We’ve been a bit lax on posting in recent days because of our salvo to finish the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest magazine (more on that soon), but your literary tweets of yesteryear have been coming in through our social networks and blogs, and we’re loving them. (To get the scoop on how you might find your tweet in WD magazine, check out Wednesday’s post here; I’ll add all of the Twitter and Facebook participants in the next blog post about the challenge.)
Next week we’ll be back with a full lineup of regular prompts, and also an interview with author Majie Failey—one of Kurt Vonnegut’s lifelong friends—and a list of ways to land your writing in WD.
In the meantime, here’s a prompt for the coming days—and here’s to hoping you have an excellent weekend.
(Image: Sarah G, via Wikimedia Commons)
WRITING PROMPT: Resent the Present
free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments
section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble
with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me
at firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and
I’ll make sure it gets up.
It was a birthday present he’d never speak of again.
(Or, alternately, break the rule and speak of the unspeakable—steal a page from your own life and incorporate one of the worst presents you’ve ever received into the story.)
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When you think about it, a birthday is just another day on the calendar that happens to mark another year since you first departed the comfort and peace of your mother’s womb for the chaos and noise of the real world. But for some reason, ever since the days of the ancient civilizations, we humans have believed that birthdays are something to celebrate (the idea of lighting candles started with pagans, who used them to respond to the evil spirits that they believed showed up on days of major changes). Nowadays birthdays are loaded with expectations of joy, presents, cake and all-around awesomeness—but alas, reality doesn’t always live up to our expectations. Check out these 15 folks who may be having their worst birthday ever.
15 Tick, tick… boom
Celebrating your birthday with your close friends is always a good idea, right? They will show up with cake and presents, and together you can enjoy all the silly but fun things that come with a birthday party, like party hats and balloons. They’ll even cheer you on as you blow out the candles on your cake while you make your birthday wish. What could go wrong with it? As this birthday celebrant discovered, the tried and tested combination of cake, candles and balloons can literally go down in flames if you bring them a little too close together and take a bit too much time thinking about your wish. Lesson learned: keep all balloons to the side, and get those candles blown out quickly.
14 The party was lit AF
Speaking of things that can go up in flames—did you know that something sprayed from an aerosol can is most likely flammable? To be fair, it’s probably hard to think of a product labeled Silly String as something that’s potentially dangerous. It’s silly, it’s string—how much damage could it do? This family pretty much found out just how much damage the combination of silly string and birthday candles could wreak when they got a little too enthusiastic with spraying the string all over the celebrant just as he was being presented with his birthday cake—which, of course, was practically covered with lighted candles merrily waiting to be blown. At least this guy can say he once got to be his own biggest birthday candle.
13 From on fleek to on fire
For many teenage girls, turning sweet 16 can feel like a momentous occasion. Depending on where in the world you live, it could mean that you can now legally get a driver’s license, drink alcohol (as long as someone else bought it for you), get a full-time job and/or legally consent to having sex. (Note to readers: If you’re wondering if these apply to you, make sure to check the laws of the country and state where you live. Google is your friend.) So we can’t blame a girl for wanting to get all dolled up with perfect hair and makeup—eyelashes and all—on her sweet 16th. We guess this is just a lesson learned the hard way: false lashes go well with many things, but not with fire.
12 Surprise pool party
If you’re lucky enough to live in a home with your own pool—well, please tell us how you managed to afford that. Kidding—good for you, we mean it. We can all understand why pool owners would choose to entertain their guests at the poolside—it adds a refreshing feeling to the party, it helps people cool off and it invites guests to jump in and loosen up at any time. But of course, pools come with a caveat: There’s always a risk of slipping and falling into it. Just ask this unlucky guy who not only managed to fall into the pool while he was carrying a birthday cake, he also somehow brought the whole table, plates and all, into the pool with him.
11 Defeated celebrant
Maybe we should start rethinking using those birthday candles. Who needs candles anyway? They just drip wax all over the real star of our birthday celebrations: the birthday cake. Whether you’re someone who lives for dessert, or a health and fitness nut for whom carbs and sugar are strictly for cheat days only, the birthday cake is probably something you look forward to as your big day approaches. Maybe you’ll bake it yourself, maybe your friends and fam will surprise you with it or maybe you’ll just treat yourself to something from the nearest bakery—it doesn’t matter as long as there’s cake. So we can all empathize with this lady and her determination to have her cake and eat it, too—even after it’s gone splat on the floor.
10 This birthday girl is on fire
Many of us have come to expect an element of surprise to our birthdays. But so-called “surprise” birthday parties often come as a surprise to no one except the people who planned it in the first place, who are in for a shock when something inevitably goes wrong (too many guests, not enough guests, nobody remembered to get cake—you name it). Think about it—you may not expect a surprise birthday party, but you probably look forward to an unpredictable gift, or at least a birthday wish from someone you haven’t talked to in a while. And then there are the true surprises that can make a birthday unforgettable—like this lady whose hair seems to have caught fire from the candles on her birthday cupcakes.
