She ran down the long wooden jetty as she did most days, her mother calling behind her, imploring her to slow down, to be careful in case she lost her footing and tumbled over the edge into the cold harbour. What would grandpa bring home today? A big fish, big enough for the whole family to eat and share at her birthday party tomorrow. Five seemed so grown up, so big, bigger than any fish she could ever imagine. Being five meant she would be going to school with the big girls soon, wearing a checked blue dress just like her older sister and carrying a bright yellow book bag back and forth every day.
A small group of men were huddled around the end of the jetty where grandpa always tied up his boat. Just as she was reaching them the one wearing a sou’wester turned round and began waving his arms, telling her to stop, that she mustn’t come closer. Scared by his tone and bulk she stopped suddenly. The other men huddled more tightly.
A few days into her first term the children settled themselves into a rough circle as they did each day to talk and share news. The girl raised her hand tentatively and waited for her turn.
“We buried my grandpa on Saturday. He was a fisherman and he died because he went out to catch a big fish for my birthday. I cried when I saw him in his boat all flopped over and not moving. I was running to meet him because I was excited, but he was dead. I don’t like running now because it makes me think of grandpa and I feel sad.”
~ Birthday Girl was written in response to FD 507. © 2011 Mufidah Kassalias. All rights reserved.