The Birthday Present

It’s a lot bigger than I expected. About the size of a real cat, such that it could fit on your knee. Our family’s cats have always been huge – “big boned”, my sister affectionately called them – so it required physical strength to support them on your lap, let alone carry them. Whenever I visited my friends who had cats, I would realise just what ‘normal’ cat-size is.

This is definitely cat-sized, no doubt about that. I probably should have read the product description more carefully; I never normally buy anything online.

Odd choice of colour, too – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chocolate-brown cat before. Clearly, the manufacturers have, or else they hadn’t studied a real cat too closely when they opted for the smug grin and electric green eyes that follow you around the room. It’s looking as me from its resting place on the coffee table, as if it knows something I don’t.

Still, I don’t know what right I have to complain about the anatomical accuracy of the thing. If I were after a realistic toy cat, I wouldn’t have bought one with beads and ribbons, in garish primary colours, stitched across its midriff.

I’m absent-mindedly twiddling the beads and running my fingers over the textured patches. “Hey! It’s not your present, is it?”

I look up. My sister laughs and emerges from the doorway. “Let me have a look,” she says, holding the cat up to the light, inspecting it from every angle. “Aw, he’s really cute!”

“He’s scary,” I point out. “Look at those eyes. And anyway – who said it was a he?”

“Well, it has to be,” she is looking at the cat’s undercarriage now, which makes a crinkling sound when you press it. “Our Tommy was a he.”

“But Tommy wasn’t chocolate brown.”

“Do you really think she’ll notice? And I’m not saying we should call him Tommy – he does need a name, though.”

“Boche?” I suggest. “Anne Frank had two cats called Tommy and Boche.”

“Not a great omen, is it? Happy birthday Lucy – here’s your gift, we named him after the nickname for the German army during the war.”

“Well, what do you suggest?”

She thought for a second, her bobbed hair shifting from side to side like a velvet curtain. “I like Harry. But we should probably let her pick.” She set Harry back on the table. “How much did you pay?”

“Forty-nine ninety-nine,” I said, watching Harry’s staring eyes reluctantly. “But – ”

“Oh,puh-lease tell me you got a discount or something!”

“…but that was excluding delivery.”

She shook her head at me, in full big-sister mode. “Well, can’t say you didn’t try. And it’s as good a present as any – it doesn’t take much to please them at that age. Just something to occupy her little hands. Come on, let’s find some wrapping paper.”

“Oh, I got some personalised,” dashed to the cupboard under the stairs and returned triumphantly to the living room. “I thought she’d like it.”

“I doubt she’ll notice,” my sister said. “But let’s see it.”

She cleared the table and I unfurled the bright roll of paper. On it was the repeated message, over and over again: Happy 70th Birthday Lucy!

“That’s lovely,” said my sister, quietly. “She’ll love it.”

One thought on this article.

  1. Philip says:

    A wonderful short story.

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