7 Short Fiction Stories with Birthdays in Them
A family member had a birthday this week, so I thought it was a good time to read stories that included a birthday.
This week’s stories included healing a relationship, a wholesome family birthday, a robot koala, a conversation, a 1 in 150-year event, birthday wishes, and a murder.
These are the stories I read this week and what I thought.
** I’m not here to criticise any writer. The fact that these writers have put themselves out there and made these stories available for me to read for free is amazing and I thank you.**
Sunday: Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl by Rachel Swirsky. Published in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 24.
What it’s about: Two sisters try to heal their relationship at the birthday party of a daughter/niece.
Bella arrived late at the party, carrying a doll in a box in pink wrapping paper. She’d owned the doll when she was young, and she’d hoped Natalie would like that. Now, she wished she’d bought something.
Bella grew up with a disability that wasn’t accepted or well understood. The two sisters were estranged for a while and Bella struggles to forgive Jenny for sending her away.
Jenny’s daughter, Natalie, has similar issues to Bella and Bella feels sad and jealous. She wonders if her own life would have been different if the same treatment and acceptance had been available to her.
This story is a bittersweet tale of pain and loneliness, but also hope. It highlights some of the differences in how disabilities used to be perceived compared to now.
Monday: A Happy Birthday
A Happy Birthday by Louisa May Alcott. Read on the American Literature website.
What it’s about: Grandma turns 73 and her children and grandchildren give her a day to remember.
The day was always celebrated with splendor by her children and grand-children; but on this occasion they felt that something unusually interesting and festive should be done, because grandma had lately been so very ill that no one thought she would ever see another birthday.
They decide to spread the excitement out over the day and friends and family traipse in and out throughout the day bringing presents and well-wishes. After dinner, there is a special surprise: more strange but personal presents.
This is just a nice story. Nothing much happens but it leaves a feeling of family and love.
Koala by Rob McClure Smith. Published on the TSS Publishing website.
What it’s about: Ginny visits her mother, Emily, in an aged care home.
Emily embraced Madeline. She had missed her granddaughter’s birthday, and now gave her a gift.
Emily is not happy about being in the home. Every resident is given a toy koala that they are expected to care for. The koalas gather data as part of an experiment and react depending on how they’re spoken to and touched.
At first, Emily is sceptical about the toy. Then, during one family visit, Emily gives her granddaughter a gift and is confused when Ginny scolds her for it. Emily asks for the koala and starts to speak to it as if it’s a child. Ginny is appalled and she becomes increasingly distressed about her mother, this home, and this experiment.
While not strictly about a birthday, it did mention birthdays a couple of times. It’s an interesting story albeit with an unsatisfactory ending for me.
Wednesday: Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You by Joy Manné. Published on the Flash Fiction Magazine website.
What it’s about: A conversation between a husband and wife about their mothers.
“It’s your mother’s birthday.”
“Check your birthday calendar.”
This story is a short piece of dialogue between two unnamed people. It could honestly be any joking conversation between any married couple about their mothers.
A fun quick read.
Thursday: Hollows of Your Heart
Hollows of Your Heart by Morgan Boyce. Submitted to Reedsy as an entry into a prompt competition.
What it’s about: A mother takes her son to see a 1 in 150-year event.
Max enacted the ritual of blowing out his candles after Amelia’s soft rendition of, “Happy Birthday,” with careful performance.
Amelia and Max eat birthday cake the night before his seventh birthday. They’re both scared, but at the same time excited, for tomorrow they get to witness an event that could prove dangerous.
This story is not really about the event. It’s about the relationship between mother and son and the bonding experience of witnessing something rare and wonderful together.
Friday: Unicorns, and Other Birthday Hazards
Unicorns, and Other Birthday Hazards by Jeffrey John Hemenway. Published on the Daily Science Fiction website.
What it’s about: It’s Greta’s 12th birthday and she’s locked in an attic.
In thirteen hours and thirty-two minutes, Greta’s birthday would be over and she would be allowed to leave.
I’m intrigued. Why is Greta locked in an attic for her birthday and how is she going to escape? She seems more irked than concerned at first.
She hears whinnying from outside and figures it must the ponies that seem to be everywhere. Or maybe it’s the awful unicorns that everyone hates so much. Greta has a plan that she’s been working on for a while.
This is my pick of the week. It’s a reminder to be careful how you word things and what you wish for.
Saturday: Birthday Present
Birthday Present by Arnold Marmor. Published in Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy, July 1954. Read on the Project Gutenberg website.
What it’s about: Paul agrees to help his mistress kill her husband.
“We’re supposed to go dining and dancing tonight.” She stopped pacing. “It’s my birthday. I’m thirty today.”
Dianne’s husband spends most of his time on Mars. She has an affair with Paul, a younger man, who is enamoured with her. Paul has doubts about the plan and reluctantly agrees, but…surprise!
This was a perfect end to a short, sharp read.
This week’s short birthday fiction stories, in the order that I enjoyed them.
- Unicorns, and Other Birthday Hazards by Jeffrey John Hemenway (Fantasy)
- Happy Birthday to You by Joy Manné (Contemporary)
- Birthday Girl by Rachel Swirsky (Contemporary)
- Birthday Present by Arnold Marmor (Science fiction crime)
- Koala by Rob McClure Smith (Contemporary)
- Hollows of Your Heart by Morgan Boyce (Fantasy)
- A Happy Birthday by Louisa May Alcott (Classic)
I’m fascinated by short fiction. I write it and I read it.
As well as reading longer-form fiction, I try to read at least one short story every day. I select out-of-the-way stories and authors I’ve never read and sometimes never heard of.
Sometimes I pick competition entries, often ones that didn’t win. Sometimes I find random personal websites where someone has published their own stories. Sometimes I seek out professionally published stories from hardcopy books or online magazines. Sometimes I look for really old stories that are out of copyright and available online.
I’m open to suggestions for genres or themes for me to read each week.