Happy Birthday

My eighty-third birthday cake.  They’ve gotten worse every year, this slab may as well be made of styrofoam.  Nevertheless, I maneuver another blob of tasteless fake sugar around the oxygen hoses into my toothless mouth, to be gummed down into paste and dribbled into my unreliable gut.  Happy Birthday to me, many miserable returns.

My balding son’s looking at his watch again, a cheap plastic thing stretched around his fleshy wrist.  As if he’s the one that’s running out of time.

“Thanks for the cake,” I have to speak up to be heard over the bingo group next door.

“Of course, I’m glad you liked it.”  His eyes say something else.  “Hurry up and die old man.  I’m damn sure not buying you another birthday cake.”

Ernest rolls me back into the room I have to share with Dan, another aged relic whose family never stops visiting.  He’s out now, probably playing bingo in the grimy cafeteria.

“Ernest,” I turn around and he already has his hand on the door knob.  I’m sorry about your mother.  I’m sorry Ashley left you when your daughter died.  I’m sorry I was such a terrible father for all those years.  I’m sorry I never really cared for you.  “Have a good weekend,” I eventually say.

He nods curtly, whips the door open, and hurries down the low-ceilinged hallway.

That was the last time I saw him.

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