The Birthday Party

Short Story

Ken Preston

1 April 2024

A dirty window with rain running down the glass, looking out onto a grim, blood red industrial landscape.

I've been reading Haruki Murakami and Chuck Palahniuk recently. And, on Chuck Palahniuk's recommendation, I've started reading Amy Hempel's short stories.

I feel a little out of my depth, if I'm honest.

Here is your latest short story.

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The Birthday Party

No one listened to Sadie.

In the days leading up to Sadie’s eighteenth birthday, her mother threw herself into a frenzy of activity.

She painted the downstairs walls a bright yellow;

she cleaned the carpets with an industrial carpet cleaner she borrowed from Uncle Billy, who knew a man who had a brother in the carpet-cleaning business;

she scrubbed the patio with detergent, but couldn’t quite get rid of the stains and the scorch marks;

she paid a man to replace the broken window in the kitchen, the one that had been held together with long green strips of parcel tape ever since Uncle Billy smashed his fist through it;

she mowed the lawn and sprinkled grass seed on the bare patches;

she erected the gazebo, the one with red coverings and the gold and blue trim, stretched taut over skinny metal poles, the sides flapping in the wind;

she decorated the house and the garden with banners that said, ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Happy 18th’ and ‘Birthday Girl’ and ‘Congratulations’;

she bought boxes of red wine and white wine, bottles of cheap gin, and cardboard boxes filled with cans of super-strength lager for Uncle Billy and his mates.

No one listened to Sadie.