The Birthday

Dad was carrying a tray of grilled hot dogs across the fresh-cut grass when his knees stiffened and black smoke spewed from his nose. His shoulders lurched forward and his chin swung down and clanged against his chest as more and more black smoke billowed from his open mouth. There was a loud bang and a child’s scream as Dad crashed to the ground face-down, elbows pointed to the sky, his body still locked in the position of a man carrying a tray of hot dogs.

Mom herded the screaming kids into the kitchen and called my Uncle Steve who was there within ten minutes. In the meantime she pushed red candles into my cake and led a cheery chorus of “Happy Birthday” over the bangs that sounded from the backyard.

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