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18 Candles and an Eraser My father offered his hand, limp, fingers curled like he was passing me a piece of paper. I had never seen death, and now, at his bedside, I remembered the time I smashed my finger in the car door, the nail falling off, raw pink skin exposed. I screamed, "Look Dad, it came off!" and held it up to him like a prize. I look at him now, groaning the low thud of a tuba, and watch his chest sink, rise, sink. I remember the time I came home late. He wrapped my cold roast beef sandwich in aluminum foil, plopped it in the microwave, sparks, then the explosion. And the surprise birthday party my friends threw, we gathered around a cake with eighteen candles and a small rubber penis stuck in the middle. I cradled it in my palm, scooped icing onto its tip then winked and sucked. I hadn't seen my father watching from the hallway, and I waited for a shadow to cross his face, the lines to deepen. But he smiled, laughed.
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