The Birthday Wish

Victorino Briones


Maria Cecilia DeVilla lighted a candle to Santo Domingo and prayed that her younger brother Simeon would be dead by the time she arrived back home. When her mother inquired as to whom the extra candle was for, she answered, "Padre Contreras said that we should also pray for our enemies."

On the way home, riding inside the carriage, Cecilia imagined her brother nailed to a cross, impaled by the horns of a lunatic bull, or perhaps simply shoved down the stairs so he would break his neck. Maybe he could be tied and gagged and stuffed inside an empty rice sack like the kittens that grandfather murdered every six months, burying them in a shallow grave in the backyard. Then she could press her ear on the ground and hear his delightful weeping as he slowly suffocated.

So many choices, she reflected, when her mother asked her what she wanted for her birthday. "Nothing, mama," she finally replied, although a shovel would be nice."

She hated her brother more than she could possibly hate anyone or anything else. She was sure he was the Antichrist and at one time dared to search for the incriminating 666 at the back of his head while he was having a haircut. She carried a silver cross in her pocket, ready for any attack, and surrounded her bed with cloves of garlic to prevent being sneaked up on during the night. She considered leading him into the forest with pinches of his favorite sugar-coated biscocho like in the story they told her in school. Perhaps she could acquire from Madam Beatrice, the neighborhood fortune-teller, a potion that would change him into a fly, and she would ask for a fly-swatter for her birthday. She rolled the numerous schemes and tricks around in her head like a lemon drop on the tongue as she tasted the delicious flavor of revenge.

"Why are you smiling, hija?" said her mother. "Are you excited about the party tonight?"

"Yes, mama," she answered, "I'm going to make my best wish before I blow out the candles on my birthday cake."

She detested her brother Simeon because he stuck gum in her hair, made fun of her raisin breasts and her chicken legs, constantly stepped on her Sunday dress and scribbled over her exquisite landscape paintings with his red crayons. He executed her dolls with his toy cannon that their uncle had given him last Christmas, and he hanged them with loops of cord over the ovens in the kitchen. Most unjustly of all, whenever he had a tantrum or held his breath until he turned blue, their parents would panic and scold her for teasing him.

As the calesa stopped in front of their house and Maria Cecilia and her mother got out, Simeon marched toward her with his hands hidden behind his back. She knew he was hiding a centipede or a cockroach and was getting ready to throw it at her face, and she sneaked behind her mother's skirt for cover and prayed a Hail Mary.

Simeon reached out and handed her a rose with most of its petals missing, clearly torn from the plant rather than cut. She noticed that his small hands had several wounds from their duel with the thorns.

"Feliz cumpleaños, Cecilia!" he said.

Cecilia was overwhelmed at the sight of the poor flower, and she sighed at her brother's generosity. She wanted to kiss him and say thank you, but instead she looked at his hands and said only, "Poor boy." Knowing that she would regret it, as she had last year, she thought, "Oh well, maybe I can wish you dead on my next birthday."

© 2000 Victorino Briones

Victorino Briones is a physician from the Philippines presently living in Arlington, Virginia. He arrived in America in 1998 and took the exams for medical certification during that year. In 1999, He was accepted in Boston University's Creative Writing Program under Leslie Epstein. The course also gave him the opportunity to attend Saul Bellow's class, to meet the American Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Dereck Walcott, and Susanna Kaysen. Presently he is finishing his novel, "Ven and Nena," which is a memoir of his parents.



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