Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 125: Easter Incidents

          And now, it's time to recount some amusing Easter anecdotes.
          Well, okay, one in particular. I had to wait on this one for a few years, because a) I got teased enough for this one as it was, and b) it took me a few years to be able to bring this one to mind this one without wincing.
          As anyone who has read my quick introduction of myself knows, I'm a solid Catholic. Part of what that meant for me and my brother Nemesis was that we would occasionally assist, or "serve," for Masses. We both enjoyed it, and eventually got enough experience to get asked to serve for the big occasions, like Christmas, Easter, or for the bishop. This particular Easter, we were asked to both serve the big Vigil Mass on Saturday night (the two-and-a-half-hour-long one) and the bishop was going to be there. Needless to say, it was a big event.
          It got even bigger for me during the practice. Normally, alter servers are classified into groups; these guys get candles, this guy get the cross, and this guy acts as a bookstand. Good stuff. I was instructed to be what we called the "incense guy" because we couldn't remember what the correct term actually was. (Still can't.) My job involved hot coals and copious amounts of smoke. I hid my delight at being allowed to feed my pyromania and resisted the temptation to perform experiments with fire like a miniature saint. I did managed to burn myself slightly, but I was used to such occurrences and continued serving with no more than a passing thought to my singed digits.
          Near the end of Mass, all servers (except for myself with the incense thingy and Nemesis, who was operating the bells) were given tall candles and requested to stand for about twenty minutes with them. The candles looked rather heavy, making me rather glad I only had a solid metal incenser to deal with, even if the air currents were blowing the smoke straight into my face. I kept an eye on some of the other kids; we were all pretty young, but some of the newer guys were pretty small and I didn't know how they'd hold up.
          We all performed admirably. Once we were done, we servers processed from the main church into the sacristy, where we could put the candles away and get ready for the next part of Mass. We quietly reminded each other of jobs we had to perform before slipping back out, one by one, to the church proper. Nemesis and I, as the senior servers, would be the last ones to leave. One of the youngest and smallest kids set his tall candle down on the floor and attempted to blow it out, which limited success; it was taller than he was.
          "Here, I'll get that," I offered, closing my hand around the candle and blowing down on it. "I can put it back in its stand, too--I'll meet you out there."
          He nodded and vanished out the door. I grinned; he must have been tired. I closed both hands around the heavy candle and gave a mighty heave to pick it up.
          Apparently, the candle was nowhere near as heavy as I'd been led to believe. It flew off the ground. I almost yelped, reflexes stopping the candle before it smashed into my face. I didn't even have time to register gratefulness before the liquid wax left the candle and splattered all over the left side of my face.
          Fortunately, long years of childhood incidents had given me the reflexes of a cat; I was able to get my eye shut before the wax hit. I thought briefly about clawing it off my face pronto--the stuff was pretty hot--but decided to wait for it to solidify a little before peeling it off. It probably wouldn't burn me, I decided with the air of one who has encountered many types of hot substances (including this one, when I'd stuck half my hand into a just-extinguished candle out of pure curiosity). I scrambled around to try to find my handkerchief before discovering that I couldn't find the pocket in my robe.
          "Nemesis, I need your hankie," I staged-whispered at my brother's back, moments before he would step out of the sacristy.
          "Use your own," he returned over his shoulder, hardly pausing.
          "NEMESIS, give me your hankie or so help me, I'll murder you in front of the entire church!" I hissed at him.
          The death threat worked where persuasion hadn't. He turned around. "Why--oh, goodness," he interrupted himself when he saw my face. "Here you go."
          "Thanks. Can you get it wet for me?" I asked, already beginning to try to work the stuff off my face, and losing a few eyelashes in the process.
          Nemesis, the ever-protective of his possessions, gave me a look like I'd just asked him to murder the family dog, but obediently dampened the handkerchief and gave it to me. "Need anything else?" he asked with the air of a martyr.
          I ignored his expression. "Nah, get out there. I'll be out in a second."
          He shrugged--at least, I think he did--and vanished. It took me a few minutes to get the wax off and ensure that my eye was undamaged before joining the other servers.
          The rest of Mass passed without incident, although I forgot to steady the giant hanging candle when I lit it later and left it swinging slowly (an effect Dad claimed was vaguely mesmerizing and jokingly accused me of trying to hypnotize the congregation). It turned out later that the left side of my nose, hit hard by the hot wax, now looked sunburned, but it was dark enough in the church to pass unnoticed by all except the keen eyes of the parental unit. The priests and bishop, used to mishaps of one sort or another, graciously accepted my explanation with no more than token jesting. Fortunately, nothing like that ever happened at any of my future Masses...
          ...but needless to say, I've never heard the end of this one.

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