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Shabti OR Five Bad Birthdays for Daniel (and One Good One)

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Eight

They never asked him if he wanted a party. If they'd asked, he could have told them no one would want to come. But parents are incredibly stupid sometimes, which is how he ended up in the roller rink with three kids from his school who weren't away at summer camp, eating a cake that's too sweet because it's mostly made of red clown face icing.

There's Jimmy, who has a severe stutter. The other kids call him retard whenever the teachers aren't listening. Then there's Mark and Dave, who were clearly forced to come by their parents. They haven't lowered themselves to actually talk to him the whole time.

Daniel hasn't worked out how to make the skates work properly. Even Jimmy is sailing around happily with the crowd of kids attending more popular parties, but Daniel can't seem to make them move without falling.

His shoes are being held hostage by a man behind a counter and his mother took away the book he brought. However, she turns her back from the party, such as it is, to chat with Jimmy's mother for a little while and Daniel decides he doesn't really need shoes. Kids back in Egypt went without them in the city. He'll be fine too.

With some effort, he manages to unlace the skates and sneaks out down the steps. The roller rink is on the third floor, above a gym in a massive building. He's not close to their temporary apartment or his school. He's not really sure where he is, but it feels good to be back outside, away from the disco music and stale cigarette smell inside. He walks carefully to avoid any glass on the sidewalks, but it's not too hard.

He wonders if he could navigate home and looks up at the buildings around him. Unfortunately, he doesn't see anything really familiar, like the Empire State Building. He hasn't paid that much attention to the buildings anyway.

There's a newsstand on the corner so he goes and reads the covers of the comics as he tries to decide what to do.

“Kid, you gonna buy something?” the man behind the counter asks. “Looking costs a nickel.”

Daniel doesn't have any money, but he realizes, looking at the man, that he's pretty sure he's from the Middle East so he replies happily in Arabic. “I don't have any money.”

The man raises an eyebrow. Daniel likes that expression. He wiggles his own eyebrows, trying to copy the one eyebrow gesture.

“Where are you from?” the man asks in Arabic. “You don't look Egyptian.”

“How did you know I grew up in Egypt?” Daniel asks, interested.

“You have an accent,” the man says. “Do you hear my accent? The way I say words is a little different from you, right? In English too.”

“Where are you from?” Daniel asks.

“I grew up in Lebanon,” the man says. “Do you know where it is?”

“I'm not stupid,” Daniel replies. “Lebanon, capital Beirut, bordered by Syria and Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea, of course.”

The man looks him up and down. Daniel is pretty sure he notices the lack of shoes. “What's your name?”

“Daniel Jackson.”

“Are you lost, Daniel?”

Daniel isn't sure how to answer this. It's true that his mother doesn't know where he is and he isn't sure where he is, but he did leave the party on purpose.

“It's my birthday,” he says, instead. “My father would say that's a non-sequitur,” he adds in English. “That's Latin. I know that one too. Do you know Latin?”

“I'm afraid I do not,” the man replies.

That's when Daniel hears his mother's voice, half frantic. “Danny!”

She's still over by the entrance to the gym, so Daniel is pretty sure he can get a head start. “Bye!” he tells the newsstand man in Arabic, then he takes off at a dash. Anything to avoid going back to that party and having to spend another hour stuck on wheels designed to make him fall down in front of his classmates.

He gets about a quarter of the way down the block before he trips and falls. He stepped on something nasty, he can tell right away. And his knee is skinned up as well.

“Danny!” his mother says again, catching up with him. “What are you doing out here? You scared me. And it's rude to leave your own party.” She looks down at him. “And now you're bleeding? Oh, Danny.” She sounds annoyed.

“I hate the party!” Daniel yells, gripping his knee. He is angry and was just speaking Arabic so he sticks with it. He's loud enough that the man at the newsstand leans out and watches. He'd get up and run again, but his foot hurts too much. It might be really hurt, like beyond just peroxide and a band-aid hurt. “No one asked me if I wanted a party!”

“Speak English, Danny,” his mother says, exasperated. Ever since they came back here to spend the year in New York, his parents have been pestering him to speak English. He speaks English perfectly fine, he thinks. Why does he have to prove it all the time?

“I hate you!” he screams, sticking with Arabic. “You said we'd go back during the dig season!”

“We have been over this a million times now,” she says. “Your father got asked to do a very prestigious summer lecture series and we were both asked to oversee the installation at the Met.”

“I hate it!” he screams again. He knows he's throwing a tantrum, but he doesn't especially care.

His mother hauls him up to his feet, but it hurts, so he screams. She looks down and sees the glass shard sticking out of his foot and swears, this time joining him in Arabic. At least that makes Daniel laugh a little.

She picks him up and yanks the glass out. Daniel can't tell if it's bad, but he knows there's blood all over the place now.

“Excuse me, madam.” It's the newsstand owner. “That is my sister's deli right there,” he gestures across the street. “Come with me and we can help him clean up.”

For a moment, Daniel thinks his mother is going to take him back up to the roller rink, but she sighs and follows the newsstand man to the deli.

Fifteen minutes later, Daniel has a thick improvised bandage on his foot and is eating a huge piece of baklava and talking to a little girl in a pink dress with curly dark hair in Arabic, telling her the story of how Geb made the earth and Nut made the sky.

When his mother returns bearing his shoes and three unopened presents, she looks overwhelmed and says they have to leave.

“How about we bring you to the museum next week when we install the exhibit,” she offers as they hobble back to the subway. “You can see all the artifacts. Your father and I are going to have to bring some things from the collection in the crates. Some vases and a few other things.”

“The shabti figures? Like at the British Museum?”

“None of those. We just have a few now. If we find an apartment, we'll take them out and give them a special place on a high shelf. I know you're a big boy and can handle yourself at the museum and not have any more tantrums. Isn't that right?”

“Yes!” he says. “Do you think any of the presents are books?” he asks, peering into the grocery bag with the bright boxes.

“Jimmy's mom said he got you Matchbox cars,” she admits. “Oh, Danny. I wish...” Then she breaks off. “I'm glad you got the baklava you wanted. That cake really was pretty bad.”