An Eleventh Birthday

Jennifer Lavallee writes flash-fiction (her favourite way to share stories!) and works of non-fiction. She has been published in literary journals, in magazines, and online, and she is a contributing ... [+]

Image of Short Story
A tower of packages teetered back and forth in the Bunch family sitting room. Boxes of unusual shapes and sizes were piled high on top of one another, a great beast that hung over the room like a dark cloud. Meanwhile, the sound of screams and tiny stomping feet could be heard echoing down the hallways as a herd of rabid children ran from room-to-room. No one paid much attention to the tower as it swayed under each new vibration, threatening an avalanche of curled ribbons and pointed boxes over those sitting in its mighty shadow.

As the wild-eyed children continued their stampede, the adults tried very hard to show their dissatisfaction with the current situation by offering up their loudest sighs and clicking of tongues. However, no person over the age of twelve-years-old thought to stop any person under the age of twelve, grab them by the shoulders, and shout, “SLOW DOWN! And for the love of all that is good on this Earth, stop screaming!!”

Guests continued to arrive at the Bunch family home with more packages tucked under their arms until the walls, now bulging, were ready to burst. In single file, each person took their turn launching a package up onto the top of the menacing tower as it licked the plaster from the ceiling.

Twins, George and Gemma Bunch, eyed their birthday presents and bit at their lips, “Mum—can we open them now?!” they pleaded. Their mother was a tired looking woman with half-chewed fingernails. She arched up on her tippy-toes, playing Where’s Waldo until spotting her husband, Leonard, in the crowd.

“Leonard! Come, watch the twins open their gifts. LEN!” she shouted, waiving her arms to catch his attention.

Leonard Bunch, in deep conversation with a guest, was rubbing his mustache hairs between his index finger and thumb (something he always did to appear thoughtful). In his periphery, he noticed a squawking woman and it took him quite a few moments before realizing that it was, indeed, his wife. Leonard dropped his fingers from his mustache and awarded her with the slightest of nods.

“Go on then,” said George and Gemma’s mother. Her feet were starting to ache.

All the guests, including the entire herd of rabid children, pushed into the sitting room. The kids sat with crossed legs and hungry eyes. Each of them was counting in their heads exactly how many days they would have to wait until they would be the ones with a tower of gifts to open. (The boxes were no doubt filled with tubs of slime and pooping dolls and all those things children expect to get on their birthday). The adults were also watching; most of them balanced paper plates of cake on their knees. From time-to-time, a blob of icing fell off someone’s mouth and dropped deep into the pink carpet.

Nearly all people in the Bunch family home were interested in what George and Gemma were doing. All people except Granny Bunch, of course. Granny Bunch sat in the next room by herself, she was staring out the window at nothing in particular. She thought nothing was much more interesting than whatever was going on in the living room. There was a scowl laid out across her face—her favorite thing to wear to family functions.

George grabbed for the package Granny Bunch brought, which was wrapped in tan-coloured paper (the same stuff she’d been using since Grampy Bunch died). The paper was cheap and see-through—the box beneath revealed an image of a happy looking woman sitting on a padded toilet seat. The twins hoped it was just the box Granny was using and that they weren’t actually getting a padded toilet seat for their birthday. Their guests, being polite, pretended not to notice.

Gemma ran her finger along the seam of the box looking for a spot to tear it open. George jumped in to help, but neither of them could penetrate the massive wad of tape Granny had used to laminate the gift closed. 'If only Grampy was still alive,' thought the twins. 'He always kept a pocket knife in his trousers.'

“I don’t think we’ll ever get it open,” said George with a sniff.

In the next room, Granny Bunch’s whiskered lips curled up into a wicked smile, her reflection filled the window like a portrait.