It was Mabel Simpson’s 80th birthday. She’d been looking forward to it with happiness and dread. Finally at noon the family arrived at the retirement home: her children and their children, husbands and wives of her children, whose names she often forgot. Alice looked well. Was this Herb’s second wife, or his third? She couldn’t remember but maybe it didn’t matter, at least to her. Nothing much mattered anymore except seeing that they, the whole crowd, were here and seemed to be well.
Matt brought in a cake. Mabel was dreading trying to blow out 80 candles, being cheered and patronized at her failure. But to her surprise, the cake bore one candle only, although it was a beautiful one, just the right color, a fervent red. Matt looked at her. She saw that he was hoping she wouldn’t be disappointed at seeing only one candle. “The building code,” he said sheepishly, paused, “The fire marshal here said it was a hazard, so many, I mean, so many candles…”
Relieved, Mabel managed to blow out the candle in two tries. A real shame to blow out such a beautiful candle. She paused. Oh well, her life had gone about as well as she’d expected, although maybe not quite what she’d hoped.
It was quite a handsome candle, she thought, now resting from its fire, no flame anymore, just a little smoke.
[Thanks to Holly Stockwell for the “fire marshal” idea.]