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.