“RSVP” by Michael O’Neill


No one came to my tenth birthday party. Mother and I awoke at eight in the morning to start setting everything up. I was hardly big enough to carry a wooden picnic table, but I was able to drag it across the lawn and place it by the front walkway. Dad fumed about the tracks I left behind and how I tore up his grass. Mother draped ribbons and streamers along the tree branches and lifted a piñata over our heads. We finished prepping by 11 and waited patiently for everyone’s scheduled arrival at noon.

The Dudleys backed out last second, and Tom and Johnny from the cul-de-sac were grounded by their parents. My cousins Jane and Elisa came down ill from eating too much pizza, and thus never showed. I grew nervous and a little sad when two o’clock rolled around and still no one appeared. I mean, I never expected the Tanners or the Wilsons to show up, but I would have settled for a few neighborhood kids to come, even that big, ugly kid Ross.

By six in the evening the day had lost most of its shimmer and the sun grew more and more tired. Mother and I sat at the picnic table and had picked clean most of the cake. The two of us, together, like sad storefront owners begging for customers. We both stood and took down the piñata, unpinned the tails from the donkey, brought all the banners inside, and placed them back in a box labeled Jacob’s 11th Birthday.


Michael O’Neill is a fiction and poetry writer residing in Chicago. His work has appeared in Maudlin House, WhiskeyPaper, the Journal of Microliterature, Unbroken Journal and Great Lakes Review, among others.

twitter: @mt_oneill20

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