Ursula’s Birthday Surprise
By: Jeff Harvey
Randall placed three folding chairs around the card table, then added a rolling one with a broken caster. He opened a bottle of wine and poured himself a glass, drinking it like a shot of whiskey.
“Make me a Tequila Sunrise. Need to get a buzz going before Ursula gets here,” Dina called out from the living room. “With it being her birthday, she’ll be in a real mood tonight.”
A cardboard box of half-empty liquor bottles hid between the fridge and the sink. Randall shuffled through it and found tequila and mixed it with some Tang. Dina grabbed the glass from him without looking up from Judge Judy and slugged half of it. She then took gum out of her mouth and flicked it on the floor.
With his hands on his hips, Randall said, “Honey, I just vacuumed in here today.” He searched for the gum, but couldn’t find it in the shag carpet.
While a platter of pork cutlets and corn warmed in the microwave. Randall ironed his favorite shirt, the cowboy one with the black stitching. He matched it with a pair of Lee’s and cowboy boots and splashed on a handful of Drakkar Noir as a final touch. Taking another look in the mirror, he noticed three dangling hairs and pushed them back up into his nose. The oven dinged, and Randall hurried to finish dinner.
Smoking a Winston, Dina held her glass in the air and shook it. “Add some ice this time.”
Wanting to make a snide remark but not ready for an argument, he mixed Dina another drink and handed it to her. Now that his hair was dry, Randall shook it as he looked in the hallway mirror, trying to give it that Matthew McConaughey look.
The doorbell rang. Dina rolled her eyes and snubbed out her cigarette in an Elvis shot glass. “Get the door, Princess.”
Randall opened the door to find Ursula had brought along her Yorkie.
“Kaleb is with me. I hope it’s okay.” Ursula placed him on the floor then removed her rabbit coat. She greeted Randall with an air kiss. “Noelle couldn’t make it. She had pitching practice.”
Randall tossed the coat on a chair and patted Kaleb’s head.
“His sitter was busy.” Ursula smiled as she watched her baby romp through the apartment.
Kaleb tried to greet Dina, but she pushed him aside as she stumbled to the table. “Happy birthday, Sis. Let’s eat.”
Along with a tub of margarine, Randall brought out three plates holding corn and one cutlet each. He poured everyone a generous glass of Rosé then lit a couple of candles.
While eating dinner, Ursula discussed her upcoming trip. “Memphis has so many cultural events this time of year. I have tickets for the Philharmonic and an art show, someone from Idaho who specializes in watercolors. I tried tempting Noelle into going with me, but she said she couldn’t miss the beginning of baseball season.”
“Momma told us to never get involved with an athlete. Something I never had to worry about.” Dina shoved her glass towards Randall. “Fill her up.”
Randall cracked his knuckles and said, “With pleasure.”
Dina wrinkled up her face. “What’s your problem?”
Randall sighed, and then noticed Kaleb shaking near Ursula’s feet with saliva dripping from his mouth. “Look. Is he having a seizure or something?”
Ursula picked him up and wiped away the saliva with a napkin. “Something’s stuck to his lips and front teeth. Is that …?” Using her nails, she removed gum and showed it to Dina.
“Give him some water.” Dina took another bite of her cutlet. “He’ll be fine.”
Kaleb eked out a whimper and curled up in Ursula’s arms. After a few seconds, he stopped moving.
“Wake up baby.” Ursula held him close to her chest and listened for a heartbeat then placed him on the floor and administered CPR.
Randall called 911, and while he was telling the operator about Kaleb, Ursula stopped pumping his chest and sat on the floor staring off into space. “He’s gone.”
Dina’s eyes teared up as she gazed at her sister. Moments later, she walked over to Ursula and started to place a hand on her shoulder, but pulled it back.
Mascara rolled down Ursula’s cheeks as she sobbed. “I’ve had him seventeen years. Mother went with me the day I adopted him.”
“I’m sorry. Kaleb was a wonderful dog,” Randall said, handing her a tissue.
Ursula wrapped Kaleb in her coat, kissed him, and placed him on the sofa. “My vet said there’s a dangerous chemical in gum. He must’ve picked it up when we were outside.”
“Couldn’t be that.” Standing behind Ursula, Dina watched the tail end of Wheel of Fortune. “Probably natural causes. He was seventeen.”
“Had to be natural causes.” Randall sliced up a Sara Lee Pound Cake and placed a candle on Ursula’s piece. “Anyone want ice cream? It’s chocolate.”
Jeff Harvey is a writer living in San Diego, CA and working on his first novel. His work has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Salmon Creek Journal, and Down in the Dirt.
Find him on Twitter @jeffharveysd