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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2233154
Sam deals with the social requirements of birthdays


Birthday Wishes


         Sam was never much for birthdays. Birthdays are just like other parts of the body — everybody has one. Why should someone get a gift or give a gift just because the calendar moves over an invented meaningless milestone? Then there is the guilt trip laid on whenever one forgets a birthday that someone thinks should be remembered.

         On becoming a supervisor, Sam knew he must hide his disdain for this nonsense and put on a happy face to appear impressed whenever one of his staff had a birthday. Ella, his secretary, developed a list of the birthdays of all those who worked in his department. That quickly expanded to include other supervisors and bosses— not wanting to miss anyone properly needing to be brown-nosed. Adding relations and family friends preserved peace at home. The list entries included the birthday month and day but expressly excluded the year. Those who were insulted if you forgot their birthday would be twice as offended if you knew how old they were.

         The chore kept getting larger — more people, changing customs. Hallmark succeeded in convincing the nation that a verbal greeting was insufficient; it needed to be accompanied by one of their cards to prove "you cared enough to send the very best." Expect to see soon in a store near you a card you can send that says 'shame on you for forgetting my birthday.'

         The task grew because the list grew as years passed, and his circle of acquaintances, coworkers, and family expanded. It also grew because every list entry now had three dates: birthday, birthday minus five to mail the card, birthday minus ten to buy the card. All these had to be recorded and maintained in his pocket calendar.

         Standing in front of the card rack searching for a card with just the right message was a nightmare. Sam could never find the 'just right' message. In desperation, Sam bought three boxes of cards that simply said 'Happy Birthday' on the front and were blank inside. Maybe Ella would write the greetings. That wouldn't work because everyone would recognize that it was not his handwriting. He had to write them, but perhaps he didn't have to think them up.

         Sam started a notebook of one-liners and limericks for use in his cards; searching for them became a passion. Highway billboards were a good source, and an old Burma Shave sign was pure gold. He could capture them and tweak them a bit to be a perfect fit for the card he struggled over.

         His notebook filled, along with a numbering system that went with his list to assure never sending the same message twice to any person. Many of his favorites never got used, such as:

Happy Birthday. Another year without getting shot.
Happy Birthday. Sweet sixteen and not pregnant.
Happy Birthday. Thanks for coming to work half the time.
Happy Birthday. Let's do dinner. I have a coupon.
Happy Birthday. Another year and you're not in jail.


         Sam continued these practices through the years and became known and appreciated for remembering birthdays with a thoughtful greeting, always arriving on time. No one ever knew of his abiding hatred for birthdays as a cultural excuse to celebrate nothing and make others feel guilty for forgetting.

***


         They found Sam on the floor of his study, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. When interviewed by the police, his wife recalled their conversation of the previous evening, where she read to him a newspaper column on trends in business etiquette that said acceptable business behavior now includes sending anniversary greetings to your employees.

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Word Count: 614

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