“That’s it? You can’t just assign his body to someone?”
“Usually the family likes to decide. When someone passes….”
“He’s dead, Marjorie. It really doesn’t matter. Eenie meenie minie mo.”
She laughed nervously. “I’m sorry?”
“Pick one. Put my mother back on.”
“Yes, of course.” She sounded puzzled and somewhat disgusted.
“Sonny? When are you coming back down?”
“I’m not, Mom. You’re going to have to do this by yourself. I can’t be any part of this.”
“But someone has to decide….”
“You decide. I hardly knew the man. The short time I did know him, I didn’t like him much.”
“Michael Kyle, he was your father!”
“Don’t call me Michael. And don’t try to guilt me into this. I’ll come for a memorial service, but I’m not deciding any of this.”
“You’re being harsh, Kyle.”
“No, ma’am. I’m finally being my own man. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend time with my family.” He hung up.
The house was abnormally quiet. Usually by now Mindy had run screaming down the stairs, flinging herself at his legs.
“Carmelita? Kids?” He walked through the entire house, calling and listening.
Puzzled, he thought he saw someone in Carmelita’s apartment that sat perpendicular to the back of the house. Figuring it was the one place he hadn’t looked, he tapped on the door. Trying the knob, it wasn’t locked. Pushing it open, he called Carmelita and the children again. Thinking he heard a noise, he walked further in.
“Surprise!!” They jumped at him from every imaginable hiding place.
Not only were Carmelita and the children there, but all his friends and coworkers. Laughing, he picked up Mindy who was finally attacking his knees.
“Wow, to what do I owe this honor?”
“It’s your birfday, Daddy!”
“Silly Daddy,” Cindy kissed him.
“God, Dad, can’t even remember your own birthday? You are getting old.” Randy punched his father on the arm thirty-four times.
“Did we surprise you, Daddy?”
“You did, munchkin. I thought you’d left me for a better looking dad.”
“You’re the handsomest daddy ever! I’m never leaving you.”
“Thank you, princess.”
She mashed his lips together, giving him a big kiss.
Carmelita had outdone herself with the meal. She’d prepared all his favorites: lasagna, Caesar salad, and homemade garlic bread. The others had brought their specialty dishes just like a potluck dinner. Web presented him with a case of his favorite wine and a new, very fancy pneumatic bottle opener. To properly initiate the opener, they used it on a bottle of his birthday wine.
“You’ll notice, my friends, that every bottle is from 1978, exactly the same age as our esteemed birthday boy.”
“Great year for both wines and boys,” Kyle quipped as he took a sip. “Damn, that’s good! Thank you, Web. Thanks everyone. This is the best birthday ever.”
He couldn’t remember his birthday from last year. It fell in the middle of one of Margo’s chemo sessions and he had forgotten it until he got a notice that his driver’s license had expired.
They were just sitting down to dinner when Chris walked in grinning like crazy.
“You knew too?”
“Sure I knew. Mindy called me, didn’t you, Princess?”
“Uncle Chris!” She launched herself at him, swinging from his forearm. “You came!”
“I told you I would, sweetie. I had to make it look good for Dad. Had to fool him.”
“You’re a sneak, kid.”
“Hell yeah, sneak. Pass me a beer, Bruno.” He said to Randy. “Lita, I’m staying with you tonight. Any woman who cooks like you do needs me in her life.”
“Oh, you think so, huh? You think you’re enough man for Lita?”
“I know I am. I’ve got all you need right here.” He grabbed his pants.
© Dellani Oakes