Birthday Boy

Big stinking deal. I was sitting in a truck, in the rain, with nothing but a snoring dog and a new license.

I had been sixteen for under twenty-four hours. I sat in my truck. It rained. I stared at my new, hot-off-the-press driver’s license.

Big nose. Goofy grin.

I hated birthdays with a purple passion. Three years earlier, Daddy died. Birthdays lost their punch.

Anyway, that day my driver’s exam had been easier than I thought. I weaved past orange cones like a kid who’d grown up on a Ford 2N tractor.

After the test, I showed the license to Mama. She was proud. She fired up the skillet. While she battered chicken, I decided to take the truck out for my first legal driving experience.

“Don’t be long,” said Mama. “Supper will be ready.”

I never left the driveway. My dog, Cody, sat in the seat beside me. The truck was off. It rained like hell.

My chest ached. Birthdays were supposed to be fun, dammit. Friends, family, parties. They weren’t. These days were hateful reminders that happiness is a white-headed dandelion in a hurricane.

I was changing. My body was turning against me. At night, my shins ached something fierce. The doctor said my bones were growing too fast.

Stubble appeared on my cheeks. I’d tried to teach myself to shave using Daddy’s old cutthroat razor. It was like shaving with a barn axe. Blood ran all over the bathroom sink.


Big stinking deal. I was sitting in a truck, in the rain, with nothing but a snoring dog and a new license.

A figure walked toward me wearing a raincoat. Flashlight in hand. The door opened and Mama crawled in. She handed me a plate wrapped in foil.

“You shouldn’t have,” I said.

“No trouble,” she said. “I didn’t want it to get cold.”

My shirt was greasy in a matter of seconds. Cody watched my every bite with sincerity.

“You know,” Mama went on. “One day, you’re going to get a second chance at all this. At turning sixteen, I mean. And it’ll be a happy day.”

Second chances.

I’d heard of those. I heard life doesn’t give them. That you only get one crack at things. You can’t fold the hand you’re dealt; you can’t get new cards.

Yesterday was my birthday. I sat in my truck. It rained. Hard.

I’m older now. I’ve got a mortgage, a back-surgery, and one arthritic left foot. I have a different dog. But she still rides shotgun—and she still snores.

On the radio: an old-timey preacher hollered. He claimed that every day was a second chance. Every hour, minute, second. Every word.

He said that sadness might be a hurricane when it hits, but hurricane season doesn’t last forever.

I don’t know how old I am this year.

Because every year I give sixteen another shot.


  1. sherry k. - December 31, 2016 2:01 pm

    I still remember turning sixteen on a Sunday…because I had to wait until the next day to get my license….a piece of white cardstock to replace the old red restricted…
    Had another big birthday this year…with a six right up in front….but every year I give myself a new operator license….with fewer restrictions…Lookout for 2036…when I turn eighty. Ought to be quite a girl by then.

  2. Carl Hopson - October 24, 2017 5:41 pm

    I had to wait; Christmas got in the way. My birthday is Christmas Eve. I do remember the test drive and it was easy because my Dad let me drive on dirt roads when I was small. He even let me drive from Panama City when I was about twelve, in his favorite car, his Hudson. I let all my children drive dirt roads when they were sitting on my lap. Wanted to give them an early start. My first daughter rear ended a car and left her car looking like a shark with its mouth wide open. The second daughter had three wrecks about six weeks apart. I actually went to the body shop we had been using and asked if I could start an escrow account because I was afraid to file more insurance claims. Daughter number three waited until she was married and took down a light pole in a shopping center parking lot. So much for starting lessons early.


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