Happy Birthday

by Terence Kuch

Andy was a problem. Not his fault, of course, and we loved him dearly, but then I lost my job back in 2012, and Doris was still troubled by her hip after she slipped on the ice that one winter. Well, we economized, made the unemployment checks stretch as far as they could. I even gave up beer and smoking, and Doris stopped buying those fancy coffee drinks.

Andy’s fifth birthday was coming up the next Tuesday, and he was all excited about it. He was just old enough to understand the spot we were in, financially that is, and he was worried that he wouldn’t get a special present this year. I looked Andy in the eyes and said there’d be something really special for him on that day. God knows how I hated to say that, even though it wasn’t exactly a lie.

It took quite a while for Andy to get to sleep that night, and then I couldn’t. Get to sleep, that is, not for a long time. I was remembering the day he was born; blue eyes, a wisp of red hair. Kinda like me. And then the diapers and the ear infections and shots for this and that, but Andy was a real trouper through it all, not a fussy kid at all. I got sad just thinking.

We had a lot of enjoyment from him, watching him struggle to say his first word (what was it?), be toilet-trained a couple of years ago, learn to tie his shoes – we’re still working with him on the shoe-tying, or were until a few days ago when there didn’t seem to be much point. Anymore.

When Tuesday came we bundled Andy up because it was cold, even for March. Andy was all excited but Doris told him to be patient. I sat in back with him, held his hand. Doris drove our old car. It was one of the last gas-burners, awful expensive to gas up so we didn’t drive much, but we couldn’t afford an electric.

In an hour we got to the plant. Andy was pretty quiet by then, like he knew what was up, and prob’ly he did.

Well, we went inside and signed some papers to “put him down” – that’s what they called it. Very heartless thing to call it. They recycle the ashes, they said, and the smoke.

Maybe someday we’ll have another Andy. When the economy’s better.

The End