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Birthday Boy

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(This piece builds off events that occurred in an earlier flash entitled ?Special Delivery?)

Birthday Boy

by Merkin

?Hi there, favorite nephew! Happy birthday.?

?Hey Uncle Fred! Thanks for calling!? Jesse grinned widely. ?How?s Uncle Dave? How do you two like your new house??

?Whoa, there, kiddo. This call isn?t about us, it?s about you. Are you enjoying your promotion to a fourteen year-old??

?They still won?t let me drive.?

?Give it up, Jesse. I know your mom, and you should be glad she lets you ride without a kiddie seat.?

?Har har. Very funny. But not being old enough to drive yet sucks big time.?

?Tell you what. The next time we come down I?ll give you a driving lesson.?

?Ohmigod, Uncle Fred! Do you mean it??

?That?s what uncles are for -- to spoil nephews rotten.?

?Wait?ll I tell Artie, he?ll crap his pants! Now I know why you?re my favorite uncle.?

?I didn?t realize I had any competition.?

?You didn?t until you hooked up with Uncle Dave. He?s definitely got you beat for cute.?

?I didn?t know you noticed stuff like that, kiddo.?

Jesse fell silent. His uncle, sensing an awkward moment, cleared his throat. ?Did I hit a nerve, Jesse??


?Uncles are also good to tell things to, Jesse.?

?It?s not any big deal, Uncle Fred. It?s just that, unh, I got this birthday card.? Jesse stopped. His uncle waited.

?It?s from a guy.?

?Is that a problem??

?Well, I don?t know what to think.?

Is it from someone you know? Artie??

?Artie doesn?t count. I mean sure, he sent me a birthday card. But jeez, he sent me a card for Groundhog Day, believe it or not. He?s my best bud. No, it?s from someone else, a guy I ran into once -- really ran into -- in the mall when he was buying a Valentine for some other guy, then that other guy dropped it, and I found it and gave it to him, the other guy that is, and he -- Brian that is -- thanked me for not messing him up, and...?

?Whoa, nephew. You lost me back there a ways. Some guy you ran into? Is he a grownup??

?Oh, no. Brian goes to my school. He?s a sophomore. But he talks to me. I mean, he said thanks for not outing him when I delivered his Valentine to Keith...?

?Whoa again. Brian has a crush on someone named Keith??

?Oh, that didn?t work out, I guess. Keith is like this big sports star, so I guess Brian kinda wiped out there.?

?So you know Brian??

?Well, we?re both on the school newspaper, and he?s started talking to me there. That?s about the only place an upperclassman is going to have much to do with someone in eighth grade.?

?Jesse, let?s get back to the main point here. Why did he send a card to you??

?Well, he said it was to thank me for not messing him up over the Valentine card.?

?Seems pretty straightforward. What?s the problem??

Jesse was quiet for a long moment. ?I kinda liked getting it.?

?Ah, I see. Do you want me to drive down there so we can talk??

?I dunno, Uncle Fred. I don?t know what to think. I?d kinda like things to stay the same as they?ve always been.?

Fred?s voice was gentle. ?It?s called ?growing up,? Jesse.?

?Yeah, I get that Uncle Fred. It?s just that...? The pause stretched out.

His uncle tried again. ?It?s nice to be told that you?re special??

?Yeah, that?s sorta it. I like that he talks to me without treating me like a little kid.?


?Right. But I am a little kid. At least as far as he?s concerned. I mean, the only place I ever see him is in our newsroom.?

?I think that?s what?s really bothering you. You and Brian move in different worlds right now. I remember high school -- and even though you?re in the same school, you?re not even in the upper school yet, are you??

?You?re right, Uncle Fred. I mean, I like to talk to him, because it makes me feel older. But I?m not really older. And I don?t want to pretend to be something I?m not.?

?You?re a wise boy, Jesse. It seems to me you?re figuring it out all on your own. I think we will come down next weekend, and we can talk. What would you like Dave and me to bring you for your birthday??

?You just gave me the best present, by listening.?

?That?s all you want??

?Oh, I?ll take driving your car, too.?


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Very nice story, James. I love the dichotomy that Jesse is struggling with between wanting to stay a kid in the 8th grade and wanting to be treated as an equal by upperclassmen. Another issue is that at 14 he's unsure about his sexuality, and he's attracted to Brian. Neither of these issues are resolved in this short story; it's way too soon for Jesse's to know himself well enough to make these kinds of decisions.

Colin :wav:

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I really like the sense of discovery that pervades Jesse's character. His youthful exuberance, his hesitation and his childlike enthusiasm are all beautifully conveyed in this delightful story. It's like a snapshot of puberty. Well done!


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