9 Birthday bun
The birthday cake traces its history to ancient Rome, when “cakes” made from flour, nuts, yeast and honey were served at special birthdays. But we can thank the Germans for first having the brilliant idea, back in the 15th century, of marketing cakes specially for birthdays. These days most of us don’t mind variations on the classic birthday cake—we’ll take a birthday cupcake, pie, tart, doughnut or macaron. As long as it’s got sugar in it and you can put a candle and some sprinkles on it, it’s all good. And then there are those birthdays where any of those things would be too much of a splurge—like for this celebrant, who ended up celebrating their special day with a very special hotdog bun.
8 Clowning around
It seems no one truly enjoys clowns. We don’t know if we should blame Stephen King’s It for introducing us to Pennywise the Dancing Clown, or the creators of the Batman comic books for coming up with the Clown Prince of Chaos himself, the Joker, with his green hair and maniacally large red lips. Or maybe we should blame John Wayne Gacy, an actual Pogo the Clown performer who also happened to be caught as a serial killer and rapist in the 1970s. For whatever reason, these days many of us are not ashamed to own up to our coulrophobia and say we’d rather not have a clown at our birthday parties. And from the looks of it, this one young birthday celebrant definitely hates clowns.
7 Loafing around
Birthday celebrations can be a simple affair yet still be lots of fun. Let’s admit it: as adults, many of us would love to take a day off from work, sleep in, spend time with our nearest and dearest (which could also just be yourselves if you’re the introverted type) loved ones and drink enough alcohol to make us forget the creeping awareness of mortality that comes with each year that we get older. But in the eyes of a child, a birthday is still a pretty big deal that merits a real celebration—some guests, nice gifts, people singing “Happy birthday to you” and, of course, cake. So we can’t help but empathize with this little girl who ended up celebrating her day with a loaf of bread.
6 That takes the cake
At times, it feels like birthday parties are a cookie-cutter affair: you have guests, games, gifts, food, you sing the birthday song, make a birthday wish, blow out the candles and then eat all the cake you can handle (maybe more if you’re feeling like testing your limits). But then again, with all the high spirits, games and sugar (and maybe alcohol if it’s a grown-up party), anything can happen. We usually expect the kids to be the troublemakers, because that’s just what they are. But, as the birthday celebrant in this photo has probably learned all too well, we should never underestimate the shenanigans that our grandparents can get up to. We can’t even imagine what was actually going on here—we’re just glad there’s still enough cake left intact for everyone.
5 A slight misunderstanding
What should a birthday cake look like? It’s a simple question that can be answered in endless ways. Some people prefer a simple aesthetic—chocolate or vanilla frosting, a nice birthday wish on top and maybe a few edible sugary flowers. Others want a cake that goes with their party theme, like something with lightsabers and stormtroopers on top for a Star Wars theme or a cake made to look like a hibiscus in line with Disney’s Moana. Still, others want something more personalized—and with the magic of modern technology, you could literally put a picture of anything on your cake. But we’ll never know what this celebrant wanted on their cake—all we know is that it was not supposed to be an image of a USB stick.
4 For long life
When it comes to presents, the common adage is “It’s the thought that counts.” But let’s be honest, we each have different feelings about the importance of birthday presents. Some of us appreciate the simple things and would sincerely be pleased to receive a birthday card or a homemade trinket as long as we feel that the giver put lots of thought and care into it. Then of course there are also the materialistic girls and boys who want something with a little more flash (and a heftier price tag)—but hey, there’s no shame in that game either. No matter where you stand on this important debate, we’re sure there’s one present you wouldn’t appreciate: a pack of instant noodles with a lit match on top. Just no.
3 What the fudge
In case we haven’t made it clear yet, we absolutely love cake. We’ll take cake in practically any form and flavor we’ll find it in (although if you’re thinking of sending us some, something with chocolate is always a good idea). Now, if that cake has a birthday wish or dedication written especially to us, well, we’ll love it even more. It’s hard to explain—there’s something about seeing your name on top of a cake that makes you feel that it is really and truly your very own cake. In this case, though, it’s hard to pay attention to the rest of the dedication when you read the last two words of it because you’ll probably be too busy laughing. Too bad you can’t edit icing once it’s on.
2 Honesty isn’t always the best policy
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: cake is life. We’ll take any cake we can get our hands on, especially if someone’s giving it to us for our birthday and it looks delicious, like something that makes you want to exclaim, “Get in my belly right this minute.” A good example is the cake in this picture—it looks delicious, don’t you think? Creamy frosting—check. Chocolate shavings—check. Sweet birthday wish on top—wait, what? Yes, even cake-lovers as dedicated as ourselves might pause and have second thoughts before chomping into this beauty as soon as we see the dedication written on it. We wonder if the birthday celebrant had a sour taste in their mouth even if they were eating this sugary goodness.
1 Not throwing away his shot
Ah, siblings. It’s hard to describe the dynamics that go on between younger and older siblings—there’s love and having each other’s backs for sure, as well as bonding over secrets and following in each other’s footsteps, but there’s also rivalry, squabbling over toys and food and who gets to ride shotgun, and going in totally opposite directions. Ask any two siblings and they’ll probably have stories of all those things—and, of course, fighting. Who knows why there’s such pleasure in getting into fights with your sibling, even if you know you’ll get into trouble for it later? Take a look at this youngster who is setting up a shot right at his smiling sister just as she gets ready to blow her birthday candles.
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