Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: The Perfect Card

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

The Perfect Card
Word Count: 597

Is there anything in the world that’s quite as bad as mediocre poetry?

That’s what I’m wondering as I flip through the birthday cards at the local drugstore. Insipid poems. Paragraphs of mush. Pictures of men in Speedos. This is ridiculous; none of these will work.

Now, I’m not looking for the perfect card. I’m looking for a good enough card. But apparently my standards are entirely too high. See, I’m looking for a card that says “Happy Birthday, Mom” without being too irreverent, which rules out the funny cards—and therefore about two-thirds of all of the birthday cards—and what’s left over is sappy, sentimental twaddle.

I look at another. Dear Mom, you made me all that I am today, and without the blessing of your love… Seriously, I need a shot of insulin after reading that.

And if they’re not sentimental, then they have way too many words inside. Look at this one! Victor Hugo wrote the inside, I swear. I don’t want my mother to look at a card, glance at the paragraph(s) of text inside and waste time wondering if it’s worth the effort. I don’t want to have to smile while she skims. Where are the Hemingway cards?

Oh, how I hate this, and I go through it every year—twice, if we’re counting Mother’s Day. And, in fact, Mother’s Day may be worse. But at least with Mother’s Day you don’t have a lot of variety. Mom’s going to get a saccharine, mushy, glittery card, or she’s going to get nothing. You know this. She knows this. You make up for it with a fruit basket. Everyone’s happy.

But with a birthday, you have a much larger base selection—and you have all year to find the right card. Therefore, my inability to find a good one simply means that I didn’t put forth enough effort. It is evidence of my failure as a child, which is in turn evidence of her failure as a parent.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Guess what I got you! Disappointment. Same as last year, I know.

Now, I realize that I’m being a little too hard on myself. I know that whatever I get her, she’ll love. But you know what? That actually makes it kind of worse. I don’t want to think that my mother would be the sort of person who is willing to settle for a crappy, gushy birthday card with glitter and too many words inside.

I look at another. Okay, this one has potential. Nope, it plays music. Holy cow, that was loud. Now people are staring at me. It’s like Candid Camera or something. This card was sitting here, waiting for some unsuspecting stranger to open it so it could shriek out, inviting the other patrons to look at the damned fool with a singing birthday card in his hand. Why would you do that to another human being? Who wants to open a perfectly nice birthday card only to get shouted at and/or sung to? Who genuinely wants to experience four seconds of repeated noise blasted through a microscopic speaker that’s so tinny it sounds like it’s been run through the dishwasher?

Someone does, obviously, or else they’d have gotten rid of them years ago. But still…

I’m about ready to declare defeat when I find the cards that are blank inside. And here’s one with kids dressed up as grown-ups. That’s kind of cute without being overbearing. I guess.

I mean, it’s not terrible.

I guess I’ll get her a fruit basket, too.

Edited by Carolyn "This Math Is Strange And Terrible" Abram.

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