Ffffffffff!!! Breathe in and Fffffffffff!!! Pinch it, tie it off.

I was sat at the kitchen table, my cheeks were pink and burning, and my heart fluttered a little in my chest. I gave my loose tooth a playful little jostle with my tongue, turning it slightly, enjoying the slight sting of the nerve endings as I caught my breath. I was nearly through the pack, just a few more.

Ffffffffff!! Ffffffffffff! Pinch it tie it off.

Ffffffffff!! Ffffffffffff! Pinch it tie it off.

“Hurry up, Mike,” Mum hollered from upstairs “They’re be here soon”

I made a loud grumbling sound and picked up the last one.

Ffffffffff!! Ffffffffffff! Pinch it tie it off.

They would be my brother and his waddling band of howling, mop-haired friends. Tony was six, I was eighteen and he exhausted me. He ran everywhere, never missing an opportunity to throw himself forward and pelt down the high street or across the park. And here I was, wheezing like and old man, breath hot and hurting in my lungs, stolen by his damn birthday balloons. Still, I was done and, as a weird painful pat on the back, went to give my tooth a little flick with my tongue.

There was a gap in my teeth. A hot wet gap that tasted bloody. I explored it with my tongue, trying to find the tooth that’d once occupied this painful, grazed section of gum. I ran my tongue around my mouth. It was gone, where the bloody hell was my

I looked at the tableful of balloons. Oh bollocks.

As I hurriedly picked them up one by one and shook them, trying to ascertain which of the joyful “SIX TODAY!!!” party balloons contained a bloody adult tooth, I heard the front door slam open and a hoard of small feet thundering towards the kitchen.

“We’re back,” called Dad from the hall, out of breath. Shit. They’d run home. Of course they had. The kitchen door burst open and in ran Tony, whose eyes bulged in his head with delight when he saw the kitchen table covered with presents and lovely, lovely balloons.

“LET’S POP ALL THE BALLOONS!” cried Tony’s destructaholic friend Jake, jumping on one with a loud bang. I leapt out of my skin, but thankfully it had been empty.

“No, let’s not!” I said, as the kids started to grab balloons and throw them to the ground “No, let’s… Let’s watch Tony open his presents!”

They stared at me with pure young hatred. They were all tiny killers, believing everything to be better once torn to its component parts. Jake was the worst and grabbed a balloon from the table, from the small pile near where I’d been sat. As he held it past the light, I saw the little shadow of something bouncing around inside it. NO NO NO. He held it over his head, ready to pop.

“Jake,” I said, through a tight, terrified smile. “Wouldn’t you prefer to wait until after the presents? Maybe some games?”

Jake slowly shook his head. Pass the parcel could fuck entirely off. There was Noise to be had and his little claws slowly pressed into the balloon.

“Jake!” I said, slightly louder, heart racing again, “Would… you … like to open one of Tony’s presents?”

“What?” said Tony.

“YES” replied Jake, dropping the balloon and grabbing the nearest gift. Tony turned to me. In his eyes was the single biggest look of confused betrayal I had ever seen. How could you, said his eyes, watering. You have just killed me.

“You get all the best ones, Tony” I said, putting a big gift in his hands. Tony looked at me. I got the terrible feeling that he didn’t love me anymore.

There was a dreadful pause as he just looked at me.

“Go on, Tone,” I said, pleading.

He looked down at the gift in his hand, wiping the tears from his eyes. Then he handed it to his friend, Mark. “Everyone can open one” Tony said, and I smiled. I stood there, watching my little brother handing out his own birthday presents to his friends. He was a damn good kid. “But remember,” he went on. “All the actual presents inside are mine. I’m SERIOUS.”

As the kids tore away paper and said oohed and aaahed at Tony’s haul, I scrambled through the balloons, grabbing at the ones where Jake had stood. Finally, I found one that, when I shook it, had a dull rattle. Holding the knot tight in my hand, I stood to take it away, but the kitchen door opened to reveal Mum and Dad, holding a large chocolate cake with 6 candles.

Haaaaaappy Birthday to you.

All the kids joined in, Mum beckoned me over.

Happy Birthday to you.

I joined the crowd around the table, the balloon tucked out of sight behind my back.

Happy Birthday dear Tony.

I felt something yank out of my hands. What the-

Haaaaaappy Biiiiiiirthdaaaaay

Jake was stood behind Tony, the balloon held aloft in his hands, waiting for the end of the song. No. No, please…

Tooooooo yooooooou.


Tony leaned forward, and blew out his candles. There was no applause. Tony looked at his cake. There, embedded in the chocolate icing, was a large wisdom tooth, blotched with blood. Silence. Even Jake was shocked.

“Mike,” said Mum, at last “Is that your loose tooth?”

Tony turned and looked at me again.

Why, said his eyes. Why do you hate my birthday?


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