The Birthday Bandits

There was nothing that made Kiwi more uncomfortable than the sight of her Uncle Barby drinking a Pina Colada.

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There was a certain age or time in ones life when one should stop drinking with a straw. Uncle Barby had definitely reached that age and then surpassed it by a fair few decades. Uncle Barby had a large, bulbous and burnt forehead that furrowed in concentration when he drank. He stared angrily at the most direct point in front of him with grey, tired eyes and even greyer, prickly, eyebrows. That ‘point’ could be a wall, a parked car, a sleeping dog, a uncomfortable, nervous child, anything! But whatever it was, he looked at it with utter concentration, fleeting moments of contempt, and then slurped loudly. In between sips, Uncle Barby would tap his crusty upper lip with the straw repetitively, often for minutes at a time. Occasionally he would knock a disobedient mustache hair into place and let out a low, ominous growl. However, most the time he would just tap his lip until he seemed to be fully satisfied and then slurp to his hearts content.

Kiwi once asked Uncle Barby why he always asked for a straw with his drink. Uncle Barby matter-of-factly replied; ‘To mix the Pina with the Colada, crater face!’ He guffawed loudly at his own joke and had even elbowed the person next to them at the bar to repeat it. Kiwi had felt so utterly embarrassed by the whole scene that she had refused to look at him while he drank from a straw again. She also did not look because she felt repulsed by it, unsurpringly.

Kiwi had been called ‘Kiwi for exactly 6 months. Her uncle had playfully named her this during a family meal on Christmas eve. She didn’t remember why he had called her this and was certain that she was as unamused then as she was now. The peculiar thing was that Uncle Barby had insisted on Kiwi referring to herself by this name at all times. At first it seemed to just be for his own amusement, of which was usually easily acquired by bad jokes and trashy puns. But this was different. After a fortnight of traveling between hostels, caravans and camping sites, Uncle Barby had began to take the name much more seriously.
“Now about your name, crater face, it’s Kiwi now. Kiwi for good. That means no chiming about your ‘Christian name’ crap, no stories about your sweet, doolally parents calling your name through God-knows-what hippy market, field or festival and no introducing yourself as it.” Uncle Barby growled “And don’t even bother asking me to call you it! Get it?”
Kiwi nodded. She knew never to reply to Uncle Barby’s ‘get its’ with anything other than a nod. She must have been looking inquisitive though because Uncle Barby crouched down to Kiwi’s face, almost scratching her eyelids with his overgrown beard and whispered warm, aggressive breath into her ear.
“And if you even thing about asking me why, you’ll end up part of a finely chopped fruit salad. Comprende, crater face?”
A nod was required once again.
“You’ll need to wear this from now on.”
Uncle Barby chucked Kiwi something that looked like a dead rat. She caught it tentatively, making a nervous squeak as she did so. It was a cheap, black wig cut into an overly straight bob with an unnaturally thick fringe.
“What’s this for?” Kiwi asked.
“Never you mind, just put it on and look normal.”

***

     2 months and 2 weeks later Uncle Barby and Kiwi sat on two bar stools in a run-down American-style diner. Kiwi wore the chunky black wig obediently but shoved her hand underneath to scratch her itchy scalp whenever Uncle Barby wasn’t looking. She played with a small puzzle that required getting a ball through a maze. It was seemingly impossible and yet Kiwi had played it so much that she’d completed it at least 20 times. Uncle Barby was drinking a Pina Colada, or rather, thinking about drinking the Pina Colada while tapping his lip with the straw.

“Now Kiwi,” Uncle Barby said in-between taps “today is going to be a learning day.”
“What’s the subject?” asked Kiwi eagerly.
She put down the toy and stared at her Uncle Barby with wide, desperate eyes. She would rather do anything than play with that puzzle one more time.
“The subject? Surely you know that one, crater face. The subject is, and always will be, life!”
“How exciting!” clapped Kiwi.
She said this so chirpily that it could have been interpreted as sarcasm but Uncle Barby was in a hurry so he let it slide.
“I’m going to teach you how to get the waiter to give you a birthday present.” purred Uncle Barby.
“But you said it was my birthday yesterday.”
“Did I? Well…”
Uncle Barbed smirked as he swirled the straw around his drink giddily.
“Well, it was! And it just happens to be today as well. In fact, it’s all week!”
Uncle Barby laughed loudly at his joke and slurped his drink. Kiwi looked unconvinced.
“Just go and ask the waiter for your birthday present, crater face.” snapped Uncle Barby “This is going to make us both famous.”
He tried to smile sweetly as he said this but instead he oozed desperation. Kiwi made her way towards the waiter innocently wondering if the headline would say: ‘First person to have 7 birthdays in 1 week.’ Uncle Barby watched her go dreaming that the headline would say: ‘The Birthday Bandits strike again.’

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