Burnt offering

March 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Candelabra (cadabra).

In a tiny weekday mass, my altar-boy career received a flash of enlightenment.

Though mere minutes into the service, Father McKernan’s voice had faded to a drone.

With limited duties, I knelt and wondered why I seldom got to ring the bell.

Then I noticed a flapping movement in the congregation.

Several black-clad ladies at the front were gesticulating at me, then the altar.

At length I perceived their distress: the two table candles were unlit!

This was definitely my area, but I’d left the lighter in the vestry.

Mortified, I tried to convey my impotence with muted gestures and wide eyes.

The leading lady urgently proffered a matchbox from her bag.

I didn’t think I was meant to leave my station, but she insisted.

So I crept to the front row, hunched over to avoid eclipsing the priest – in full view of the church.

Box in hand, I returned furtively to the altar table.

I lit a match and contrived to ignite the left candle while exposing as little of myself to the priest as possible.

From his perspective, it must have looked like Thing from The Addams family.

The ladies nodded, then waved me to the right candle, which I likewise lit.

They nodded again, then hissed me off the stage.

I was elated my trial was almost over.

Carefully I put the spent match in its box and slid it shut.

Midway back to my station, my hands erupted in smoke and flames.

I dropped the conflagration on God’s golden carpet with the intent of stamping it out.

Then I wondered if He’d strike me for so doing.

I don’t recall who saved me from this ordeal of fire.

But I remember looking at Father McKernan, who seemed to be struggling not to cack himself laughing.

Driving home, Dad kindly confirmed I was indeed the source of great mirth.


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  1. Love the story! Trying to be quiet and then jumping up and down to put the matchbox out – very funny. Always said you’re a natural for the stage and love an audience …

    • Thank you, WLBB. By chance, I witnessed an even more dramatic pyrotechic malfunction decades later when performing with you and some other chaps in a band. πŸ˜‰

  2. Great story and very amusing. One little dedicated alter boy at our school is always shoving his less experienced partner when they forget to do things which always gives me a smile. The priest never sees though.

    • Hello, PP! I love it when kind readers like you augment a post with your experience. Thanks so much for taking the time. Kind regards, P. πŸ™‚

  3. I never ascended to the lofty heights of altar boy during my church-going years! I witnessed a few candle-related dramas in that time, so I can picture, in vivid colour, the scene you’ve described.

    Great story.Perhaps it’s a Lucifer metaphor?!

    • Hi Chris. Be not concerned; it wasn’t all wine and roses in those days. I’m thrilled to 666 charred, smoking bits that you saw the scene. To write in monochrome yet be seen in colour is very encouraging indeed. Kind regards and thanks heaps for coming back! P. πŸ™‚

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