Cakes by Stephanie Loleng
On my fifth birthday, Mom made a Winnie the Pooh cake with chocolate frosting. Thanksgiving, she made a Filipino Sans Rival cake with buttercream and cashews. Dad’s favorite. Cakes were her only creative outlet. Medical texts sat on her nightstand.
On my eighth birthday, Dad called his bookie while Mom listened on the upstairs phone. Dad all smiles, treated us to dinner. No buttery Sans Rival baking in the oven. On my 13th birthday, Christine asked, where’s your dad? I stared at the TV, tears forming. Mom in her bedroom. Dad at the racetrack.
Years later, I was home for the weekend. Relatives sang karaoke. Dad crooned “My Way.” The next morning, sweeping leaves out back, Dad fell, hand to chest. Mom did CPR. I called 911. We buried him on a too-bright sunny day. Our first Thanksgiving without Dad, Mom made a Sans Rival cake, and cut an extra piece for the empty space.
Stephanie Grace Mejia Loleng lives in New York City with her husband Eric and their pug Hugo. She grew up near Castroville, California, the “Artichoke Capital of the World.” She studied literature and history at UC Santa Cruz and received an MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast low-residency program at the University of Southern Maine in January 2020. She’s currently working on a collection of short stories inspired by Filipino American culture, food, and folklore. When she’s not writing or thinking about writing, she’s running and sometimes training for marathons, baking Filipino desserts, or plotting her next adventure.