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Rebekah Pahr

Pirates and Pizzas

We catch our uncle as he saunters up the driveway like an Aaron Copeland cowboy.  My sister and I tumble out the front door, leggy limbs flying, tangled up with the dog that is just as delirious with glee, howling a welcome that echoes our own excited shouts.
      Last time he came, we tracked tigers in the field.  Slow and stealthy, low to the ground, triumphantly announcing the tiger paw prints spotted in the sandy patches.  Sometimes, he explains, it’s good to take a break so that we don’t get too close to the tigers.  We pause in the wide sunshine space on the top of the pear tree hill with the best view.  He stops to smoke behind us and tells us to turn and watch the sky for alien spaceships that he says, prefer to land in spots like these.  Clouds drift over the sun casting round slow shadows onto the grassy expanse – we are sure it’s a space ship hovering, waiting to pull us up toward the cloud castles.   
      The best game by far, is playing hide and seek with the dogs.  All the thorns, poison ivy, and wood ticks are worth hiding from them.  He waits until they are far ahead, oblivious to us, reveling in unleashed field freedom, chasing deer or rabbits, and we hope, not the tigers.  Then we plunge into the dense jungle spots to hide, hearts pounding, sweaty palms clenched, waiting, sucking in our breath.  Suddenly aware that we are missing, ears perked, noses to the ground, agitated, they search for us; darting back and forth across our foot prints.  They pick up our scent and root us out from the juniper, covering us with reproachful smelly kisses and imploring silently with their brown-marbled eyes.  Wagging feathery tails, they trot off, satisfied that the world is right again.  I don’t think they like playing hide and seek as much as we do. 
      Today, he announced, he would take us to the go-carts.  As my sister and I drove away, waving hasty goodbyes to my mom and little brother like after thoughts, he explained that we should probably duck down in the backseat of the car.  Our eyes wide, he continues, “I have to rob the gas station so I can pay for the go-carts and root beer.”  We are scared but know that it’s worth the risk.
      At the gas station by the corner, we watch our daring, reckless uncle leap from the car, blue eyes sparkling, sandy-blond hair waving across his forehead like Owen Wilson.  We adore this uncle of sunny afternoons; he is mostly silent at family functions but never shy around us. He fills the slow coffee time between dinner and desert at Christmas Eve and Easter with thumb wars and Far Side comics.  He also likes Opus; we don’t know why they are funny, but we like the pictures and we love Opus.
      My little sister and I huddle together in the backseat of the car, whispering small frightened thoughts to each other, too afraid to peek out to see what’s happening behind us in the gas station parking lot.
      Swift as Indiana Jones, more skilled than Luke Skywalker, he plunges back into the car, breathlessly shouting over his shoulder, “That was a close call, now you better buckle up – we have to outrun the cops.”  Tires squealing, we pull away, racing down 61, windows open, wind so strong in our faces that it catches at our breath.  Together we evade the police, quick and clever.  
      During the winter, he babysits sometimes.  We eat endless dollar Tostino’s Pizzas, and after that, build forts.  The entire basement is transformed using sheets, cushions, coffee tables and books – we construct fantastic intricate tunnels. My brother is too little to play; he sits strapped in his high chair under the only light we leave on at the foot of the stairs. I pour a mound of Cheerios on his tray to keep him and the dog occupied.  Squeaking like mice, my sister and I scamper into the darkness, balling ourselves small, terrified that he will find us and tickle us until we die.  Die or scream the magic word.
      At Raceway To Fun, we enter a world that only he has the secret password to.  Its endless games, go-carts and the noisy dark arcade filled with teenagers that my mom says we are too young to visit.  The bumper boats sit in a brilliant, too blue pool that sparkles like a tropical cove, cool and wet in the summer heat.
      After a wait that seems eternal, longer than Sunday morning service, it’s our turn at last.  I am buckled into a go-cart, big enough now to drive by myself down the black snaky track.  The carts idle and whine like angry sewing beetles, gasoline coats the air, strong and smoky.  The man who buckles me in looks the same age as my uncle but he has tattoos laced around his wiry arms.  His long hair smells of swamp weeds and sun.   I wish for a moment that I could ride with my uncle like my little sister, whose legs are still too young to reach the pedals.  Racing around the curves, squeezing the worn steering wheel, trying to remember which pedals to push I feel grown-up, and wise.   I know everyone waiting in line is amazed at my speed as I drive, zipping past their dazzled eyes.
      Later, at the drive-up A&W next door, we eat burgers and drink root beer floats.  The root beers foams over the glass mugs spilling onto the concrete under the picnic table, where the flies buzz and gobble at it greedily.  The ice cream, smooth and crystallized in spots, slides down our throats – a sweet summer-only treat.
      Before one sad naptime, my mother gently explained that we cannot marry our uncle.  But one day we know that we will fall in love with someone just like him – that cuts the regret a little.  Someone crossed with Luke Skywalker and Owen Wilson who will take us on adventures like my Uncle does.  
      It’s the most glorious golden August afternoon, brought to life by my dashing, magical, gas-station robbing uncle who is busy at college, he says, leaning forward over his root beer, “where I am studying to become a pirate.” 

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Rebekah Pahr is a current Metro State student who is planning to complete her degree in Technical Communications with a minor in Studio Arts.  Rebekah loves to paint and write in her spare time and is usually inspired by her childhood memories. When she was young she wanted to become Peter Pan. Now she is looking forward to a degree - after that her goal is to move to Key West for a year to paint on the beach.