Rogue Mutt’s Birthday Bash
Yes, today is my birthday. No, I’m not going to get all weepy and sentimental. Like Halloween or to some extent XMas, I stopped caring all that much after I could buy better stuff for myself than anyone else was going to get me. It really didn’t mean much then. Not even the big 3-0 meant much to me. It was just kind of meh. Of course that was on a Thanksgiving too, so it was kind of pointless to try and make a big deal out of it.
Anyway, so since I really don’t have any great speeches, here are a couple story clips featuring birthday parties. The first is from Living Sacrifice, Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Volume 7. The setup is that our resident superhero Emma Earl is going to her lesbian witch friend Aggie’s house for the first birthday party for Aggie’s kid Renee. The side issue is that exactly two years ago, Emma’s baby died (or so we think!) shortly after being born premature.
Seeing how happy Aka looked as she carried Renee downstairs for the party, Aggie didn’t feel an ounce of regret. At the foot of the steps, Aka turned Renee to face her. The child looked just the way Emma had described her, with Aggie’s pale skin and blue eyes, though the latter had Aka’s Asian shape to them. She was already outgrowing the clothes Aggie had sewn for her, both in height and girth. Aka stroked the little girl’s tuft of brown hair and said, “Are you ready to see Mommy and Daddy’s friends?”
Aggie doubted Renee understood the question, but she said, “Yes.” Two months ago she had blurted out her first word: Mama. Appropriately she applied this to Aka, while Aggie she referred to as Agga. Despite learning more words included “Yes,” “No,” and “Hungy” for hungry, she still did not say Aggie’s name properly. Sometimes this bothered Aggie, who remembered her three sons calling her Mama, but at times like this she didn’t mind.
Renee seemed perfectly relaxed and happy, at least until they entered the dining room, where everyone had gathered. It was a small gathering, just the extended family of Emma, Rebecca, Megan Putnam, and Dan Dreyfus. The latter two’s presence necessitated Glenda and the rest of the witches not showing up, as if they would want to, except to perhaps kill Renee. The way Renee whimpered and buried her head into Aka’s shoulder, someone might think the girl feared one of the guests would try to kill her.
“It’s all right, sweetie,” Aka said. “No one’s going to hurt you. These are your friends. We saw them not so long ago in the park, remember?”
At moments like these, Aggie wasn’t ever sure what to do. She had been the mother to her children, the one they ran to when they were afraid. Despite being well over five hundred years old, she had never been a father before. She decided to let Aka handle the situation. “She’s just feeling shy,” Aggie said while Aka rocked and cooed to the baby. “I’ll go in the kitchen and get the cake.” On the way to the kitchen, she took Emma’s arm, asking her to help with the plates and ice cream.
By outward appearances, Emma seemed to be doing just fine. She had been socializing as much as she ever did, talking with Megan about her forthcoming graduation and with Dan about museum business. Aggie didn’t need to be a witch to sense the turmoil going on inside of her, especially when she saw Aka come into the room with Renee. For just a moment Emma’s icy resolve had melted, some warmth entering her eyes. Then, as if knowing Aggie was watching, she snuffed it out.
“How are you holding up, dear?” Aggie asked as she lit the single candle on the cake.
“I’m fine. Why does everyone keep asking me about it?”
“Because we’re your friends.”
“I know that, but it’s been two years almost. Maybe you all should stop worrying that I’m going to fall to pieces.”
“You know Rebecca won’t ever stop worrying about you.”
Emma smiled as she took the ice cream out of the freezer. “No, I suppose not. How long is it going to take to convince her that I’m dealing with this?”
“Yes. Dr. Richman says I’ve made a lot of progress.”
“That’s good, dear. I’m proud of you.” Aggie sighed as she picked up the cake to take out to her daughter. “I remember when you and Rebecca first came here ten years ago. You were both so young back then.”
“We were all different back then.” Emma nodded to the cake. “You used to be the one with the white hair.”
