Weekend Writing Prompt: The worst birthday present ever …

We’ve been a bit lax on posting in recent days because of our salvo to finish the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest magazine (more on that soon), but your literary tweets of yesteryear have been coming in through our social networks and blogs, and we’re loving them. (To get the scoop on how you might find your tweet in WD magazine, check out Wednesday’s post here; I’ll add all of the Twitter and Facebook participants in the next blog post about the challenge.)

Next week we’ll be back with a full lineup of regular prompts, and also an interview with author Majie Failey—one of Kurt Vonnegut’s lifelong friends—and a list of ways to land your writing in WD.

In the meantime, here’s a prompt for the coming days—and here’s to hoping you have an excellent weekend.

(Image: Sarah G, via Wikimedia Commons)


WRITING PROMPT: Resent the Present
free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments
section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble
with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece an
d the prompt to me
at writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and
I’ll make sure it gets up.

It was a birthday present he’d never speak of again.

(Or, alternately, break the rule and speak of the unspeakable—steal a page from your own life and incorporate one of the worst presents you’ve ever received into the story.)

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10 thoughts on “Weekend Writing Prompt: The worst birthday present ever …

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  4. Mandi Kang

    I have always wanted children, but I didn’t think I was ever destined to be a mother.  So I took the only job that I knew: a substitute.
    You see, my friend had two children, both completely screwed up.  The oldest, a brilliant but depressed boy, left the roost early and had a couple of accidents.  When the second child entered the world, he was in over his head.  He came to my door one day and asked if I’d babysit his children while he was at work in the evening shift.  I was thrilled.  I took the job.
    Six months later, his young wife died in a car accident, two weeks before his birthday.  He confessed to me that it was the worst birthday present ever.  He left my house sullen, the weight of being a single dad pressing down upon him.  He arrived in the same way, mechanically picking them up and fastening them in the car seats.
    The night before his birthday, I made him a pot pie.  I could see he wasn’t eating.  The girls and I waited for him to arrive at 9:30 like he usually did.  When 10:30 rolled around, I carried them upstairs and tucked them in beside me.  He was probably drinking himself to sleep, forgetting for a little while that he was a dad.  That’s ok.  I snuggled with the babies, finding comfort and peace with my surrogate motherhood.
    The next day he still didn’t show up.  I called off of work.  I made phone calls to everyone I knew connected to him.  No, his father didn’t talk to him today.  No, he didn’t show up for work.  I was worried about him.  He had always hit the bottle too hard, and now, he was probably a drunken mess.
    The ring of the doorbell sent me flying down the stairs, in hopes that he was there.  I would act irritated and chew him out, but in truth, I rather liked staying home with the girls that day.  I hoped, briefly, that it wasn’t him.  Maybe he wouldn’t show up again.

    As I flung open the door, I nearly knocked into the mail carrier.  A bemused expression lit up her face.
    “A certified letter for you,” she said, sticking out a note card to sign.
    I signed for it, ripping it open when I saw it was from him.
    “I’m sorry.  Take care of them for me.”
    I had the awful job of calling his father, my friend, and telling him about the letter.  As he hung up the phone, he said to me, “You know, we have the same birthday.”

  5. Megan Gotera

    Jimmy was only thirteen years old when it happened. His birthday party was full of his friends and family. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Then it was present time. Every time a present was passed to him they would cheer, “Present time, present time, open the present and see what’s inside!” Each gift was something he always wanted: a videogame, a skateboard, Batman comics, and a new drumset. Finally, this was it. The last present. Jimmy asked what it was. His mother replied, “It was a gift from Mr. Jones. He said it was made especially for you.” Jimmy grinned as wide as he could and then he tore out the present’s wrapping paper. Inside was a thong. It was a red and lacey G-string. Jimmy stared at it. So did everyone else. Only the sound of Britney Spear’s “Oops, I Did It Again” was playing to fill the awkward silence. “Um…What am I supposed to do with this?” asked Jimmy. Jimmy’s mother took the thong from him and said, “Honey, we’re going to talk with Mr. Jones.” All Jimmy could say was, “Okay.” His parents then left the room. Jimmy’s uncle then said, “So, who wants some cake?”

  6. Nathan Honore

    There are many ways to fake knowing someone when it comes to birthday presents. The digital age is making it even easier with online gift cards through Amazon and iTunes. Gift certificates were becoming more and more prevalent as I became a reclusive teenager. We didn’t see my extended family much so it was a given that we didn’t know a lot about each other. Gift certificates were aplenty.
    However, my Grandpa decided to buy me something on my seventeenth birthday, straying from the usual cash that looked like it had been through every war of the twentieth century. Alexander Hamilton was very worn by the time he got to my wallet. Grandpa’s gift was one of the last of the party. Everyone was in a good mood and laughing. Now, gag gifts were not uncommon on that side of the family. My uncle would present my dad with a twenty-four pack of toilet paper before giving him the newest version of Uncle Jon’s Bathroom Reader. Another common gift was movie passes, prefaced by a singular piece of candy in a gigantic box.
    Grandpa handed me his gift. More than the usual card, I braced myself for a gag. Anticipatory giggling filled the room. I ripped open the small rectangular present. An instructional fishing DVD greeted my eyes. I immediately burst out laughing. My brothers and parents all joined in. What an amazing gag! We were almost to tears by the time I looked over to Grandpa. He sat very still in his chair, hands folded, straight faced. He didn’t get it. This was no gag gift. I tried to back pedal and look at it seriously saying things like, “Yeah, this will be useful.” But it was too late. Grandpa was pissed and hurt. And soon after the party, so was I.
    Fishing had once been a big part of my limited relationship with Grandpa…when I was ten. I hadn’t touched a fishing pole in at least 5 years, much less watched instructional fishing videos. Since I entered high school, I was all about music. It was my life. Every day I’d go home and play guitar, bass, drums, and tuba (I know, tuba.) I even played at church to gain more experience. Fishing was dead to me, a relic of my childhood. Then I realized something: my Grandpa had no idea who I was. I became angry and spiteful. At least my other relatives went to the trouble to ask what stores I wanted gift certificates for. Grandpa was still convinced I was a prepubescent turd who loved fishing. A little late, old man.
    Anyways, I was eventually forced to call my Grandpa and apologize for laughing but pointed out why. He didn’t take it so well. I think this was when he started being a crotchety old man, a good indicator of what was to come. We don’t talk much anymore, but that present will never be mentioned again.


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