Numbers, flash fiction by Pia Jirgal at
Angelic Serenity



written by: Pia Jirgal


The number of calories in my birthday cake. I had asked my mum to make this specific cake in a bout of bravery. Sitting before it I cursed ever having been brave, wished I didn’t know exactly that if I messed up the job of cutting it into 16 perfectly uniformly sized pieces as suggested per recipe, I would not end up with the 407 calories I had allocated for my birthday treat today.

Birthday candles, waiting to be blown out and magically transformed into a wish by me. This year’s cake is a brownie base topped with chocolate mousse – double the chocolate = double the fun. This year is the first time my parents let me cut the cake by myself. 8 slices seem to be the appropriate amount. Ignoring my mum’s grunts of protest about the fat in her eighth of cake, I happily tuck in.

My usual daily maximum, always keeping in mind that the true goal was to stay as far below it as possible. For the day’s special occasion, I had upped this allowance to 1600; understanding, despite everything, that this was the only 20th birthday I would ever have. At least this year’s cake was circleshaped, unlike last year’s duck. I couldn’t properly divide it into equally sized pieces, meaning figuring out the calories was a guessing game, leaving me to force a finger down my throat until my vomit finally tasted of nothing else but blood.

Star-shaped tiers! She really managed to bake the star-cake I had requested and even managed to make it more magical than I could ever have imagined.

Was the current count: the piece of cake (407), the apple greedy me just couldn’t help but eat (98) despite my best efforts to fast until I arrived at my parents’, plus a few calories added in case I hadn’t managed to divide the cake properly or weighed the apple incorrectly.

Friends and I on the ice rink in front of our town hall: my biggest birthday party to date. I’ve spent the entirety of last week trying to sneakily trick my friends into telling me whether I’ll be getting 16 individual normal-sized presents (cool!) or one really big, amazing one (extra cool!)

New pair of running shoes was the only present I asked for. Their bright neon pink with turquoise stripes had burned itself into my retina. I got out of bed, barely glancing at the clock telling me it is past midnight, and I was now officially not allowed to celebrate my birthday anymore, and therefore have no excuse to lazily lay in bed. The short sensation of almost falling over, my heart skipping a few beats only to pathetically try to make up for its lack of discipline by manically hammering double its usual speed for the next few minutes, and the blissful second of nothing but darkness consuming me releases a rush of endorphins into my bloodstream. I put the shoes on, stepped outside. Might just as well break them in now. I ran up the stairs of the five-story building I live in. All the way up to the top floor. Then down to the cellar. Up again. And down. Up. Down.

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