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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1895691-The-Birthday-Party
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #1895691
Phoenix's graduate school friends have a surprise birthday party for him...
Phoenix arrived a half an hour early at the restaurant.  It was raining with a mix of snow - the first precipitation they had gotten in literally months, and it was on his birthday.  Phoenix was pleased with that.  Before he had come to the restaurant, he had opened his birthday gifts from his spouse.  He had gotten a couple of very nice shirts, a silver bracelet with three crosses on it that he had remembered remarking that he liked in the store, and a great card.  He was wearing one of his new shirts and his bracelet in the restaurant.  Phoenix drank some coffee with cream in it and thought of how sweet his spouse was.  Right on time, his case manager showed up.  She announced that she would be paying for his breakfast since it was his birthday.  Phoenix tried to choose something small on the menu, but his case manager caught him and made him order some real food.  They talked and watched it snow outside.  Phoenix had brought along his working copy of the LDS scriptures to loan his case manager.  She had been curious the week before about them.  They had a great conversation until Phoenix had to leave to pick up his friend at the university.  Phoenix bade his case manager farewell and headed out into the rain.

Phoenix's friend was standing out in the rain having a cigarette when he got there to pick her up.  She was so thankful for the ride.  They had planned on going to the bank, but she said she needed to go straight home to let the dog out, so Phoenix just took her home.  They made plans on the way to study for their big test in Advanced Social Psychology that afternoon before he dropped his friend off.  She said she had some things to do in her apartment before he came to study, which he thought nothing of, and they agreed on a time somewhere around 1415 in the afternoon.  Phoenix dropped her off, then headed for the bank to get his friend $300 to catch up on her electric bill so that the electric company did not shut the electricity off on her.  Phoenix was pleased to do this for her because he felt that God had blessed him with the means to do it, and it was the right thing to do.  Phoenix felt blessed about a lot of things, which he dwelled upon while driving through the rain.

When Phoenix got home, he was just exhausted, and trying to study was not working very well.  He decided to take a short nap before he went over to his friend's house to study.  He woke to the sound of his phone signaling him that he had a text message.  His friend was telling him it was okay to come over.  Phoenix replied that he would be right there and packed up his computer, among other things, in his bag and took clipboard and pad of paper with him.  He headed over and noticed a strange car parked next to his friend's gate in the alley, but thought little of it.  He assumed the downstairs neighbor had friends over since it was an out-of-county plate.  Phoenix walked up the stairwell to his friend's apartment and announced that he was there.

His friend was practically at the door to greet him, which was not normal for her, but she gave Phoenix big hug as he walked in and wished him a happy birthday.  About the time Phoenix got into the apartment, three more of his graduate school friends burst out of the bathroom yelling, "Surprise!" and sang him Happy Birthday, each one hugging him and celebrating his day.  Phoenix felt it was a very special day, not because it was his birthday, but because he had friends that would organize a birthday party for him the day before a major exam and take the time to be there with him.  He was very happy.  They had baked him a cake, ordered pizza, bought cheese and crackers and good beer, and decorated his friend's desk for this event.  After blowing out his candles, Phoenix was presented with a gift and two birthday cards.  The cards were wonderful and the gift ended up being a very nice (very expensive) insulated thermos bottle that Phoenix could take to school with him.  They all had a good time until, one by one, they had to leave to study.  Each gave Phoenix a hug on the way out and he thanked each one for their kindness in having the party for him.

When all was said and done, only Phoenix and his friend remained to study together.  It was difficult material to study.  Both Phoenix and his friend had a mental block against studying this particular subject, first of all because they did not like it, and second of all because they had no idea what "summarize the main points" meant.  Which ones were the main points?  The professor went over statistics every day, not the papers.  Who determined what the main points for a full page summary of each of seven articles for the hour-and-a-half long exam were?  After several unsuccessful attempts at studying the notes and outlines they had, Phoenix and his friend decided to hang it up and try again in a bit.  Phoenix's friend was also upset about a schedule change in a different class that put her, she felt, at a significant disadvantage for feedback because they would be discussing her topic of lecture before she actually got to give her presentation the next week.  This was due to the fellow who was supposed to give his lecture the next day being sick.  The professor had decided to have both discussions the next day and have both presentations the same day the next week.  Phoenix recommended that his friend write the professor an e-mail telling her that she would not make it to class the next day and go to the library to study where there might not be such a mental block present until class was over.  His friend thought that was a good idea.  It would eliminate bias on her part when doing her presentation and would keep her from feeling so uncomfortable going over what they may have possibly gone over prior to her lecture.

Phoenix went home and discovered that his Spanish study Bible had arrived.  He briefly looked at it and then sat down to try to dig into his studies again.  It took him almost four hours to do three full-page summaries of three articles, and he would only have an hour and a half to write seven of them the next day for the exam.  Phoenix had no idea how he was going to make this work.  Then he realized that it was going to be how it was going to be.  It would work out somehow.  He still had two chapters to read for the modified schedule in that other class the next day as well.  Phoenix decided that the best thing he could do for himself was take his medications and go to bed.  Lack of sleep was no way to take a test.  Phoenix knew that all too well from past experience.  Every day experience.  He got up several times during the night unable to sleep and worked on the summaries.  He got another done, but was still too far behind to catch up.  He next awoke to the sound of his alarm clock, set a half an hour earlier than he normally set it for.  It hardly ever went off, but Phoenix had taken his daytime medications at 0300 to try to lessen the effects of the one that made him a barely-functional zombie for a period of about five hours in the mornings.  Phoenix spent an extra 15 minutes in bed, showered, and got ready to go to school.  He only got there 10 minutes earlier than he usually did, but it was what it was.  Phoenix was not going to stress out about what time he was not able to get to the university by.  It was time to work.
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