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Teddy Baer's Picnic
About the Author: Steve Liskow's short stories have appeared in Mystery Weekly, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and several anthologies. He has been a finalist for the Edgar and the Shamus Award, and has also published thirteen novels.

Bronwyn Kodiak braces herself for the Afternoon From Hell. Among other things, her tote bag carries a bottle of Zinfandel, a bathing suit, sunscreen, and a bottle of aspirin, and she knows all of them will get heavy use. Her special salsa sits in a Tupperware, and that will go, too.

“Damn.” Easton, her husband, maneuvers among the Jags, Porsches and BMWs already jamming the driveway leading to her father’s six-car garage. “Looks like we’re the last ones here.”

“Dad won’t mind.” Bronwyn doesn’t, either. The vibe already feels uglier than sharks surrounding a bleeding tuna.

  Easton reaches into the back seat for the duffel bag that holds his own bathing suit, towels, and a six-pack of some microbrew the college kids drink—Easton’s forty-two and fighting every second of it. He wears a green and orange pinstripe shirt above distressed cut-offs that still have the plastic thread from the tags. His legs are the color of matchsticks, but less muscular.

Sounds of forced gaiety spill from behind the house, slightly smaller than Sleeping Beauty’s castle on steroids and three times as ugly.

Easton’s smile gives Bronwyn cramps.

“I figure I’m first in line, but I still wish to God there was some way to thin out the competition.” 

I’m working on it. Bronwyn catches herself before she says it out loud.

“I don’t think Dad’s made up his mind yet,” she says. “He’ll see who can suck up to him the most today.”

“But you’re his daughter.” Easton adjusts a Yankees cap over his bald spot. “You’ve already got ten percent of the stock. Together, we could force the issue.”

“I don’t think so, honey bun.” Honey buns, Teddy Baer’s first big hit, bankrolled the second bakery, back when he only weighed one sixty and was still married to Bronwyn’s mother.

They round the corner of the house, and the backyard comes up like a Spielberg jump cut, in-ground pool surrounded by deck chairs and a brownstone patio with a barbecue pit big enough to roast an SUV. A table with three ice chests, five kinds of beer, and enough liquor to stun a platoon stands to the right of the pit. A matching table with plastic plates and utensils, paper napkins, and bowls of salad big as a kid’s wading pool stands to the left. Beyond the pool, the tennis court has two women batting a ball back and forth.

“Brownie! My love!” Lillian Kubb—everyone calls her Lil Kubb even though she towers over the other women and most of the men—throws her arms around Bronwyn and gives her a sloppy kiss that tastes of pinot grigio.

“God, I’ve missed you.”

“Your husband is here, isn’t he?” Bronwyn whispers as she returns the hug, but Easton is putting his beer into an ice chest.

“He is, and he’s already half-buzzed.” Lil’s tan legs reach nearly to Bronwyn’s rib cage.  

Teddy Baer, Bronwyn’s father, five-six and nearly four hundred pounds, waddles between the barbecue pit and the tables. He wears a chef’s hat and a white tee shirt that might have been a movie screen in a past life. Bronwyn disengages from Lil to lead Easton over.

“Happy birthday, Dad.” She puts down her tote and Tupperware, but still can’t get her arms around him.

“Bronwyn,” Teddy wheezes. “How’s my favorite baby girl?”

“Your only baby girl, Dad.”

“Yeah, well, sometimes you do it right the first time.” Dad’s always been a fool for a pretty face and sweet buns. Fortunately, Teddy Baer’s Sweet Delights keeps growing to meet the demands of business and alimony.

“And Easton, you keeping my little girl happy?”

“No worries there, Teddy. I know she’s the best in the world.”

Easton’s voice gives Bronwyn sugar shock.

“Hey, you gotta join in the croquet match later. All the other guys are in, you can’t be left out, nobody wants to be the wuss, am I right?”

Bronwyn and Easton watch Vera, Teddy’s fifth wife and Bronwyn’s fourth stepmother, sight down her mallet and pace toward the rose trellis with a handful of wickets. Her lips move and Bronwyn knows she’s counting. She bends over to plant a wicket and Easton’s face turns blank while he watches.

“Wouldn’t miss it for anything,” he says after a much-too-long pause. “Not even seconds on dessert.”

“That’s my boy.”

This story appears in our SEP2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Ha Ha Ha! Love Puns!
By Susan Rickard

I love this story! It's one of the best I've read since I've been getting Mystery Weekly!
By Sylvia Auclair

This story is brilliant! Has a great unexpected twist at the end. Loved it.
By Yasmin Keyani

ROFLMAO Good read!
By Catriona Lovett

Excellent! Very clever! Great story!
By Nina Ritter

Well done, Steve!
By George Garnet

By Ralph Trask

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