I HEAR ITâ€™S YOUR BIRTHDAY!
by Deborah Elliott-Upton
Today is a special day: itâ€™s Michael Chiklisâ€™ and my birthday. Not that Michael knows I celebrate his birthday concurrently with mine, but I always raise a glass to him on our shared birthday. I assume he would do the same for me if only he knew. (If anyone wishes to tell him, mention I favor champagne, but a nice pinot noir works, too.)
Iâ€™m tired of people asking what I want for my birthday. I donâ€™t know any more than they do. I have the important things already: love of family and good friends and my health. Except â€“ I would love to have a day where I did nothing but lounge around and catch up on my reading. Of course, one day would never be enough to catch up on all the books Iâ€™d like to read, but you have to start somewhere. On our birthday just might be a nice appointment.
So, I thought I might share what I have managed to read lately â€“ except these are short stories I have read many times and this summer, I decided to re-read a few of my favorites.
Last week I read (yet again) the O. Henry classic,â€œThe Ransom of Red Chief.â€ The story is timeless and always makes me laugh. Henry is a master of visualization and we become a silent spectator listening to Sam share the tale of how he and Bill spent some time with Red Chief and barely lived to tell the story. We feel Billâ€™s pain, commiserate with the kidnappers and ultimately for Red Chief, who no one misses when heâ€™s taken.
My favorite short story is from Jim Hensonâ€™s The Storyteller by Anthony Minghella. The nine stories are fairy tales and folk tales dealing with universal themes we all relate to. Notwithstanding Hensonâ€™s name, these arenâ€™t childrenâ€™s tales, but more like the original Grimmâ€™s Fairy Tales sans the Hollywood Ending. My pick is â€œThe Soldier and Death.â€ The war-weary soldier is rewarded for good deeds with a magic sack and a pack of cards that always wins. The soldier plays cards with devils, bartering for lost souls. He tricks Death from returning to earth, but realizes his mistake when hoards of people ready-to-die and enter Heaven cannot since Death no longer comes for them.
I own a battered paperback of Isaac Asimovâ€™s Banquets of the Black Widowers that I return to now and again. This particular one is the fourth installment of the Black Widowers series and is peppered with the authorâ€™s â€œAfterwardâ€ following each story. Each of these story behind the story is quite delightful. I always feel like Asimov and I are sharing a conversation in between the tales. The twelve short stories are â€œpuzzlers to tease your brainâ€ reads the cover. Asimov â€“ another genius at storytelling â€“ makes the reader comfortable in the company of elegant gentlemen well acquainted with the best life offers. We are privy, as is Henry, the debonair butler who serves them first their dinner and then solution to the mystery in question.
Why not celebrate my birthday (and Michaelâ€™s) with a good book youâ€™ve been meaning to read? Itâ€™s okay, weâ€™re celebrating today and you deserve a break. This one wonâ€™t add extra calories or cholesterol, although it may make your brain cells swell, your lips pull into a grin and loud, satisfying sighs escaping when you finish one of the stories.
Itâ€™s a nice birthday treat Iâ€™m sharing with you. There are so many books and so little time â€“ unless we make the time. Take some now and select a story youâ€™ve been meaning to read. The champagne is already poured and Iâ€™m raising my glass. Please join me.