Ranjit liked birthday celebrations, especially ones he was invited to. Once he had been convinced to crash a birthday bash, much like he had heard people crash weddings. It had ended up being a bash, just not the kind young Ranjit had in mind.

That was a young and gullible Ranjit. The years had changed little of his face, or his nature, or his fondness for birthday celebrations, despite the forgetful experience. He always wanted to make it a special day and tried his best to that end.

It was the first of two birthdays. Ranjit was prepared with two gifts and two party poppers and was determined not to get them mixed up. This was the more important of the two birthdays.

“Come on, move it lardo! I just received the text. Ananya’s about to leave her friend’s place!” said Praval. Ranjit loved his sister, but he hated early mornings. He liked his roommate, but he wasn’t so sure about his younger brother Praval. He knew that Praval must have thought surprising Ananya with her brother on her birthday would improve his standing and help him get somewhere with her. However, Ranjit wasn’t worried. He knew Praval had less than a snowball’s chance in hell.

Ranjit broke into a canter to keep up with the one obsessing over his sister, who was either blissfully optimistic or in complete denial.

“What did you get her?” he asked in a brusque voice.

“Something I made,” said Ranjit. Praval chortled.

“I never thought you’d help me win your sister over!”

“Ananya, like many girls, prefers handmade things,” Ranjit retaliated, justifying himself.

“Sure, they all do; until they receive something flash.” Praval smirked and showed him the thin but visibly expensive necklace. He handled it with such care that Ranjit thought it was radioactive uranium.

“Hey, stay with me! I’m the one with the party popper. You’ll ruin the surprise!” called out Ranjit.

“I am the surprise!” yelped Praval as he raced forward. Nothing could stop him.

Eyes sparkling brighter than the scintillating necklace, heart pounding harder than the thump of the milkman’s motorbike, he rang the doorbell. The door creaked open a slit. A pair of eyes and knitted brows challenged him. But he was prepared. He equipped his weapon and made his move, making an ostentatious offering to the miffed goddess. An unexpected ally in the form of a dog came to rescue the damsel in no distress. She leapt at Praval, who tried parrying her with the hand holding the necklace. He didn’t succeed. What he did succeed in, remarkably, was putting the necklace on her furry neck. The deftness, although accidental, would make any circus ringmaster sweat nervously.

Ananya folded her arms and laughed. “You certainly know Mary’s taste well!”

The young female Golden Retriever attempted retrieving the silver necklace from her neck. She harried and pawed at it, finding her first amusement of the day. She ran with joy, and Praval chased with dread.

Ranjit watched them as he reached the door. He continued panting while Ananya continued laughing as the siblings hugged.

“Come on, brother of mine, where’s my gift?”

“Let’s set the mood first,” said Ranjit as he produced the party popper from his bag. Ananya smiled and shuffled nervously. Ranjit gave it a turn, and it popped.

But Ananya’s head bobbed, and she dropped.

Ranjit’s eyes widened as he read the words ‘Sucker Popper’ on its body.

“You weren’t kidding when you said it’s something handmade,” said Praval when he joined him a moment later. The popper for tomorrow’s birthday was a pooper for today’s.

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