Cemetery Street (Chapter 9, page 1 of 17)

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Chapter 9

Shannie didn't celebrate birthdays, she suffered them. "It sucks having a birthday during the holidays. You're an afterthought - to everyone. Everyone's too busy returning Christmas presents."

"Or making plans for New Years," I chided.

"Screw New Years!" Shannie cried. "Believe me Just James, there's a world of difference between December twenty-ninth and January twenty-ninth," Shannie was referring to my birthday. "Consider yourself lucky. Maybe, you compete with the super-bowl."

"The super-bowl is bigger than Christmas and New Years combined," I argued.

"Birthdays are a bummer," Shannie claimed. The year my Grandfather visited Shannie believed her birthday fortunes were changing. Then Grandfather and my mother had their spat. "If Mary-the-horrid could keep her trap shut, Stan would have stayed and I would have had a decent birthday."

He left without getting her a card. I practiced forging my Grandfather's signature and spent my Christmas money on 'Stan's' birthday gift for Shannie. I wanted to change her fortune.

The next year, Diane and I conspired to make Shannie's fifteenth birthday festive - we almost pulled it off. Shannie loved Peking Duck. We took Shannie to Joe's Duckhouse in Philadelphia's Chinatown. We had a great time, until the arrival of our fortune cookies. I never imagined Shannie melting down over a fortune cookie - more accurately - a fortune-less cookie.

"What the Hell?" Shannie cried pounding one half her unfortunate cookie to smithereens. Diane and I sat speechless as Shannie threw the other half to the floor and stomped it; crushing it like a bug. "What ta mat ta?" Shannie mocked a staring waitress. "You neva see round eye go ba wis tic?

Shannie was cranky the rest of the day. "I just want to go home," Shannie sighed.

"I'm doomed," Shannie later confided. "It's my karma Just James. I should have never let Lucas talk me into moving that old lady."

"Bullshit," I said. "No harm - no foul. You called it - Lucas's old man figured us out - he should have the Karma problems."

"He didn't steal her," Shannie replied.

"He probably did worse," I said.

On the surface, Shannie's birthday woes ended the following year; her sixteenth. She awoke the morning of December twenty-ninth, 1987 to find a black Volkswagen GTI sitting in the Ortolan's driveway. I watched from my perch as she caught glimpse of her birthday present. Shannie popped open the front door to retrieve the morning paper.

I smiled when she noticed the GTI. She stared - her face in disbelieve. She shut the interior door and reopened it. "Yes!" her muffled shout rapped my window as she floated across the frosty ground. She circled the car twice, staring at it; afraid to touch it - as if it would dematerialize if she did. Diane smiled behind the storm door, a steaming cup of coffee in her hand.

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