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The Gift

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The Gift by Grace L Sutheralnd

“Happy Birthday, Grandpa!” The two young men grinned broadly as they burst through the door, holding a large gift-wrapped box.

“Don’t you young whippersnappers know how to knock? And who told yer its me birthday? ‘Taint me birthday.”

The cousins looked at each other, somewhat nonplussed. They had been planning this surprise for months; spent countless hours haggling about a suitable gift. After all, eighty was quite a landmark. Surely they couldn’t have got the date wrong?

Just then Grandma’s chirpy face peeked from the kitchen. “You stop that at once, Jonathan! You know very well it’s your birthday. Don’t pretend it isn’t. Stop giving the youngsters a hard time.”

Peter laughed. “What’s wrong, Grandpa? Afraid you might be getting old?”

“Hrmph!” the old man snorted. “Ain’t getting’. Got. Long ago. As for birthdays, ‘taint me birthday ’cause I said I ain’t havin’ no more birthdays, an’ if I ain’t havin’ ’em, no-one can make take ’em.”

Michael and Peter exchanged glances. “Well, Grandpa,” Peter chuckled, “if you don’t want a birthday, we’ll just have to celebrate your unbirthday. We brought you a present anyway. Happy unbirthday, Grandpa.”

He extended the box toward the old man, who glared impatiently at it.

“Present. Huh! What do I want with a present? And what’re yer doin’ spendin’ th’ dough yer should be savin’ fer the future on stuff like this?”

By now his long-suffering wife had emerged from the kitchen. “For goodness sake, Jonathan, stop carrying on like a pickled porcupine and open it!”

“Go on, Grandpa,” urged Michael, obviously feeling uncomfortable. “It didn’t cost an awful lot, but we thought you would like it.”

Muttering under his breath, the old man tugged until the bow gave way, then lifted the lid, revealing a small bundle of tan and white fluff which immediately began to yap its greeting and its joy at the sight of daylight. Its new owner reached in and lifted it out. He held it up to the light, turning it around as if to see whether it really was what it looked like, then lowered it to the floor.

“Strike me pink! A dawg! Why on earth would I want a dawg? What’s a dawg good fer? Piddle on me carpets, chew me slippers an’ eat me out of ‘ouse an’ ‘ome, I s’pose.” Immediately the pup obligingly fulfilled at least part of the prophecy by making a large puddle at the old man’s feet. After looking up with its best “aren’t I clever?” expression and receiving only a growl in response, it dutifully set to work chewing the toes of the slippers he was wearing.

“What’d I tell yer? A dawg! Struth, who needs a dawg? Ethel, do somethin’ about this, will yer.” Ethel was already on her way, rag in hand. Dumping the puppy unceremoniously in her husband’s lap, she quickly cleaned the mess.

“Well, I think he’s kinda cute,” she said, “even if his manners do leave something to be desired. Yours leave rather a lot to be desired, too, but that’s never stopped me loving you, you great oaf.”

“Oh,” Grandpa rumbled. “I see. Well, if yer like ‘im, maybe we’d better keep ‘im then. At least it’ll give yer somethin’ ter grumble about other than me.” Ethel shook her head. No sense in endangering the victory by pressing the point that he was the one who did all the grumbling.

“Well fellas, I guess yer little bloke can stay. But mind yer, if ‘e grows ter a great hairy monster that takes ‘alf the ‘ouse, then yers’ll be getting’ ‘im back on yer doorstep quick smart. No I s’pose yers’ll be wantin’ a drink an’ feed before yers go, eh?”

After morning tea, the cousins took their leave. Outside, Michael relaxed visibly. “Tough old sod, isn’t he?” he commented, raising his eyebrows and tilting his head back toward the house.

Peter hesitated. Should he mention the maverick tear which he had caught glistening in the corner of the old man’s eye, or the tenderness with which those gnarled fingers had caressed the pub’s soft ruff? Nah, he thought. Why wreck the old boy’s image?

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “Real tough old sod.”

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