A Birthday Present

Mary didn’t get it. Out of all the things John wanted for his birthday, out of anything, he asked to see some shit movie at a shit hour.

She slipped on her black boots over her black tights, checking herself in the mirror, first turning to one side and then the other. She looked good and the black boots made her step sleek and feminine. John liked the boots, she knew, and he REALLY liked the boots when she wore them with a skirt.

But that was the only part of this birthday present she understood.

John showed up at her door on time and with a six-pack of Dos Equis, her favorite beer. He jingled them in the air.

“Not exactly champagne, I know,” he said.

Mary laughed politely and followed him to his car. He opened her door, but stepped back first, admiring her skirt and boots.

“You know I love boots, right?”

“I know. It’s your birthday so you get boots. And a skirt. And a shitty movie, I guess,” she said.

She folded herself into the car and he leaned down, kissed her and then shut the door.

An eleven o’clock—in the morning—showing of My Bloody Valentine 4. It was supposed to be one of the worst movies ever made and already the stars and director were disowning it. After John said he wanted to see it, Mary read a review that stated “Only an elephant could lay a bigger turd than this.” It was going to be an absolute delight.

The theatre was nearly deserted except for a few ushers sweeping invisible kernels of popcorn. John stood behind her, his thick winter coat tucked beneath his arm. It was sixty-five degrees outside, barely jacket weather. His winter coat was a thick monstrosity, suitable for Indiana winters…or winters in the Arctic.

Mary bought the tickets—that was the deal with his present—and they passed the concession stand.

“Do you want anything? Popcorn? Reese’s?”

“No thank you,” John said and escorted her to Theater Five where the shittiest movie of the year was playing.

Mary poked his side. “I’ve got to ask…what’s with the coat? It’s May.”

“Sometimes theaters are cold. You never know.”

Mary shrugged. She liked John but sometimes…he was a little odd.

The theater was nearly deserted, with only three teenage boys sitting the first row, each texting furiously. It was amazing how much time kids spent texting instead of talking today, but as long as they stayed far away from her, she didn’t care. She spent enough time with teenagers at work.

“Where are we sitting?” Mary asked.

John looked and gestured to a row toward the back. The seats were extra wide with adjustable handles, usually reserved for the handicapped. “I always use those if their open.”

“You’re not supposed to,” Mary said.

“I guess we’re going to be a little naughty then,” he said and trekked up the aisle.

The advertisements played and then the previews and then public service announcements before they got to the movie. John sat quietly the entire time, holding her hand but paying little attention.

“You okay?” she asked. “You’re a little jumpy.”

“Too much coffee,” he said, but his eyes didn’t leave the theater’s entrance.

Just as the film credits started, John whispered, “You know, there is something I wanted at the concession stand.”

“Okay. What?”

“Ice water.”

“And I suppose I have to get it?”

“It’s my birthday, sweetie,” he said. “Pretty please.”

“Okay. A bottle of—“

“No. A cup of ice water. Ice. Water. Straw. Pleeeese?”

“All right.” She rolled her eyes then uncrossed her legs, moving down the stairs and out of the theater. John was being very…strange. Jumpy, quiet and, most alarming, he hadn’t once tried to touch her legs. With the boots on, she expected to be fighting him off. He was lucky she liked him, otherwise she’d be rethinking their time together.

A Birthday Present 2


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