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  • Writer's pictureRosie Forster


Updated: Nov 30, 2021

I don’t like going to church because church is dusty. It smells like Nanna’s house and it’s also filled with old people who, like Nanna, smell like death. I smelled death on Libby, but Mama said not to be silly, that all fish smell like that, even before they die. She let me flush Libby down the toilet. Well, Mama was going to do it, but I snuck under her arm and pressed the button. So she didn’t let me. But she couldn’t unflush the toilet and flush Libby herself.

I had to be in Church on this day, because it was Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve meant the Christingle service which meant more kids around to balance out the dusty old people death smell. We lined up with our oranges, and the unlit candles in our oranges, and the fruits and sweets on toothpicks stuck into the oranges, and red ribbons tied around the whole thing. Mama had tied red ribbons in my hair too, probably to make me seem more Godly than the other children.

My orange was at least twice as big as everyone else’s. “That’s not an orange,” said Rev. His full name was REVEREND GARETH HAMMOND II, but he always tells us to call him Rev. He has too many teeth in his face. It makes him look like a goat. He likes to spend time with the church children because he says old people are dull. He took my orange and spun it in his hands and said, “This seems more like a grapefruit to me.”

It was very large. I had picked it out of the supermarket myself. My candle was taller than the other children’s candles, and there was no fruit attached to my Christingle, only sweets. I looked ahead of me at Augustus Owen, whose orange had toothpicks with raisins on it. His didn’t even have a red ribbon. It was some sort of cheap looking plastic tape.

I snatched my orange back from Rev, in a not very Christmassy way, but I knew that because I was a child and we are all God’s children, God has to be good to us so Rev couldn’t be mad at me.

In my pocket, I rolled a second candle in my hand. Mama didn’t know I had this one, I had taken it from the cupboard in the kitchen where she keeps supplies for birthday parties. When the lights in the church got dimmer, I pulled the first candle out of my orange and replaced it with the second candle. My second candle was taller and thinner than my first candle.

We walked down the middle of the church, a line of children dressed all in white. The old lady with frizzy hair who plays the organ played the organ. She never plays it very well. It felt like I was in one of Mama’s horror movies that she likes to watch. I think she likes watching those movies because they make her think her life is less scary. Or maybe she thinks that God will save her from whatever she’s watching. But I don’t think that’s true, because a lot of those movies have scary little children dressed in white.

When we got to the bit of the church with the priests and the big cross on the table, Rev went down the line and lit all the candles.

“The orange,” he said as he went, “represents God’s world. The fruits on the toothpicks are the fruits of his creation. The red ribbon is Jesus’ blood which he shed on the cross for us. The candle is Jesus’ light, bringing salvation to this dark earth.”

This last bit about God’s earth didn’t make sense to me. I thought God’s earth was supposed to be an orange.

Rev reached me and patted my head. His hand rested too long on my hair. It smelled like dust. He leaned down and said to me with his goat teeth, “God is very proud of you, my little angel.” His breath smelled like eggs, and I wrinkled my nose. He lit my second candle.

Did I say candle? I meant sparkler.

The dusty old people in the dusty old church started shrieking. I giggled. Sparks flew out of my huge orange and the hissing sound it made caused them to shriek more. Augustus Owen dropped his orange, his candle still burning. Mama tried to grab me by the shoulders, although she caught my hair ribbons, and pulled me out of the church. I dropped my orange, but I didn’t really mind. God’s world was orange.

The church didn’t burn down or anything. Rev got some burns on his face, because he had been leaning so close to me when he lit the sparkler. The church smelled like less like dust and more like ash.

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