“Well,” said Ferdinand, “a toast to my dear wife on her seventieth birthday. She has always faithfully stood by my side. When I went into politics nearly forty years ago she bore the brunt of raising a large family on her own. Such were the calls of politics.”
“We were indeed saved by the fabulous commission we received when she published her first collection of poetry. Normally poetry books don’t sell particularly well, but in this case I was able to buy a largish property in Mount Hollydell and a yacht.”
“These days we are both retired and lead quiet and peaceful lives. To be honest, I can’t remember when we last argued. Rowena has always been compliant, considerate, and the epitome of what a spouse should be.”
“A toast therefore to Rowena on her seventieth birthday.”
Ferdinand raised his glass, finishing off in one glug half of the glass’s contents.
“Yuk!” said Ferdinand. “This wine tastes awful.”
Rowena smiled coyly. This, over the years, was her sixteenth and final attempt.
Errol was excited. Well, not so much excited as pleased. He had worked as an academic all his life, in the field of electromagnetic radiation, so getting excited was little over the top. His birthday was next Tuesday, and the following Monday, exactly at midnight, he should get his first pension payment. His wife, Siobhan, was a little older and had been getting the pension for more than a year.
As had been done for Siobhan, the first pension pay out (it was a little rule the two of them had) was to be spent on oneself! Errol knew exactly what he was going to get with his pension money: books!
In the weeks leading up to his birthday he scoured the internet. In the end he had ordered twenty-six books, and paid for them including postage. He suggested to Siobhan that she collect the mail through the coming days and store the books in a hidden pile. Then on his birthday all the books would be there! What a way to start the pension! What a feast of present opening!
The books arrived in dribs and drabs. Siobhan collected the mail and stored the books in a closet. The morrow saw his birthday! Except, not even a barrage of canon fire could have woken him.
Franklyn had what seemed like a tiny tattoo between his thumb and forefinger on his left hand. It was more of a little scratch than a design. No one had really noticed it, except for Barbara. She’d asked Franklyn about it and he said that indeed it was a scratch. He’d been cleaning the wood burner, scratched his hand, and when the tiny wound healed it entrapped a bit of soot. Hence the tattoo.
Barbara had jokingly said that she never would have believed she’d fall in love with a man with a tattoo! And now she was invited to Franklyn’s twenty-fifth birthday party, and Barbara sensed that this was to be the big day. He would “pop the question”.
At the party there were quite a few familiar faces, and quite a few friends of Franklyn that she had never met before. Barbara moved through the room, introducing herself and, in fact, charming many. It was then she noticed something strange. Franklyn was not the only one with a tiny tattoo between his thumb and forefinger. Rick had one, as did Dave. Barbara quietly observed. In the end she counted eight guests, all males, with the tiny tattoo.
She asked Franklyn about it. That night, Barbara died in her sleep.
(The closing sentence for this story was suggested by Alex of Alex Raphael.)
Now that I’m older (I should perhaps say “old) I look back at my childhood and marvel. There were four of us, Natalie, Bevin, Cordelia, and myself. Our parents didn’t have much to go on. Dad was injured in the First World War and was frequently in hospital. It was his knees. Our mother made ends meet by cleaning other people’s houses. But us kids never went without.
When I say “never went without” I don’t mean luxuries like ice cream and vacations in Paris, I mean we had enough food (usually), and clothes to keep us warm, and school stuff. I realize now that our parents frequently went without themselves.
It was my eighth birthday. We never got much for our birthday, except perhaps a special cake our mother would bake, or maybe some homemade party hats, or some oranges. It was always a treat. On this particular birthday all four of us kids were messing around down at the creek, and we heard our mother call “Yoo-hoo, children!” It was a hot summer’s day. It was cool messing down in the creek.
“Yoo-hoo, children! Yoo-hoo!”
“What is it?” we called.
“Yoo-hoo children! I have a treat! It’s a watermelon!”
A watermelon! We’d never had a watermelon before! We started running immediately.
Hayley didn’t think it at all funny. Her best friend, Jocelyn, at her high school had set her up with a blind date. Hayley didn’t have anyone to go with to Meghan’s birthday party so Jocelyn arranged for Hayley to go with Samson who went to a private school.
When Hayley saw Samson she was thunderstruck. Jocelyn hadn’t told her that Samson walked with crutches. Apart from hobbling along he was fairly good looking, but Hayley’s face was a giveaway; she was shocked. In the meantime, Jocelyn screamed with laughter. She thought it the funniest thing since… since… since sliced bread.
“You never told me he was a spastic,” said Hayley. She said that to Jocelyn right in front of Samson’s face, like he wasn’t there; like she didn’t care that he used crutches and that he was worthless and stuff.
Samson was used to it. Dozens of people every day would throw him on the trash heap because he couldn’t walk properly. It hurt his feelings but every insult made him even more determined to succeed in life.
“I’m not going to the birthday party,” said Hayley. And she didn’t. “Who wants to go to Meghan’s birthday party with a paroxysmal yob?”
That was years ago. Samson went to the birthday party with Chrissie from down the road, and they eventually got married and had a heap of kids. And when they grew old Samson and Chrissie had a pile of grand and great grandchildren.
In the meantime, Hayley was still looking for Mr. Right to take her to… to anywhere.
Florrie was not one to sit back and let life stop because she was getting older. For her seventy-fifth birthday she had organised a parachute jump. She would be strapped to a hopefully handsome muscular young man and they would jump out of the plane. He would guide her safely to the ground.
Well, the truth was, upon arrival at the venue Florrie discovered that the young man wasn’t as muscular and strapping as she’d hoped. That didn’t greatly matter of course; she was in it for the big jump.
And jump they did! Happy seventy-fifth, Florrie! It was most unfortunate that the parachute didn’t open.
It was Ferdinand’s seventieth birthday coming up. Quite frankly, he was excited about it. His wife had passed on, but he had three sons, and there were three daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren. No doubt they would all come to celebrate his special birthday!
Of course, Ferdinand didn’t say anything – he wanted it a secret, but he wondered what they had planned. He hoped it wouldn’t be too big. Having the family around for a light lunch would be enough. He would open all the presents they gave him (what does one give a seventy year old for his birthday?) and hopefully there’d be a cake to cut after blowing out seventy candles. It doesn’t take much to delight a seventy year old – especially when surrounded by grandchildren.