“Yes, so many things have changed.” Aggie let Emma go first with the plates and ice cream, following her out with the cake. She stood in the doorway for a moment, taking in the scene. There were her new friends Megan and Dan. Across from them were Emma and Becky, who had become like her daughters and who had become so grown up since that first visit ten years ago for a dress. Then at the head of the table was her real daughter, Renee, sitting in her high chair and playing a game of patty cake with her mother—Aggie’s wife. She had gained so much in the last ten years, a whole new family. She felt a twinge of sadness to think of Sylvia, her little sister who had died almost three years ago now.
The front doorbell rang, almost causing Aggie to drop the cake. “That’s probably Amanda,” Megan said. “I’ll go—”
“No, dear, I’ll get it,” Aggie said. She set the cake down in front of Renee, who was still engrossed with her game with Aka. “I’m already up. Just don’t let her blow out the candle until I get back.”
Aggie hurried to the door, her inner sense telling her this was not Megan’s friend Amanda and that the person at the door did not bring good news. Opening the door, her suspicions were proven right. Standing there was a young woman who looked so much like Sylvia with her dark red hair, green eyes, and almost permanent scowl. At the moment one of those eyes was swollen shut and blood nearly the same color as her hair matted into her scalp from a gash that ran down across her forehead.
When Cecelia Romeau, Sylvia’s illegitimate daughter, opened her mouth to speak, Aggie saw the girl’s front teeth were missing. “Hello again, Aunt Agnes. I need your help.”
Then Cecelia collapsed into Aggie’s arms.
OK, now is a creepy birthday party from When You Were Young. The setup here is that an evil bitch has used water from the Fountain of Youth to turn our hero Samantha and her friends into little kids again and brainwashed them. To rub it in, she’s having a kind of ironic “birthday” party for Samantha.
Chapter 7: Many Happy Returns
Samantha stopped in disbelief as she and Mama Veronica emerged from the forest. Everywhere she saw balloons and streamers the same pink and white as her pretty dress. Stretched between the rows of shops was a pink banner with something written on it in white. “What’s it say?” she asked.
“It says, ‘Happy Birthday Samantha.’”
“Really? You mean aw this is for me?”
“Of course. It’s your big day.” Mama Veronica picked Samantha up, lifting her high enough to touch the banner.
“I fee wike a pwincess,” she said.
“You are a princess. You’re Mama’s little princess.” Mama Veronica lowered Samantha enough to kiss her on the forehead. Samantha giggled at this.
They turned the corner and Samantha squealed with delight. “Happy Birthday Samantha!” shouted a chorus of children. Mama Veronica echoed them.
Right away Samantha noticed all the children in the crowd were bigger than her. “Mama, why’s everyone bigger than me?”
“That’s because you’re our baby.”
“I don’t want to be the baby.”
“I know, sweetie, but you’re much more important than anyone else in the whole town because you’re my baby.” Samantha kissed the top of Mama Veronica’s head, feeling better. She might be the littlest, but she was special.
Mama Veronica carried Samantha through the crowd to a table piled high with gifts. “Are these all for me?” she asked.
“Of course they are,” Mama Veronica said.
Samantha reached out to take one from the pile, but Mama Veronica slapped at her hand. “It’s rude to open your gifts before we serve the cake and ice cream, sweetie.”
“Cake and ice cream?” Samantha rubbed her hands together, forgetting about the gifts for the moment.
A thin, blonde girl and chubby, dark-haired girl wheeled in a cake taller than Samantha and Mama Veronica put together. Three sparklers topped the cake, showering the pink frosting with sparks. In white icing was text that looked similar to the banner over the street. “This is for me?” Samantha asked.
“That’s right,” Mama Veronica said. The two girls left, returning a minute later with buckets of ice cream—chocolate, vanilla, fudge swirl, and mint chocolate chip. The chubby girl tried to lick some of the melted vanilla ice cream dripping down the side of the container, but Mama Veronica slapped her hand as she’d done to Samantha. “Phyllis, you can have some later if our guests leave any.”
“You and Helena wait in the kitchen until it’s time to clean up,” Mama Veronica said. The girls stalked off. Samantha wanted to ask why the girls couldn’t stay like everyone else; they looked so sad. Before she could ask, Mama Veronica held her up to reach the top of the cake. “Make a wish and blow out the candles.”
Samantha closed her eyes, thinking hard about her wish. She already had everything she wanted in the whole world. Except for one thing: friends her own age to play with. Being special was good, but she didn’t want to be lonely.
