a gift, a dropped ball, a bouncing ball

Jen accidentally drops her gift while opening it while enjoying drinks before dinner on the first night of a two-night Niagara Falls vacation Gloria arranged and paid for to celebrate her 50th birthday. Jen and Gloria abandon their meal to chase the bao ding balls down Clifton Hill.

“Go on,” Gloria said, sipping her beer. “Open it.”

Jen pushed the gift back. “No, no. You’ve already done too much.”

“Screw that. I did this as much for you as I did for me.” They sat at the top of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls on the Kelsey’s patio, sipping draught beer and pondering the menu, while a musician performed “Let’s Go Crazy” acoustically, accompanied across the street by a homeless man in ragged clothes standing on a milk crate shouting bible verses. Jennifer examined the wrapping before opening the gift, taking her time to peel back the tape and avoid ripping the gift wrap paper. Gloria only shook her head, knowing better than to correct her friends habit.

Gloria held up her pint glass, coaxing Jen to do the same and they toasted to each other’s health.

“Now open your damned gift,” Gloria said, downing what was left of her beer and tried to make eye contact with their server.

Four hours ago, Jen’d been one the couch, in comfy pants, flitting through Amazon Firestick channels looking for a least objectionable that would distract her from being alone on her 50th birthday. Before she could chose, she snatched her ringing phone, hoping for one of her two daughters, only to find the mischievous smile of Gloria’s caller ID picture. Jen guessed she’d heard about what happened at work that day. How does bank branch gossip make it to her so quickly? she had wondered.

It was a pine box decorated with Chinese characters in red ink. Its lid was on brass hinges, unlocked by a simple brass clasp. Jennifer opened it to reveal two jade spheres just as the server came by.

The server came by when Gloria was still shaking her head and asked “Did you change your mind?”

“No, ma’am. My friend’s gift unwrapping just continues to dumbfound me,” Gloria answered. “Two more pints please.”

“One more,” Jen interjected.

“Bring two,” Gloria insisted.

“Bao ding balls!” The server exclaimed when she looked up from her order pad. “Those things are supposed to be great. My friends tell me they help with stress.”

“So I’m told,” Gloria said, downing the last of her beer. The server grabbed the empty glass and went to the bar to grab their second round.

Jen had a question about her fit but the passing group of bikers going down Clifton Hill, looking proud on their loud, gleaming machines drowned her out.

“What?” Gloria yelled.

Jen held up the pair of balls and yelled her question louder just as the bikers cut their engines when parking at the curb by the Travelodge, unintentionally broadcasting her question to the whole patio.

“These are for my vagina?!”

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