March 25, 2010
Evan and Joe set a heavy, odd-shaped package on the floor in front of their dad. It was wrapped in newspaper and duct tape.
“Nice wrapping job,” Carl said. He put his ear to it. “Good, it’s not ticking.” He sniffed it. He began to read the newspaper.
“Dad—” Evan said.
“Well, I didn’t see a card. Had to read something.”
“It’s from both of us,” Joe said.
Carl pulled the paper away from a concrete garden statue, distinctly Asian in design. “Wow, my very own pagoda,” he said.
“There’s more,” Evan said. Inside a hollow segment was a small envelope, which Carl opened.
“It’s not a statue, it’s a ticket holder! Tickets to…the Beavers! Hey, that’s great, boys.”
“Yeah, it’s their last season before they get booted out of PGE Park.”
Carl read the top ticket. “They’re playing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.”
“The Ham Fighters?” Audrey asked.
“That’s what it says. Maybe it’s a typo.”
Audrey looked at the clock. “Somebody needs to light the barbecue,” she said.
Evan and Joe looked at each other. “Not it,” they said together. “Jinx. Ah!” They launched into rock, paper, scissors. Evan’s rock lost to Joe’s paper. Both of them went outside.
Carl was confused. Audrey’s back was to him as she checked something on the computer.
“Aren’t we missing something?”
It took her a second to respond. “Oh, I’m sorry.” She went into the kitchen and returned with a cold, dark beer. “Happy birthday, honey.”
“Thanks. So… what’s cooking?”
“Burgers. Not just any burgers, teriyaki buffalo burgers. And you’re cooking, birthday boy.”
Carl stood up. He took a couple of steps toward Audrey. Whatever she was looking at on the screen went away with a click.
“I know what you’re doing,” Carl said.
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do. You’re tracking my package.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I haven’t gotten it yet, and you keep checking the computer. Therefore, you’re trying to find out where it is.”
“You are so clever. Clever times sixty.”
“I thought we weren’t going to say my new age out loud.”
Audrey smiled. “New age, huh? Well, whatever the newest version of clever is, you’re it. The latest update.”
“So is it out for delivery?”
Audrey shrugged, smiling, and checked the time. She sent Carl to the barbecue to cook the burgers, which were delicious. By now it was eight o’clock.
“I guess you can surprise me tomorrow,” Carl said.
Audrey gave him a sweet smile. “Or I can surprise you now, because it’s tomorrow in Japan.” She led him to the computer. Evan had just logged into a video chat session with a young man in a camouflage uniform.
“Hey, dad, happy six-oh.”
Carl stared back at Airman First Class Todd Pullet.
They talked as if they were all in the same room together. Both Joe and Evan managed several times to get more than two-word answers out of Todd. Audrey admitted her gift had not, in fact, arrived, but overall Carl was pleased with this version of birthday. He wondered what six-point-one would be like.
©2010 Pam Wells