A Tale of Two Birthdays by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Kelly typed “Thrift Store Work” and hit CTRL-P. That title was crap, but the poem was good enough to workshop.

“So happy birthday to me.” She started on the bottle of Two-Buck Chuck. No need for a glass. No need to share. No one had said a word that morning in seminar, no happy twenty-second for her. It didn’t matter that a week ago she’d mentioned her birthday while they discussed astrology in verse. It didn’t matter that she’d bought a six-pack for everyone else’s party.

Last year had been different. Jessica, the Production Supervisor at Value Village, had bought a cake from petty cash, and Kelly had blown out the candles during morning break. The other department pricers had insisted on taking her to dinner at Vic’s Pizzeria and, of course, on paying for her first legal can of Oly.

“I know you said you never do anything for your  birthday,” Margo had said, shifting an armload of priced clothes from the line to a rolling rack, “but that’s exactly why we have to do something.”

When Kelly had been accepted for grad school, Jessica had bought another cake out of petty cash. The card everyone had signed now hung over Kelly’s desk.

She glanced over the printed poem—one final proofread. The buzzer rang. Could someone have remembered? When she answered the intercom, it turned out to be a pair of Mormon missionaries.

“Just leave me alone.”


Filed under Elizabeth Kate Switaj

5 responses to “A Tale of Two Birthdays by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

  1. So I take it that her legal drinking wasn’t good for her social life. Poor girl.

  2. Martin Brick

    I like how this story is relatively big while being literally pretty small. The two years balance nicely to give a nice picture of her. I’m still contemplating the Mormon ending.

  3. guy

    I like the Mormon ending which make it seem as if the narrator has been partially absorbed into her grad-school life. It puts a little ambiguity into the picture. I think it’s also in keeping with the character, who, after all, did leave her Value Village.

    Value Village plays a social & cultural role deeper than most of us acknowledge.

  4. What do we value in jobs, in people? Why do we think life is better the ‘higher’ we climb? The top gets lonely.

    This is the sort of stuff your story made me think about — the loneliness of separation from ‘real folk’. Peace…

  5. Pingback: Week #17 – Busy at work « 52|250 A Year of Flash

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