Malcolm Woods was used to getting strange homemade birthday cards from his friend, Wes but this year’s topped them all. Not only was it in the shape of a coffin, it also contained the following cryptic message:
What do you, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin have in common?
Happy 27th Birthday!!
“Um, Wes? Should I know what any of this means?” Malcolm asked.
“Buddy! I thought you were a music fan!” Wes replied incredulously.
“I am, but I still don’t get what you’re driving at.”
“Hendrix, Morrison, Cobain, Winehouse, Joplin…they all bit the dust when they were twenty-seven, and now you’re twenty-seven. Here’s hoping you make it to twenty-eight.”
Holy crap! Wes was right. All of those musicians did die when they were twenty-seven. Surely he wouldn’t, right? After all, he kept his drinking and recreational drug use to a minimum, drove better than those old people you see out on the road who should have given up their licenses years ago, and rarely ate unhealthy food. Fine, that was something he had yet to work on, but still.
The thought of dying before his twenty-eighth birthday freaked Malcolm out so much, he came up with a plan.
“If I am going to croak before my next birthday, then I’m going to go out with a bang and do twenty-eight really cool things while there’s still time,” he said to himself.
Over the next twelve months, Malcolm set out to accomplish the following: skydive, scale a mountain, flirt with a supermodel, eat a pound of bacon everyday for a month, show up to work in his pajamas, sing at least one song by the Carpenters while standing in line at the grocery store, hang out at an ashram, start a successful petition to have 2 Broke Girls pulled off of television, have his hair shaved into the shape of a cartoon character, visit Peru, Brazil and Bolivia all on the same day, join a book club and pretend that he was moved to tears by Little Women, binge watch every movie starring, directed, written or produced by Clint Eastwood, learn how to make Baked Alaska, rustle up the nerve to tell someone how much he loves them, rustle up the nerve to tell someone how much they drive him insane, get caught up on filing his income tax returns so his estate won’t have to deal with the headache, drive a BMW on the Autobahn, talk the mayor into declaring April 1st Malcolm Woods Day, talk Wes into sending a store-bought sympathy card to his family instead of a homemade one should he actually die, find out what it is about pedicures that make women so giddy, go a whole day giving the following response to anything anyone says to him: “I don’t know why you worry so much when there’s never more than a few blocks between you and a fresh jar of peanut butter”, figure out the Law of Definite Composition once and for all, join an online forum where the only thing discussed is the world’s best early bird dinner specials, re-enact every season of Downton Abbey within five minutes in place of a proper Best Man’s speech at his brother’s wedding, remember where he put his brother’s wedding gift, get a random tattoo of a dragon handing a bouquet of roses to a koala bear, be offered a promotion just so he can turn it down, and finally, take up fire eating.
It was that last goal that worried those in his life.
“It’s one thing to try an extreme sport or make a fool of yourself in public,” his recently married and, therefore, highly offended brother said in the final weeks leading up to Malcolm’s birthday. “Fire eating is something that can actually kill you.”
But Malcolm was determined to learn the secrets of this cool trick, so he signed up for classes and shortly thereafter felt confident he would be able to wow all of his family and friends at his twenty-eighth birthday party, which was to be held at his brother’s new house.
“Look at what I can do!” Malcolm shouted to everyone in his brother’s backyard the night of his party. “I can eat fire!”
He made sure that his mouth was properly moistened, lit the torch, and then tilted his head back as far as it would go. Just as he was about to swallow the burning ball of fire, Wes, hoping to stop his best friend before it was too late, rushed up from behind him and tackled him, causing the torch to go flying through the air. Fortunately, no one was struck by the torch, but his brother’s and his new sister-in-law’s house made of cedar shingles went up in seconds.
“I could totally kill you right now,” Malcolm’s now furious brother said.
At that moment, Malcolm wished that he had died before his twenty-eighth birthday, but he didn’t so now he has two house guests staying with him until their house can be rebuilt.