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Rati Mehrotra
This Is Not What I Wanted for My Birthday Print

No Henri, this is not what I wanted for my birthday. When will you learn? Thirty years I’ve spent trying to make you listen to me ...

Okay, I won’t ‘start,’ but you do realize that I asked for a Gen14 Lab-o-matic? They hatch into these cute puppy-like things that clean the floor and fetch your slippers for you. All the Loneliness Mitigation Centers in Toronto have them. Even that awful De Souza woman next door has one, and she’s always going on about it.

No, this is not a Gen14 Lab-o-matic. It’s a Gen4 Lynx-o-matic. It says so on the box quite clearly. See? I don’t think they even manufacture these any more. The size of the egg should have given you a clue even if you didn’t want the bother of reading what you were buying. You’d better return it to the store before it hatches.

What do you mean, you can’t? It was on final sale? Henri, you are so cheap. My fiftieth birthday and you can’t splurge a little?

Oh, shoot. The egg is cracking. Do we have a cage? Okay, just put it back in the box. Maybe that’ll contain it for a while. Hold it down, I’m calling the 800 number given on their website. I don’t care if the box is shaking, just hold it.

No one’s picking up the phone. I’m just seeing a recorded message on their store-closing sale. They were probably delighted to get hold of a sucker like you who’d actually pay for a discontinued item.

Henri! I told you to hold the box down. Now you’ve gone and let it escape. No, I didn’t see how big it was. I was looking at the phone, remember?

Stop blubbering, it’s just a little scratch. Be thankful it’s nothing worse. Here, let me get my first aid kit.

I hope you’re satisfied. Instead of drinking wine and opening presents, I’m dabbing cream and tying bandages on your thick neck.

Of course it wasn’t going for your jugular. Don’t be silly.

How should I know where it went? Probably lurking somewhere behind the sofa or the cabinet to leap out at us when we’re not looking.

No way we’re calling RoboControl — do you know how much it costs? Besides, I’d never live it down. We’ll just have to find and catch it ourselves. I wonder what it likes to eat?

God’s Nails, did you see that! That orange monstrosity that just went streaking out of the window? Come on, let’s see if we can spot it. If it’s gone from our premises we’re no longer responsible for it. We’ll just close the doors and windows and report it missing and see if we can get fifty off on the latest Lab-o-matic.

I see it! Look, over there, in De Souza’s garden. It’s wrecking the rose bushes she’s always boasting about. Wait, I can’t believe this. That dumb Lab-o-matic of hers is actually attacking it. Like a ball of fluff attacking a tiger.

Wow, they don’t make the Lab-o-matics very resilient, do they? Look at all that wire and stuffing. Cutting corners, I suppose. Maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t buy one.

Oh-oh, here comes De Souza herself. Doesn’t she look mad. Draw the curtains a bit so she doesn’t see us. Haha, now our Lynx-o-matic is snarling at her. This is so funny. I’ve never seen her run before. I’m surprised she can run actually, with all that fat weighing her down.

Well, that wasn’t such a bad gift after all. I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in ages. Look, it’s coming back into our garden. Isn’t that sweet?

Henri? Where are you? It’s no good hiding, I tell you. Go find out what Lynx-o-matics eat.



Rati Mehrotra has stories upcoming in Apex Magazine and Abyss & Apex.

 

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