She blew out the candles in one breath. This meant her wish had to come true. Mama Veronica set her back down at the table and smiled at her. “I have a very special surprise for you, sweetie,” she said.
A scary-looking man dressed in black came forward. Samantha cringed at the sight of him, which seemed to make him smile. What a meanie, she thought. He couldn’t be the surprise, could he?
But no, he lifted up a hatch in the top of the birthday cake, reached inside, and pulled out a little girl. She wasn’t much bigger than Samantha, but much skinnier, so that her green dress hung off her as if it were still on the hanger. Copper hair hung in waves down to her waist. It must be heavier than her, Samantha thought. The little girl had freckles on her cheeks that touched each other when she smiled. “Hello. My name is Prudence. How are you? It’s so stuffy in that cake. I didn’t think I would ever get out of there. Oh, look at that, you have a bow just like mine only mine is green. Isn’t that interesting? And your hair is so pretty.” Prudence hugged Samantha before continuing, “I know we’re going to be bestest friends. My birthday was yesterday. I turned four years old. It’s really not any different from three so far.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Samantha managed to get in. Her wish had come true! A best friend her own age to play with. She hugged Mama Veronica. “I wuv you.”
“We’re not done yet, sweetie.” The man in black reached into the cake and this time pulled out a boy with shoulder-length hair the same color as Prudence’s and more freckles.
“This is my dopey twin brother, Wendell,” Prudence said.
“Hi,” Wendell said in a small voice. He cowered behind his sister, nibbling at his fingers. He was shorter than her by at least six inches, shorter even than Samantha. He was also thinner than his sister to the point Samantha thought she could see his ribs against his shirt.
“And I think we have one more,” Mama Veronica said. The man reached into the cake; Samantha crossed her fingers for another girl like Prudence. Instead it was an older boy with a thick nest of brown hair that stuck up. He wiped his runny nose before offering a hand for Samantha to shake.
“Gross!” she said.
Mama Veronica took a napkin off the table, using it to wipe the boy’s nose. “Now sweetie, be polite. This is Joey.”
“Hi,” Samantha said, dismissing him with a nod. She didn’t want a stinkyhead like him at her party. His eyes started to water behind his glasses. At first she thought he was crying, but then he started to sneeze.
“Must be all the dust in there,” he said, his voice nasal and shrill. Yuck. Couldn’t Mama Veronica send him off with Helena and Phyllis to the kitchen? He was going to ruin the party with his germs.
Aunt Molly appeared and put an arm around Joey. “I’ll take him back to the cottage,” she said. She took Joey away, the sound of his sneezes receding into the distance.
Mama Veronica clapped her hands. “Now then, let’s get this party started.” She let Samantha cut the first piece, a great big lopsided hunk off the top for herself. “Wait until everyone else gets theirs before you start eating.” She served the rest of the pieces, giving Prudence and Wendell pieces almost as big as Samantha’s while everyone else got smaller ones. On each plate she dropped a scoop of ice cream, picking a flavor at random. “What kind do you want?”
“All of them,” Samantha said. Mama Veronica dropped a spoonful of each onto Samantha’s plate. As Samantha ate, Prudence talked and talked, her ice cream melting into a puddle.
“Are you still hungry? I couldn’t eat another bite,” Prudence said. She pushed the plate towards Samantha, who accepted with a nod. Prudence continued to talk while Samantha ate. Next to her, Wendell nibbled at his, wiping his mouth with a napkin after each bite.
Once everyone finished the cake and ice cream—there would be no leftovers for poor Helena and Phyllis—Mama Veronica shouted for everyone’s attention. “Before we start opening the gifts, I would like to say how pleased I am everyone could be here today to celebrate this moment.” She put an arm around Samantha’s shoulders. “Today my Samantha has become a big girl. Before you know it, she’ll be all grown up.” She kissed Samantha on a cheek stained with frosting. The other children, especially Prudence, cheered for her.
Tears came to Samantha’s eyes. She couldn’t imagine anyone ever having such a wonderful birthday.
So anyway, see, birthdays could be a lot worse than turning 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever. You could have assassins show up or evil jerks using the Fountain of Youth on you or something…