‘Nice Birthday Party’ said Rani. He wasn’t used to drinking warm beer and it was going to his head. ‘Happy 40th! Is it today?’.
‘Thanks and no, it’s the 1st. It was kind of you to come all this way.’
‘Well, flying business class helped. That and the four blankets the kindly young lady gave me.’ Rani replied.
‘I’m curious about your present, but don’t want to ask further as I don’t want to spoil the surprise!’
A gleam beamed from Rani’s eyes which his host only half caught. ‘It’s not much’ replied Rani ‘but I doubt you’ll have seen one before’.
The New York authoress made her way over, already somewhat tipsy from the sip of Champaign she’d had.
‘I have a question for you’ said Rani, focussing hard on her eyes. He leaned against the wall for extra support. Strewth, he thought, this pommy beer is revolting but strong.
‘Fire away’ she said pleasantly.
‘I still can’t work out how there was a hint of exotic perfume on the outside of the envelope, as well as the New York post mark.’
She laughed alluringly. ‘That’s easy, when I received my invite there was yours alongside it. So I just posted it on to you.’
‘It gave me quite a turn you know’ said Rani as he seated himself in an armchair.
The other’s sat down too, more out of respect for this old man with his cute hat.
‘What gave you quite a turn?’ the host replied, wondering if he should replace the beer with some water.
‘You addressing that to me, personally, the invite. I couldn’t open it until I knew who’d sent it to me.’
‘Sorry,’ replied the host ‘I had no idea. If I had, I would have made it even more difficult!’
Rani grumbled and drained the bottom of his glass. He was starting to feel sleepy, and put it down to jet lag.
The faint sound of birds blended into his dream like state when he became aware of a strange ticking noise. His eyes flung open and at once he realised he had no idea where he was. He groggily got to his feet but sunk back down when a hammer bounced of his head. With his eyes half closed he managed to pull the curtain nearest to him. The curtain pole crashed down knocking the clock of the bedside table. Bright sunlight streamed through the opening causing an affront to his eyes. He felt they’d been shot with pins. He groaned as he remembered the last night’s party, and that warm, hoppy, beer. He wanted to curl over and sleep off this mother of all hangovers but he felt he needed to show himself. It was eleven thirty after all.
‘Good morning!’ said his host.
‘No need to sound the cannons’ Rani muttered and sat down.
His host laughed gently, and whispered ‘Muesli or the full English breakfast?’
‘A full English breakfast please, along with some coffee if you’ve got some’ replied Rani as though his insides were attached to a bungee rope.
‘Do you think you will be up to acting the tourist today?’
‘I imagine so, but only after breakfast.’
They sat in a dark corner of a pub with a hearty fire going. Autumn had well and truly set in and although the day had been glorious sunshine there was now a mist which clawed to the bones if you stayed outside for too long. Ed’s gang were all there, though Ed himself was strangely absent. Narrate was busy knitting a doll, Mrs Jenny was pointing her camera up the chimney and being rewarded with a face full of soot and singed eyebrows. It felt good to be amongst such company, each happy to express themselves in their own, very, unique way.
‘So what did you get for your birthday then?’ asked Narrate.
‘A whole pile of interesting things. I got a signed copy of ‘Why Kerosene Teeth’ along with a sculpture of a Sand Tree and an invite to go in a hot air balloon. A rabbit pie with a free guest pass to visit Celli’s library any time I’m in the neighbourhood.
‘Sounds like you’ve got a whole pile of stuff there!’ she replied.
‘And that’s not all’ he said.
‘I also got a spooky fiction book called The Brickbend Geothermal Power Company. A wonderful Boats and Beach Babes calendar from yourself of course. Ginger brought me a thin book on mentoring along with a wonderful leather mask – though I have to say..’
He looked around to check she wasn’t listening.
‘She moans incessantly about a broken tin roof. Chris has promised a day’s fishing – which is always a laugh. Or should I say he’s always a laugh. I also got a large canvas of On The Other Side and a fabulous t-shirt from some gifted bloke in Mama-Whet’s Town. He’s even promised to do the treatment on my girls.’
‘Oh I love his work’ gushed Narrate.
‘Who’s that?’ asked Paul who’d come all the way from Saudi but knew this pub well.
‘The chap from Mama-Whet’s Town, he’s brilliant. He’s known as the Vector King.’ She’d emphasised the last two words as if casting for a King Kong film.
‘Talking about me again are we?’ as Matt made his way to a remaining empty seat.
‘Matt!’ the ensembled crowd cried in unison.
‘Good to you see all. Mark, Happy Birthday, Jeannette, Karin, iAN, Ginger, Paul, Chris, Matthew and Millicent..’ he nodded to each, ‘Sorry I’m late!’
And together they had a whale of time. The landlord kicked them out well after closing time but that didn’t stop the cheer. As they made their way through the oak doors they stood aghast as they saw a troupe of emus, all harnessed to a coach.
‘Come on!’ shouted some strange dusty character dressed in a strange type of police uniform. The gang giggled their way on-board.
‘Ready?’ asked Rani.
‘Yes’ they all chorused.
Rani looked at Mark and said ‘This is it, Happy Birthday’ and without further ado leaned out of the window and shouted ‘Sergeant? Go like the clappers!’
‘Fair dinkum’ said the driver, and they were off.
The Final Chapter (?)
Rani attends the birthday party with Ed’s gang, and has the final laugh with the mother of all birthday presents.
If you missed it, here was chapter 1