Pirate's Treasure: A Short Story
Horace Hudkinson loved children, but did not want any of his own. He wouldn't know what to tell them, how to advise them to attack life. He could not point to his own life as an exemplar. Not only had he lived a life on the defensive, but, being brutally honest with himself, he had to say that he had scratched out a cowardly existence.
He could not give biological children of his the usual pep talks about "believing" in themselves and "their dreams." He could not tell them that they "can be anything they want to be," that they "can do anything they put their minds to." He could not, in good conscience, tell them to "reach for the stars," to "keep the faith," or "keep hope alive," and so forth.
He could not give such advice. He could not give such urging, because he did not believe it. Horace Hudkinson was way too much of a lifelong, committed structural political and philosophical leftist for that. He did not believe that life was largely driven by individual exertion and daring.
He was unalterably committed to his conviction that life was largely driven by systems and structures; and that individuals made decisions about their lives in the context of relative advantage or disadvantage of race, class, and geography. Right or wrong, valid or invalid, or something in between, such angst did not well-suit for parenting. Parenting requires optimism, especially in America, that life is fair and open, providing all that one wants and all that one needs, if he or she is worthy.
Parenting, as he saw it, requires the ability to say, without hesitation, without doubt, to do this and don't do that, to take this path and not that one, that if you do 'A,' 'B,' and 'C,' your reward will be 'X,' 'Y,' and 'Z.' He was also painfully aware of the fact that parenting, itself, was not free of class biases; there was no universal truths about "best practices" with regard to the rearing of children that were neutral and free of race and class expectations. Depending on where you fell on the race-class scale, you have experienced a certain proportion of life success-to-failure, and based on that you had certain expectations about what was possible and desirable, and this affected the advice you gave to your offspring about what it takes to either survive and/or thrive in life.
Horace Hudkinson was uncomfortable with such ambiguity. Still, he was not the only one. Multitudes of people felt as he did. But they managed to show something for their life spent on Earth. They managed to find ways to cope and move forward in a cold, capitalist world.
And yet, Horace Hudkinson was not, by nature, a morbid man. He loved children and dogs---except for the Pit Bull and Rottweiler breeds, which he regarded as vicious, man-made monstrosities. Never trust anyone who doesn't like children and dogs, was a motto he lived by.
He had fallen into his relationship with Briselda Valencia-Cooper, who was ten years older than he, with three children of her own: Charlotte, 7, Lucy, 8, and Brady, 6: two girls and a boy. His lover didn't supply details and Horace hadn't pressed for them; it was just a fact that the husband and biological father was "out of the picture," and "good riddance," to hear Briselda tell it.
Fine with Horace. No competition from a sainted and martyred 'ex,' whose reputation grows with the duration of his day-to-day absence. Horace didn't mind raising children already come into the world, not sprung from his loins, whose basic personalities had already been established. He could be the gentle, approving, patron spirit. He didn't present an opinion as to life philosophy. Horace avoided unduly influencing the children with his leftist, materialist political and economic philosophy. He simply did his best to facilitate their full enjoyment of their childhood, letting whatever dreams may come, come.
It had been a lazy Sunday afternoon. Horace Hudkinson had been sitting alone at a booth in the Roasted Bean, having a grande cup of black coffee and a toffee muffin. Briselda, more gregarious than he, was there with a group of friends, talking and constantly laughing.
In the fullness of time, her party broke up and she had been left alone. Amazingly, after having apparently spied him, liked what she saw, came over, introduced herself, sat down, and started talking to him.
He had wanted her on sight. But he wouldn't have done anything about it, had she not been proactive. Horace Hudkinson had never, once in his life, taken the initiative on anything. For the life of him, he could not remember what they had talked about. He just knew that he loved the perfume she was wearing---whatever it was called; it didn't matter---and the way it smelled on her. She smelled delicious.
She said, "I thought you were a nice guy, and I was right."
They went back to her house and she took him to bed, after the most perfunctory preliminaries. He was already thinking of the five of them as a family.
"Where're the kinds?" he said.
"At my mother's," she said.
The last thought Horace had, before he switched completely to autopilot, was: "We ought to get a nice dog."
Horace Hudkinson was relatively inexperienced, so much so as to virtually qualify as virginal. Briselda put him on his back, unbuckled his belt, got his pants off, and told him to lie back, relax, and leave the driving to her.
Briselda got Horace a job at the public library, where she worked. She was a shift supervisor or head librarian or something. Everybody knew they were dating, and the move, therefore, smacked of nepotism.
But Briselda just did not care. She was something of a tyrant on the job, who did as she pleased; and no one dared challenge her. Everyone has their faults; and Horace had to admit, he was strangely titillated whenever she chose to judiciously transfer her tyrannical behavior to the boudoir.
They had come to rest along the hiking trail. The kids were rousing Horace now. They let him know that he had been brooding or thinking or being sad or whatever he had been doing, staring unseeingly straight ahead, long enough.
Were they treasure hunting or were they treasure hunting?
They were treasure hunting.
Back on the move again, the kids were wearing their scarves on their heads, their eye patches, and waving around their little cardboard swords. Horaced manned the metal detector, slowly swinging it left to right.
The four of the said, "Harr, matey!" a lot, like pirates do. Lucy, the oldest child, fed imaginary crackers to the imaginary parrot, sitting on her shoulder, like pirate captains do.
When it was all said and done, the pirates had come up with a pretty good haul. They were back home now, digging a hole in the backyard, to bury the treasure, like all self-respecting raiders of the sea do, keeping it safe from dirty scalawags who might try to steal it when they weren't looking.
Briselda came home holding a bag of groceries, asking them what they were doing.
Burying the treasure, they told her. "Harr!"
"Mates!" Horace said. "I think your mother needs help with the groceries. Harr!"
"No, that's alright. I can manage. Please, don't let me interrupt."
The pirates had had a spectacular day. Raided a Spanish galleon, packed with gold doubloons. They had had to kill a whole lot of men. The sea ran red with blood and all that. But what are you going to do? They were fearsome, bloodthirsty pirates. "And this is how we do," Horace told his lover, later that night.
One Saturday afternoon four months later, while the kids were with their grandparents, Horace put on his scarf and eye patch, and told Briselda to come with him, as he had something to show her. He made a show of carefully consulting the 'X' marks the spot, Crayola-drawn treasure map prepared by his three ship's mates, and took her to the spot in the backyard where the treasure had been buried.
Horace dug it up, said "Harr!," opened the chest, and dug about for a ring. He held it up to the sunlight, said, "Harr!" again, and put it on Briselda's finger. He asked her to marry him.
She twittered, started to cry, bobbed her head up and down, said 'yes,' and hugged him.
The cheap ring was already starting to turn her finger green.