Mass was over and Father Whipp had a five-minute window to eat his birthday cake (if he didn’t want anyone knowing about it). Father David, who presided over the afternoon service, would soon arrive through the big doors in a creaking flash of daylight, and if Whipp wasn’t quick he’d be obligated to come clean and offer to share.
When people didn’t know it was his birthday, Whipp preferred to punish them by not reminding them.
He rubbered his heel against the wood floor, waited behind a crack in the sacristy door for a woman and her sad-faced little girl, across the cool incense and arched Maplewood of the chapel, to get on with lighting a prayer candle. Everyone else had left.
The woman pulled one of the dozen lit candles from its stand and gave it to the girl, who dipped its tip importantly into one of the ruby red candle glasses. After the smaller candle caught, the little girl handed the candle back to her mother and watched her replace it on its stand. Then the girl whispered something and made a plump, misaligned house with her hands. Finally the two left, the woman guiding the girl ahead of her with a soft finger at the shoulder blade.
Father Whipp huffed, relieved. “Geez.”
He rushed across the grey marble floor, past the glossy pews to the candle rack. With an occasional glance over his shoulder to the big doors, he took a small white candle from the basket beneath the rows of red, flickering glasses.
Back in his office he set the candle into the center of a small ice cream cake. After he swiped some cookie crumbs off a bent paper plate he kept in a drawer, he rattled a fuzz-spotty fork down next to it on the desk and then twisted a scrunched paper towel up into his white collar. He lit the candle with some matches from back when he smoked, and he tried to come up with something to wish for.
But Whipp couldn’t come up with anything, and he was almost out of time before Father David showed up, so he just blew out the candle and wolfed the cake while the black smoke twirled.
For more practicallyserious flash fiction, check out this story!