Wednesday, November 10, 2010

True Stories of John, 5. The Birthday Present of 2010.

So far as I heard, nobody celebrated Nat’s birthday. He got Facebook wall congratulations, a blender from his mom, and that was it. He is a dear friend, a considerably better person than myself, and too affable to receive no birthday festivities. He lives in another state and had an acting gig that day, so I couldn’t intervene directly. I had to wait until he visited.

I set a large box in red checker wrapping paper on my ottoman. It had a small paper note wishing him a happy late birthday and expressing that I hoped he liked this, because it was incredibly hard to get.

When the time came, he unwrapped it. Inside he found a smaller box wrapped in “All Star” sports-themed wrapping paper and another note.

“Try Again,” this one said.

Inside was no present, only a third note.

“Maybe under the bed in the other room?”

He considerately went there, got down on the carpet and checked under that bed. Low and behold, there was a note waiting for him.

“Does that Styrofoam thing look like a gift box?”

He looked around the room. Tucked under the desk was a Styrofoam container my family had never thrown out. It wouldn’t decompose and we might use it for something some day. It was firmly wedged under the desk with several other boxes.

After digging it out, Nat looked unsurprised to find another note inside. But this one was not in English.

For those of you who don’t want to type that URL in, it led to a file download. Nat downloaded the .txt and opened it to see:

“Okay, making you download clues was going too far. Just check the dresser my TV is sitting on.”

There are two drawers in that dresser. The top drawer had a note reading, “No, the other drawer.”

The bottom drawer had a sizable present in it, in gold and white flower print paper. It also had a note.

“You don’t trust this.”

Inside he found a slightly smaller box in “Best Wishes” wrapping paper. It also had a note.

“I don’t blame you.”

Perhaps unsurprising, inside he did not find a present. There was only another note.

“You’re already thinking about it. Go ahead. Go get a knife.”

After chuckling for a moment, he went downstairs to the kitchen. In the silverware drawer there were many knives, including one with a note wrapped around it.

“Grill me a cheese.”

That was an in-joke between the two of us, stemming from our love of the Archer cartoon. It took him a while to figure it out, but to the right of the silverware drawer was my stove, with a covered pan sitting on it. When he lifted the lid, he found a new note.

“Do you get the joke yet? It was under your nose to begin with!”

Nat had spoiled my game early by noticing that my ottoman is hollow. You can store things inside it. Before he’d even unwrapped the first present, he’d opened the thing and discovered where his gifts actually were. So now he came upstairs, set the original giftbox aside and opened up the ottoman.

Except it was now empty, save for a note.

“Fuck you. Maybe you’ll get them when you go home.”

He asked if I’d hidden them in his car. I didn’t say it, but no – I’d had no chance to tuck them in his trunk, though I’d liked to have. By deadpanning, I managed to psyche him out and he went for his coat. As he lifted it, the wrapped presents fell out onto the floor. That was the best improvisation I could do while he’d been downstairs checking the knives and pans.

The gifts had a note.

“Now you get the joke.”

As for the gifts? A collection of old time radio comedies like Burns & Allen and Abbott & Costello, and the deluxe edition of The Dark Knight, featuring Heath Ledger as The Joker. It took him a moment, then he laughed and shook my hand. I wished him a happy belated birthday, internally trying to figure out a more convoluted method for next year. Perhaps a riddle on his Facebook wall, a .txt on an obscure Bit Torrent and freezing a folded note in a block of ice.


  1. Completely awesome, John! I wish I had such a good friend as you over here to do something like this for me. I hope Nat had a brilliant late birthday.

  2. Oooooh, like Sam, I'm jealous! That is really fun! He must have felt fantastic knowing you went to so much trouble for him! Good show.

  3. : ) Nat is lucky to call you his friend. So am I. I'm just picturing Nat going through all these boxes and things, and it made my morning. Great monologue!

  4. You're awesomely absurd, John, and a great friend. I like the block of ice bit. Another good one I heard of was filling several balloons with confetti. One held a note, but you had to pop them all to find out which one. Of course, this works best in someone else's house. :)

  5. So glad that he chuckled at all the work you made him go through. :)

    What a divinely amusing friend you are.

  6. What a great birthday! It's mine today, and I'm in bed sick :( Should I be checking under my keyboard for strange notes? LOL just teasing. Now yes, you will have to top this one next year.

    You're definitely a good friend :) Nat's lucky!


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