Birthday Boy - K Vish


Your mother hides your birthday presents because she says the way you’ve been acting lately you don’t deserve any of them so obviously you go rummaging in cupboards and unearth a shoebox full of photographs of your parents before they had you and you see that they were real party animals back then my oh my isn’t this delicious fodder for revenge and even blackmail if you threaten to show the photographs to your grandparents but then as you keep shuffling through them they get worse and you wish you’d never seen for example your parents naked among other naked bodies or your mother with white dust around her nostrils or other things so much worse than stealing cookies or smoking a cigarette every now and then which is really the biggest secret you have from them and it makes you feel inadequate and threatened and lost so you get on a train that’s headed out of the city singing slow ballads to your disco heartbeat to slow it down but of course there’s no slowing down now the train is only getting faster and you wonder if you should pull the chain and grind the wheels to a halt and go back home but your parents probably stripped off all their clothes and started screwing the moment you stepped out the door so you think of all the things you can do to piss them off for their betrayal and you think the best revenge is to live a good life but your parents wouldn’t mind that they never wished you harm but they never wished you bon voyage either come to think of it they never wished you anything and you look at your phone to see if they left you any pleading messages and they haven’t but your phone is ringing and you answer the call and it is your wife telling you that you ought to have got down three stops ago when are you coming home Ananth it’s been three years already and your children need a father and you ask her if she means unborn children and she says no they’re here they’re born and living and climbing all over me Ananth they’re a bunch of wild monkeys I need your help I need you to come back so you say you will and consider getting down at the next stop but you don’t recognize the name of the station so you think you had better not because you wouldn’t know how to get back so you stay on the train and hope it slows down but secretly you hope it goes faster because you can feel something catching up with it and you lie down in your berth and close your eyes because you feel so damn tired and your bones are in a constant State of Ache and there is a tapping on your shoulder and you open your eyes and it is your grandson the one with the tattoo of a third eye on his forehead but otherwise quite a decent obedient fellow and he says dammit Thatha I couldn’t stand it anymore I had to run away and he pulls out his phone to show you pictures of the family he ran away from and there are your children all naked in a heap upon a mountain of powders and needles their genitalia entangled in inscrutable ways what has the world come to Ananth we can’t go living our lives in trains while the world goes on outside and your grandson says I love them Thatha I love each and every one of my one hundred parents but just look what they are up to is this any environment to raise a child in I’m sure you were a much better parent than this and the train slows to a halt and everyone gets off because it will go no further.



“Birthday Boy” came out of a spasm of writing with which I attempted to break through one of the numerous dead ends I encountered in the process of writing my novel. It is both fitting and a self-inflicted curse that my protagonist’s name, Ananth, means “without end.” My novel remains unfinished, and finishing it strikes me increasingly as such a monumental feat that I refuse to believe that anyone is capable of writing a novel. This is why I refuse to read novels, out of sheer disbelief.

In some ways, “Birthday Boy” is that novel I am failing to write, encapsulated in a single sentence, unpunctuated for fear of taking a breath too long, lest I forget what I was in the middle of saying.





K Vish is from Chennai, India to South Bend, Indiana, where the University of Notre Dame grants him an MFA in the near future. He has written works for children such as two picture books involving monkeys and short stories in anthologies with titles like The Moustache Maharishi. Find him at