THE “BIRTHDAY BLUES”
“Hi,” the fat guy said, “My name is Richie . . .”
And I’m an alcoholic.
. . .
drug addict . . . compulsive gambler . . .
Not this gang.
“All my birthdays were horrible,” Richie said, sniffling. “But
the worst .
I rolled my eyes. Theirs were on him.
In a church basement, we met, with dying A/C, in mid-August. Like a real
“Recovery” group. But. . . why? Everyone has at least one shitty birthday. These
people were freaks.
Always a whipped cream cake, or cutsey cupcakes. And candles. Not too
many, or we’d feel old, besides being out of our fucking minds. All fanning
ourselves in the heat, like being here was life, or death.
“Mine is Thanksgiving week,” one girl said. “I’d just
get a piece of
“With a candle?” our leader asked. This week, ancient Andy led
“Some-sometimes.” From the back row, you heard a sob.
“Mine is on Christmas!” a disgusted voice said. “How’s
that for a
I wasn’t here by choice. I’d first come with Vee, my childhood
‘cos she was scared to come alone.
Till last month, on her birthday, she hung herself.
“The ‘Birthday Blues,’ ” one speaker had said, “is
a real issue. A bizarre
phenomenon. . . .”
The closer you get to your special day, the greater the chance . . .
Of a dirt nap.
The DIY kind.
“Nobody’ll do what I
whiner. “Ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, or eat salt water taffy for breakfast.”
What’re we, I thought, in
It was in fourth grade we’d met, Vee and me. On Vee’s ninth birthday,
dad strangled her mom, then shot himself.
Even before her own suicide, Vee had these freaks beat.
“Let’s take a break,” old Andy said.
A mad rush for cake. Ice cream, too, that Andy had brought, ‘cos it was
hot out. The shitty, supermarket kind.
“It’s melting,” the whiner said. Still, she’d scooped
plenty of it onto
I stayed seated. Fuck sweet treats. Know why my birthday would suck?
My best friend was gone,
During break, this new guy came in. A weirdo. Even weirder than us.
Handsome, but in a skeletal way. He wore shorts and a tank top, but they
didn’t suit him. And bagged, like crazy. Even his cap seemed too big for him.
Like a rotted corpse.
As they passed with their drippy cake, people glanced at him, then away. His
smile looked painted, or sewn on. Nobody smiled back.
Mysteriously, the A/C was working, now. At least, I was chilly.
Who was this guy? He seemed
familiar, like I’d known him, once. His eyes bulged, like an old Chihuahua’s.
Part Two of our meeting opened with the song “Happy Birthday to You.”
Tonight it seemed even more depressing.
Lights flashed. Cops and
paramedics passed, back and forth. On the back porch we’d sat, huddled
together, two nine-year-olds and a dog. The old dog Vee never saw again, same
as her parents.
“My story is special.” The new guy was sharing, now. Without stating
What was his name?
“Very special,” he said. I knew the voice, but from where? “And
. . than all of yours.”
Some people looked skeptical. The whiner’s lip curled.
“It wasn’t my birthday that got ruined. In fact . . .” His
creepier. “Mine was today.”
Was?, I thought.
Almost mesmerized, others watched him. No “Happy Birthdays,” from
Something “stranger” was coming, for sure.
“All she wanted, was cupcakes. No party. No presents.” His smile
more human, now. “Not even a puppy.”
A very old dog, I thought.
“Just cupcakes. Chocolate, or vanilla. She didn’t care which.”
People shifted in their seats. Old Andy leaned over the podium.
“On their birthdays, kids brought in cupcakes for the class. But not
Suddenly he was angry. “‘Cos she was born in July.” He clenched his fists, and
some people got up.
July . . . cupcakes . . . More was coming back to me.
“My mom,” Vee had told
drunken night, “dragged out this fruitcake . . . from last Christmas! For my
Vee’s howl of laughter became
heart-wrenching sob. . . .And now
these howls—of terror, these sobs, were real! In the basement,
people were running, and falling.
God knows where he’d hid the gun. But he was up, firing. Laughing, and
crying, between shots. Shooting up more than that mangled cake. Blood sprayed
But . . . how? It wasn’t
Heart pounding, I lay on the floor. Praying he wouldn’t remember me.
to recall how many shots there’d been.
Wondering, how could the last shot kill him . . .
If he was already dead?
Cindy is a
Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife & talks like Anybody’s from West Side
Story. She works
out 5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she
wants She’s been published in the usual places, such as Shotgun
Twist of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the
Gutter, Mysterical-E, and
Twisted Sister. She is the
editor/art director of the
ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights