First Page – No Kiss Good-Night

The day of his thirty-ninth birthday, relationship counsellor Gus Adams was completely alone. He was supposed to have a birthday bash, surrounded by friends and coworkers, but everyone cancelled for this reason or that. Gus—left with a silly Staples birthday banner and chilled champagne, sans company—realized he had no one upon whom to depend, no one to love.
With sudden determination, Gus decided to find love—real, substantial love—before his dreaded fortieth birthday. After all, he knows how to make a relationship work. He spent his career listening to other people talk about their relationships. He knew what worked and what didn’t, but Gus hadn’t been in a romantic relationship in over ten years, since a heartless vixen tossed him out on the metaphorical curb.

Kevin Zdrill

Realizing I was perilously close to executing an Olympic-quality somersault, I stepped back from the fifteenth-floor railing. My second dismal thought was that no one would know if I had gone over. I was alone inside my Winnipeg apartment. On any other day of the year, the silence was an accepted normal, but today it was a defeat. Today I turned thirty-nine, and I’d had a plan to tackle the dreaded experience with a show of force. With focused determination, I’d gained the commitment of my most cherished friends, family and acquaintances to form a protective circle around me as we celebrated the end of my favourite decade, my thirties.

This morning my phone rang at 9:00 a.m., and I dashed toward it with a large grin, preparing to hear the well-wishes of a thoughtful friend. It was my sister, Julia Adams. She was flying in this afternoon from her home in Minneapolis, one of the guaranteed members of my protective birthday circle. Except today was my birthday and Julia’s plane ticket was one weekend off. Julia was calling from the airport—ticket, bag and gift in hand—mere hours away from joining my circle. In her zest for supporting her brother she’d given the airline the wrong date for her day of departure. Julia had a heart of gold but her pocketbook wasn’t lined with it. The airline wanted $900 to change her flight. End of the line. Julia asked if it would be okay for her to hang on to my gift until I saw her at Christmas when I came to visit. Yes, it would. Strike one from my protective circle.

I thanked Julia for calling. I still had confidence my remaining troops would take up the slack. I spent the rest of the morning getting silly from blowing up a few coloured balloons I’d bought at the Dollar Store. I chose a stack of CDs to play during the party, including my favourites by Streetheart, Loverboy Harlequin and Neil Young; I pulled out my wrinkled Twister mat in case the party got wild and stuck 39 candles into the vanilla cake I’d bought the day before at Safeway.

Lonny Wood rang my phone at 12:30 p.m. He was my best friend, my only friend, a part of my circle, and it looked like he was not going to show up. Lonny had intended to drive in from Brandon today after selling his cell phones to various farming communities. He explained that while he was having breakfast that morning at the Double Decker Restaurant in Brandon, he’d bumped into a “harem” of girls paying their bills at the same time he did. The girls were heading off to a Passion Party one of the women at Double Decker was hosting. Thirty women equaled thirty potential cell phone sales, maybe a phone number or two for Lonny and a free sex toy thrown in by the hostess. “Business is business,” he said. Lonny promised to drop off my birthday gift the next time we got together.

After Lonny bailed on my final thirties party, slight panic set in, but I pulled out the two bottles of Barefoot champagne that I had chilling in the fridge and left two champagne glasses in the cupboard. I set the bottles on the kitchen table alongside the remaining three glasses. I liked that odd number. It was lucky.

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