"Happy Birthday", Kevin yelled out to me as I sat myself down at our usual table at the pub.
Everyone seemed to be there; Kevin and his wife Samantha, John, Maria, Rich and Damian. The whole gang, this was awesome! We rarely all have the chance to get together so this would be a really fun night I figured.
Samantha handed me a card and announced that this was from "all of us".
I opened it up and out fell a small piece of paper, actually it was a certificate for a new digital camera which they had all chipped in for and ordered on Ebay for me. It had not yet arrived but she promised me I should get it in the next couple weeks.
I was rather surprised and speechless about receiving a gift from the group as this was actually the first time in the many years I have known everyone that we have exchanged gifts. Usually we buy each other birthday drinks or birthday shooters and that's about it. I certainly wasn't going to complain though - no way, this was great.
I did however, have to question the motivation behind it.
"It's a new thing we are all starting", Samantha advised. "A Birthday Club for the seven of us. Whenever someone has a birthday, the other six pitch in a few dollars and we get them a nice gift. I saw it in a movie the other night and thought it was just a fantastic idea".
"Hmmm", I thought to myself. This Birthday Club business sounds a little dodgy to me. I really like my friends however, now I am expected to remember everyone's birthday and give each of them gifts. I can barely remember my own. This sounds like a lot of work, way too much for me.
Maria must have been able to read my mind or at least my expression because she immediately interjected and told me that she and Maria would send out an email reminding us of everyone's upcoming birthday and then do all the collections and gift buying.
This relieved most of my apprehensions and before I could talk myself out of it, John stood up and announced that drinks were on him for the birthday boy and disappeared over to the bar to order me a pint of Guinness. The evening had begun!
Sunday morning seemed to come pretty early for me. Kevin dropped me off around 2 AM and it was now 10:00. Surprisingly I felt quite good considering the large amount of Guinness and other favourite beverages I consumed last night. Perhaps the late night trip for Chinese food absorbed the booze and also the hangover!
I was expected over at my parents place for dinner that evening as Mom was going to cook me a nice birthday meal and give me my present.
Every year for my birthday, Mom buys be a couple hundred dollars worth of clothes which is great because I rarely purchase any clothing for myself since I hate shopping and always end up buying stuff that either doesn't match or even fit right. I actually look forward to Mom's purchases because I know I will be getting some nice presentable clothes which I can actually wear.
Also each year, Dad always buys me an expensive bottle of premium Scotch, which is something I definitely look forward to. I drink the cheap stuff 364 days of the year, so his gift is always a nice treat.
I arrived in good spirits to my folks house and after the greetings of Happy Birthday, we all sat down to an excellent dinner. My sister was there too for dinner which was not expected. Sis also seemed to be in a rare good mood so there was none of our usual fighting and bickering between us. It was a very pleasant meal overall.
After dinner we all ended up in the living room for a couple of drinks and dessert. It was now gift time, I was quite excited even though I am no longer a child, I always love receiving gifts.
Mom disappeared into the other room and returned shortly with a very large wrapped present. It appeared to be flat in shape, like a picture or painting. She handed it to me and wished me "Happy birthday".
This really didn't look like the traditional birthday gift I had anticipated, and I quickly ripped the wrapping paper off to reveal a large framed painting of some unrecognizable images. I was totally stunned.
"I thought we would do something a little different this year, Son." Mom advised. "Instead of buying you clothes, we purchased you this original hand drawn painting by a remarkable chimpanzee named Kody, from the zoo. All the money raised goes towards the chimpanzees preservation and conservation fund. It's a wonderful cause, don't you think"?
I was still speechless, staring at this monstrosity of a painting. I mean it was just the most grotesque painting I had ever seen.
Finally I managed to mutter a few words "You got me a painting done by a monkey"?
"No dear", Mom continued. "Not a monkey - a chimpanzee, there's a difference you know, chimps are far more human-like. Isn't it just amazing how intelligent they are. I would never have thought of this as a gift for you but your thoughtful sister informed me all about this when we were at the zoo with Mikey and she insisted you would like it more than our usual gift to you"
I just knew my stupid insane sister had a heinous hand in this. My parents are old but definitely not senile. No one in their right mind would buy this crap. Well apparently no one except my sister.
Sis finally spoke up. "I knew you would like this much more than clothes. It seems quite obvious you really don't care too much about your appearance so this is a much better gift for you and it is also for a good charity".
She then gave me an evil little smile as I just glared at her. Finally the uncomfortable silence was broken by Dad.
"They made me go in on it too, Son", Dad advised, almost apologetically. "I know how much you like your Scotch, but the girls insisted you would appreciate this much more. So there you go. Happy Birthday. Personally, I would have gone for the Scotch. I looked at that painting a number of times and I can't make any damn sense of it at all. Looks like the damn chimp took a crap on it and then just mashed it all over the canvas"
"Simon", my Mother interrupted quickly. "You just don't understand abstract art at all. It is beautiful. There's no reason to criticize something you don't understand with that vulgar language".
I actually agreed 100% with my Dad, but I remained silent, pretending to be grateful. This by no means was easy being a recipient of a horrible framed drawing painted by
a !@!@&^*@ monkey.
I turned up the lamp hoping that it would look somewhat more acceptable in a good light, but no such luck. It appears to be just a retarded collection of random paint splotches and lines resembling absolutely nothing - it is horrific.
Intelligent monkey, my ass. My five year old nephew Mikey could do better than this abomination.
I cant hang this thing up at my place, no way, I thought. This would definitely scare off the few guests that I actually do get and it kind of scares me right now just looking at it and knowing some retarded hairy !@!@&^*@ monkey drew this crap.
After finishing off dessert and talking for awhile, I decided to head home. As I was walking to my car my Mom rushed to the front door and called me back.
"You must be getting forgetful in your old age. You almost forgot your painting", she joked handing me the offensive present.
"Thanks Mom, I am quite forgetful these days, too much on my mind I guess", I lied, taking the picture and placing it in the back of my car.
In actuality I had forgotten it probably because I was so disappointed. I mean there was no gift of nice new clothes, no expensive scotch...just !@!@&^*@ monkey art.
As I was driving home sad and dejected, a brilliant idea suddenly popped into my head. This was simply ingenious on my part. It was Kevin's birthday exactly one month to the day from now.
I quickly rang up his place on my cell phone. His wife Samantha answered.
"Samantha, I have a fantastic idea for Kevin's birthday and for our Birthday Club", I blurted into the phone excitedly. "You folks both like monkeys don't ya?"