Buck, my biological father, the Faker, Mom calls him, frowns at my Dad and me. I board his new boat. The lake laps under our feet. I squint at Dad, undoing the bow line. He climbs aboard, sits beside me and stares off.
Buck swings the boat about.
‘Beer’s in the cooler.’ Buck sets course.
Dad sips his beer. ‘It’s gonna be a windy afternoon.’
I crawl into the rear seat, gaze into propeller foam. Our wake slithers like a fat lizard’s tail.
‘What happens to the fish when we zoom over them?’ I ask my Dad. ‘Killed? Or maimed?’
He shrugs, drinks more beer.
‘They dive deep down,’ he nods at the murky lake, ‘where danger can’t reach them. Then wait for it to pass.’
Dad’s tan arm grazes mine.
Up front, the Faker’s head bobs. Rock music clamors against the wind, the slapping hull.
My Dad cups my ear. ‘Bob Seger. Katmandu... your Mom’s favorite!’
Buck slows the boat, points its bow towards a shallow cove. Dad ties us off to a stump. Buck and I lug the cooler and three Fish Master chairs onto the beach. I begin unfolding one of the chairs.
Buck lolling. ‘Don’t set them up yet. Best fishing spot’s over the hill.’
Dad comes over with a fresh beer and a bottle of Squirt.
‘Here you go.’
Winks like he’s the Terminator. Smashes the aluminum can between his palms.
‘I’ll be back.’ His claw arms rise menacingly. Sunlight reflects off his worry lines.
‘I’m having fun.’
He turns and plods across the sand.
Buck’s arms flag in feigned exaggeration. Dad rotates back as if he’s forgotten something.
‘Come on, junior.’
With my pole and their chairs, I follow.
Ahead, tattooed limbs cradle rods, Faker’s blue Coleman cooler, sweaty beer cans. Parroting laughter as we trod the narrow footpath. Lagging, I stop, watch a pair of jet skiers bounce across the lake. Engines echo up into the tree-studded hillside, dollops of silence swallowed by heartbeat piston strokes.
They’re waiting up ahead.
That night, a crescent moon shimmers over black-green hills like an omen. I take cartoon strides across the bruised-looking sand. Count one chair, three poles, bucket of trout.
The Faker and my Dad are quiet. Either mad or drunk? Their big arms hang lazily around the other.
They move closer. Talk low. I hear mumbling.
Then the Faker lunges and tackles my Dad onto the sand. Rolling around, ripping shirts, cussing, slugging. Faker stumbles off. We get aboard the boat.
Crawling away from shore, the cove appears so much smaller than this morning.
On the ride back, I stare at the moon thinking of Dad’s garage. Hand-crushed empties tucked safely behind old paint cans, auto repair manuals, worn-out dress shirts turned into oil rags. He even drinks when he mows the lawn. Mom will be at the kitchen window rinsing a plate or a fork. She’ll be play-acting, squinting into the sudsy dishwater like she sees something only she can see.
BILL COOK resides in a small community within the Sierra Pelona Mountain Range. He has work published in Juked, elimae, Tin Postcard Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Summerset Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in Dzanc's anthology Best of the Web 2009 and upcoming in the New Flash Fiction Review & Monarch Review.