Episode the Fifth: Little Dot Has a Birthday

By: Mr. E. S. Stranger

Toward the end of September, Dot began watching the calendar. Any day now, she knew, the page would suddenly change. Usually this meant only a new picture to look at, but this time was different. October was a special month-the best of them all.

She watched the weather and the stars carefully, and suddenly, one day, right on time, as magically as the coloring of a leaf in autumn, the page turned. She was walking through the house and suddenly saw that the calendar was on October. And written all over the month, with arrows pointed to the twentieth, were the words "My Birthday."

Dot was excited. She had written the words herself months ago with permanent marker, but she acted pleasantly surprised all the same. She smiled all through the rest of the day, through dinner, through the scolding her mother gave her for making a mess of the calendar, and through preparations for bed.

She had a lot to do that month. There were invitations to send out, food to order, decorations to plan, and a host of other worries. It helped that the caterer she had picked, her mother, had also agreed to take care of everything that involved any kind of labor. That meant that all Dot had to do was decide what she wanted, but that was plenty hard enough.

Her brother was no help. "The calendar says it's my birthday," he would say, and they would argue for hours. She could only win these arguments by kicking him and getting him in trouble when he kicked back.

"So," Funny Bunny asked her not long before the twentieth, "how old will you be?"

Dot thought. "I haven't decided yet. But I think I would like to be twenty-four."

"Can you do that?" asked Toona.

"Of course," Dot replied. "It's my birthday, so I can be any age I want. That's why Mom gets to be twenty-nine every year."

"Oh yeah," said Toona.

Dot hurried off and told her mother to make a cake that said "Happy 24th." Her mother nodded her head a few times, slowly, and Dot left, happy.

Early on the morning of the twentieth, Dot walked into her mother's room and talked until her mother got up. She tried the same thing with her brother, who threw her bodily out and didn't come out of his cave until noon. Next she looked for Jimi, who she had repeatedly said would be her steed for the day and carry her everywhere. The dog was not to be found.

After breakfast there was a knock on the door. Toona answered it and came back inside with a card and a bunch of flowers. The flowers were lilies and asters, and the card congratulated her on turning twenty-four. It was just what she wanted.

"Who left these?" Dot asked.

Toona shrugged. "I think it was the mysterious stranger. It might have been someone else."

Dot was happy for the rest of the day.

Everywhere Dot went, Toona and Funny Bunny accompanied her as her body guards, announcers, and loyal patrons. Whenever she entered a room, Funny Bunny hollered about the arrival of the great Dottie, Empress of the Universe and so on, and when they left the room, Toona would say "She's leaving now." Guests arrived. Funny Bunny announced them as lesser nobles. Toona tried to take their coats as they came in, but he failed because he was too short and because none of them were wearing coats.

Presents were given, and Funny Bunny inspected each one lest there be an assassination attempt. He kept a few, assuring Dot that they were probably unsafe. Dot and the guests made merry. Every so often Dot would regale everyone with a version of the Me song, the first verse of which was "me" sung repeatedly. The chorus and other verses were the same. Funny Bunny sometimes joined in for support, but somehow it wasn't the same.

For the last meal of the party, Dot had requested that no healthy foods be served. The meal was fried chicken and potatoes, both smothered in gravy, with corn on the side. When Dot was sure she was getting full, she discarded what remained on her plate and replaced it with a sickeningly large slab of cake with ice cream. When she was certain her stomach would burst, she resolved for the third time to have only one more serving.

After dinner, Dot insisted on watching the news to see the announcement of her birthday. Her mother informed her that the announcement had already been run earlier. Dot resolved to see it next year.

At last the guests were gone, and Dot went to bed so that the kitchen fairies would have time to clean up. Toona and Funny Bunny were already asleep, having snuck off and collapsed shortly after dinner. Dot decided it had been a great birthday.

When all the lights were finally off, Jimi crawled out from under Dot's mom's bed and stretched his legs. His tummy grumbled. He was one hungry horse, but he would have to wait until morning to eat the scraps.

He hadn't liked having to hide from Dot all day, and he certainly didn't trust all those strange people that had come in and made so much noise. Birthdays. If this were to happen every year, he would have to do something about it. Next year he would be prepared. If only he could get his teeth on that calendar...