Prompt: “I promise I’ll always come and see you on your birthday” It was sweet when he first said it. But dad’s been dead for 5 years and you wish he’d stop.
“Happy birthday to you,” my family sang to me around the table, “happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Michelle, happy birthday to yo—” The sound of snapping, like breaking twigs, and something thudding against the floor stopped everyone. We all turned to my father, standing off to the side. His decaying tongue loosely hung from his gaping mouth as he knelt to pick up his jaw from the floor.
“God,” my mom sighed, “c’mon Frank…”
“Imsawry,” he moaned, taking his jaw and snapping it back into place with a loud pop. He rotated his jaw, licked his gray, lifeless lips, then said again, “I’m sorry. Let’s not worry about it, okay? It’s Michelle’s birthday.” He turned to me. “C’mon sweetie, blow out your candles.”
So annoying, I thought as I rolled my eyes, facing the lit thirteen candles sticking out from the white frosting. I inhaled, wished for my friends to be here instead of my dad, then blew them out.
Everyone began to clap—
The sound of snapping and thudding, again. We all turned to see dad’s hand, missing three fingers with bones poking out from the stumps, had broken off at the wrist and hit the wall, then fell to the floor.
“Jesus Christ, Frank,” Richard, my step-dad, said, “can’t you keep yourself together?”
“Well, Dick,” my dad said, walking over to his hand, “it’s kinda hard after being gone for so long. We all don’t have the benefit of all being like you, Dick.” He shoved his hand back into his wrist, rotated it, and returned to the circle around me. “So, my baby, what you wish for? A new TV? An iPod?”
I shook my head, rolling my eyes again. God, why is so annoying?
My mom must’ve seen my face, because she quickly switched on the lights and leaned in. “Let’s cut the cake!”
After everyone was given cake on paper plates, I went and sat on the couch. MTV was on, but muted. Richard and my mom sat on the end of the couch, while the rest of my family sat or stood, talking around the house. Dad sat on the floor in front of me. My vision was pulled away from the TV to him, as he continued to try to eat his cake. Every time he would lift it on the plastic fork, his hand would shake and the cake would fall back onto the plate. He did it again and again until he was successful once, but the chewed up cake oozed out from the holes in his cheeks. They ran down his face, fell into his lap and rolled onto the floor. When he turned to ask me a question, his leg rolled over it, smearing it into the carpet.
“Frank!” My mom shouted, setting down her plate. “You got cake on the carpet!”
“Oh?” He moved over, looking down. “What? Oh, I did. I’m sorry. I’ll clean that up.” He stood, then his arm holding his plate snapped off, and fell to the floor.
My mom’s mouth opened, and Richard’s temple bulged.
“Shit— I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll clean that up, too.” He leaned over and picked up his arm, shoved it back into its socket, then moved towards the hallway leading to the kitchen. “The cleaning supplies are still underneath the sink?”
My mom rose, clenching her hands. “You know Frank, why don’t you just leave?”
The air in the room felt like it was filled with moisture. I looked from my mom, to dad, back to mom again. Dad stood there in silence for a moment, ran his hand through his patchy, clumpy hair, then said: “You know what, Marsha, I come out of the grave for one day a year, for her,” he pointed to me, “and all you and Dick have done is treat me terribly. For what? What have I done that’s so bad?”
“Uh… I don’t know, Frank, how about decomposing in front of the whole family, or stinking up the whole house for weeks, or, I don’t know, dying in the first place!”
He jabbed a finger at my mom. “How dare you blame me for dying! It wasn’t my fault!”
“You were found with a needle in your arm, Frank,” Richard said, rising from the couch. “You had a fucking needle in your arm! Your skin was white and you pissed all over yourself! How is that not your fault!”
“You know what Dick, stay out this — this a family matter!” He pointed at the ground. “And this is my family, not yours!”
Richard shook his head. “Oh you know what Frank, I’m more apart of this family than you ever will be. You’re dead! You’re gone! Hell, even your own daughter doesn’t want you showing up to her birthdays anymore!”
It looked like he had been slapped. My dad looked to me, his eyes wide, mouth closed. I’m sure if he could still cry, he would have. “Is that true, sweetie? That you don’t want me around anymore.”
Tears formed over my eyes, fell down my cheeks. I bit my lower lip, nodded. “You’re—,” I whispered, “you’re embarrassing.”
For a moment he stared without speaking, then turned to my mom. “Fine, then I’ll go. Even if my own daughter doesn’t want me here, who I promised to see every year, I’ll leave. I’ll see you both,” he pointed to Richard and mom, “in hell.” As he strode towards the front door, his knee collapsed beneath him and he crashed onto the floor. When he tried to catch himself on the wall, his fingers snapped back and tumbled onto the carpet.
“Oh my God, Frank,” my mom hissed, shaking her head.
He crawled over and picked up his fingers, muttering, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I know,” then set his leg and got up, then left.
It was the last time I saw him.
Read my previous prompt, “Within a Connection.”
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