by Kik Lodge

The man wants a birthday cake for his dead son. The cake shop owner knows this, but the new lad Kyle does not.

“As I said, we need four days’ notice.”

Kyle’s biro taps the rules and regs inside a sheet protector over his shoulder.

The cake shop owner knows the man wants the Digger cake – chocolate sponge with buttercream, 9 four-finger KitKat bars as vertical compass points, two plastic dumper trucks parked above the spooned-out crater carrying smarties and clumps of chocolate soil, the name Jake, the number 8 – but currently, the cake shop owner is out back on the phone to his girlfriend, bleeding dough between the slits in his fingers.

A woman in a red anorak coughs.

“Madam?” Kyle says.

The man is not invisible. The man can thump and break things.

“Mrs. Curt. I’m here to pick up my cake.”

“Mrs. Curt. I’m here to pick up my cake,” the man repeats.

The cake shop owner comes out and sees the man, exhales the weight he accumulated on the phone.

“I told this gentleman…” Kyle begins.

“It’s fine.”

The cake shop owner takes down the man’s order and says he can come pick it up the day after tomorrow, which will be a day without rain.

The man will carry the boxed birthday cake down to the conduit of a riverbank and sit near the buddleia. It’ll be 21st May and there will be birds, a few joggers possibly.

The man won’t light the candle, he won’t touch the cake. It’ll stay in the box on his lap, safe and stable.

The only difference with previous years is that the cake shop owner will be sitting on the conduit too, kneading the dough in his coat pocket, watching the river pull the water down its path, dump silt, begin again.

Kik Lodge writes short fiction in France. Her work has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Sledgehammer Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Janus Literary and Litro.