When I was in college, my girlfriend Lily brought me to her parent’s house for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t met Lily’s dad, Ron, before but I knew he’d recently had a metal plate installed in his head after being attacked by some dolphins in Florida.
“It was at one of those places where you can swim with them,” Lily told me. “He was riding on back of a dolphin named Percy and Percy tossed him and then a dolphin named Buttons smacked him with his tail.”
When we got to the house, Ron was in the kitchen basting the turkey with Lily’s stepmom, Adrienne. We said our hellos and then discussed the unseasonably warm weather. Soon Ron launched into a story about the lawsuit he’d filed against the dolphin swimming place.
“Everyone says they’re so loveable, but they’re cold blooded killers,” he said. “When I was under the water I heard those bastards squeaking instructions to each other about how to end my life.”
Adrienne put her hand on Ron’s shoulder, an effort to calm him.
“I’ve always thought it was a sexual thing,” she said. “I always thought they just wanted Ron to join in their fun.”
We ate Thanksgiving dinner and then Ron fell asleep on the couch. Adrienne sat next to him finishing her crossword puzzle.
“One of my old high school friends, Eric, is throwing a party,” Lily told me as we washed the dishes. “Do you wanna go?”
I didn’t want to go to a party, but Lily and I had almost broken up the week before so I was trying to be fun and agreeable enough that we didn’t break up for good.
“Absolutely,” I said.
Eric’s family had an indoor pool and a small movie theatre in their house. When we got to the party, there were a bunch of people swimming in the pool. Lily found Eric, introduced me. He was a big kid with a goofy smile and a voice that was higher pitched than you thought it should be.
I downed a couple of beers. I wasn’t much of a swimmer, but I took off my shoes and kicked my feet in the water. While I sat there Eric did a cannonball into the pool and a bunch of water splashed on me and soaked my pants.
“Sorry,” Eric said, “Let’s get you some dry clothes.”
Eric found me a pair of sweatpants. I went into the bathroom to change, but when I got out I couldn’t find Lily. I searched around the house for like a half hour, asking if anyone had seen her. I finally found her in the garage, inside a fogged up car, making out with Eric.
“I was going to break up with you when we got back to school,” she told me. “But let’s just save time and do it now.”
I stood there, unable to speak. Eric broke the silence.
“Sorry man,” he said in his stupid, high voice, “she never even mentioned you guys were together.”
I drove back to Lily’s parents house to pick up my duffel bag. I found Lily’s dad in the kitchen, staring at a plate of leftovers.
“Do me a favor and heat up this up for me,” Ron asked. “I can’t get near a microwave with all this metal in my head.”
“Fine,” I told him.
He sat at the table while I warmed up his food.
“Make something for yourself,” he told me. I wanted to leave, but the food smelled good so I loaded up some turkey and gravy onto a plate.
Ron and I sat across from each other at the dining room table. I noticed that every time he took a bite, he closed his eyes and grinned. I asked him why he was eating like that.
“I pretend everything I eat is dolphin,” he told me. “It helps.”
I shoved a forkful into my mouth, shut my eyes. I chewed slowly, pretended that same damn thing.