomhazuka.com.