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18 August 2013

Birthday Bologna

Mikey was four months old when Martha celebrated her 46th birthday. It was a miracle that Mikey was born healthy and that Martha had survived the pregnancy. Jack refused to buy enough food and refused to buy her pre-natal vitamins during her pregnancy. Martha's doctor gave her a handful of sample packages of vitamins, otherwise she would have had none at all. Martha's friends from her job at the plastic factory and her step-son often brought her food because they knew she was hungry and Jack was not buying food for her while she was pregnant. Martha was hospitalized once because of malnutrition while she was pregnant with Mikey and his twin sister. Of course, Jack told the doctor Martha refused to eat to cover up his evil act of depriving her of food.

Martha woke up early on her birthday. She checked on Mikey who was sleeping soundly. She went to the kitchen of the small apartment she shared with Jack and whoever happened to need a place to stay at the time. Her solace was coffee. Most of the time a hot cup of coffee helped. She put on a pot and opened the refrigerator. There was nothing to eat. Martha caught a half cup of coffee from the brewer and then went to the living room to enjoy her treat and watch some news before Mikey woke up. She could hear Jack snoring in the back bedroom. Sundays were always dreadful for her. Jack would be in a sour mood because he had to go to work on Monday. Jack would be complaining about the "bitches" he worked with, he would take it out on her, and she would catch it all day.

Martha's mind was racing. "Forty-six years old with a four month old baby and a drunken bastard for a husband. Yay me!" she thought. Mikey was the only thing in her life she gave a damn about and it was him that kept her going. In all the years she had been married to Jack, he never bought her a birthday present. He never bought her an anniversary gift either. Come to think of it, Jack never bought her a Christmas present. It was clear Jack didn't give a damn about her. Martha put her head in the crook of her elbow and sobbed quietly. Thinking back on the past years made her miserable. Jack never even bought her a single maternity outfit to wear. Every stitch of clothes she had were given to her by friends and family. It broke her heart that Jack gave less than a fuck about her and Mikey.

Martha watched television for an hour before Jack woke up. Jack's son Jared had been sleeping on the sofa. He was rousing too. Jack spent the next 3 hours complaining about the Sunday Blue Laws and expressing his disgust for Christians who, because of their fake piety, deprived him of his Sunday morning beer. As the clock neared 1:00 PM, or beer o'clock as Martha secretly called it, Jack grabbed his car keys and started for the door. 

"Jack?" Martha asked. "Can you bring me something to eat? I'm really hungry and I have to eat something to keep Mikey healthy."

Martha was breast feeding Mikey. It was a good thing she did too, because it was highly unlikely Jack would pay for baby formula. 

"Sure," Jack said as he went out the door.

Martha and Jared talked and watched television while Jack was gone. Jared had brought food to Martha before, he knew that she often went hungry. Jared wished Martha a happy birthday and apologized because he had no money to buy her a present. 

Soon, Jack returned from his Sunday morning beer run. He tossed a paper bag on the love seat beside Martha and said, "Happy birthday." Jack continued down the hall to the bathroom.

Martha looked inside the bag. There was a loaf of white bread, a package of bologna and a small container of mustard. Martha burst into tears. 

"What's wrong, Martha?" Jared asked. 

"Fuck me!" Martha cried. "It's bologna! I got fucking bologna for my birthday! I got birthday bologna!"

Jared and Martha laughed and cried together. It was pathetic and profoundly sad at the same time. For years afterward on her birthday, Jared teased Martha about the birthday bologna.

"Did you get your birthday bologna again this year?" Jared would ask. 

It was a long time before Martha could walk past the deli isle in a grocery store without both laughing and crying at the same time. 

 © H Maria Perry
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