Last night, Sophia told me she wants to throw a surprise party for her father’s impending 75th birthday. Thankfully, she won’t ask me to pitch in. She knows my well-earned distaste for the institution. After all, my experiences with surprise parties have been universally disastrous, including the single shindig thrown for me as an adult.
My first wife, Abbie, hosted my lone adult surprise party. For my birthday after we moved in together, she arranged for friends and family to gather at our townhouse while she treated me to Sunday brunch at a posh restaurant. I would’ve gladly spent the whole morning there digging in for thirds, or even fourths. But Abbie began fidgeting after an hour and repeatedly glanced at her watch. And when another half hour passed, she suddenly announced that she’d gotten her period and needed to go home for “supplies.”
She may’ve seemed uncharacteristically edgy in the restaurant, but that was nothing compared to her patent angst when the car wouldn’t start. After I called AAA and told her a tow truck would come in an hour or two, she looked downright sick. That’s when she informed me about the guests waiting at our house.
The only enjoyable shock that day (for me) occurred a few minutes later, when my brother Frank answered our phone and heard my voice yelling “Surprise!” Though obviously nonplussed, he managed a credible reply: “Richard, who else but you would manage to screw up his own surprise party?”
Two hours later, we made it home. I soon wished we hadn’t. Moments after our arrival, Abbie’s sister (who’d spent the party’s downtime lubricating herself with our liquor supply) grabbed my head, slurred “Happy Birthday,” and planted a sloppy French kiss on me. The unexpected gesture elicited my usual reflexive response to an unanticipated object entering my mouth: I bit down … on Deirdre’s tongue. As I can attest, nothing says “let’s party” like the taste of your sister-in-law’s blood on your gums.
I knew there’d be a birthday cake, and I would’ve liked nothing better than to wash the remnants of Deirdre out of my mouth with a healthy slice. But someone had left it within reach of Abbie’s fat cat, the aptly nicknamed “Sir Crapalot.” By the time Sophia went to retrieve my dessert, Sir Crapalot had come and gone, after licking most of the icing off the top. There’d originally been a greeting inscribed:
Happy Birthday, Richard!
Thanks to Sir Crapalot’s ministrations, only three strategically-placed letters remained:
I couldn’t have agreed more. I’d been “had” all right, by a feline whom Abbie soon discovered fast asleep in our closet, his bloated belly resting beside my loafer – the same loafer he’d recently emptied his bowels or stomach into (I couldn’t tell which, since the detritus floating in my shoe left the orifice of origin in doubt).