Friday, November 20, 2009

Birthday Cake

On his 39th birthday he found a dead body in a cave. A day hike, beyond the wire towers that extend forever into the horizon. Tracing steps from boyhood, remembering specific dinosaur-tooth-like rocks, the hill he’d could see from home. From the base looking up, a scale too daunting in childhood. He and his friends would dare each other to climb up, no one brave enough. On a ledge, surveying trees and fields he’d conquered, marking the years. Behind him, a dark cave opening.

Inside, graffiti-covered walls, remnants of fires and partiers. Burnt rubber smell, power generator hum of flies, a distant echoing water drip. His flashlight shines down, reveals a decimated face, skull as prominent feature. He stumbles backward, drops the flashlight. Retrieves it, uses it to reveal an adult-length body in tattered clothes, skeletal fingers clutching a party noisemaker, party hat positioned on the chest. A lightning shock chill through his body. The corpse partier—a cosmic joke.

Back home, friends and family throw a party. He thought about the dead body—who, how, should he call the police? His toddler son jumps on his lap. Cake, cards, jokes about aging, death encroaching. That night, he sat by the bedroom window, looked to the hill, thought he saw flickering light.


  1. always thought the cake ritual made no sense ...didn't do much for his big day did it. i am noticing a food theme with you and your like to eat don't you???

  2. Only in large quantities.

    It’s these 212-word stories, all of which fall under a food/drink theme. There’s 78 of them--enough to seek counseling.

  3. Absolutely love that first sentence!

    Please don't listen to Michael. Cake makes a whole lot of sense. Especially on a day when one is not that crazy about being another year older.

    Your tale is wonderfully scary. And cautionary. I will never join a spelunking group.

  4. loved this line: "The corpse partier—a cosmic joke"
    I am as curious as your 39 year old character about how the partier got corpsified

  5. What a great opening for a larger piece. Now I want to know where the mystery is going? Is this meant to be a warning for the MC? A sinister coincidence? I'm intriuged.

  6. This is very fresh for me. I haven't read too many in this style. This puts me at a disadvantage other than to say I enjoyed it. And intrigued.

    I count 212 words including the title. Is that the goal?

  7. Intriguing stuff, cant help wonder if deep down he knows why the body is in the cave

    good stuff,

  8. Intriguing. I'd like to read another 212 words about this.

  9. Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone.

    Marisa, Laurita: Thanks!

    Draco: The word count is intentional. I have a whole series of similar length works (78 works total) that have a food/drink premise. Such a length essentially has worked as a frame for me to produce stories. For the sake of publishing, I’ll alter it if it makes sense to do so.

    Deb, Mazzz, Chance: It can be read as sort of a grim warning/foreshadowing for the character. Now, is it imminent death, or just the looming death in general that awaits us all? Perhaps another 212 words would reveal the answer.

  10. Wow, you packed a lot into these 212 words: cautionary, scary and humorous (at least, i found the corpse with the noisemaker quite funny, certainly unexpected. Like the line: power generator hum of flies. Good stuff

  11. Nothing like a little reminder about mortality on your 39th birthday. Great pacing, builds the tension nicely.