Felix Macnee

Wayne Thiebaud, Cake Slices, 1963. From the Allan Stone Gallery.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DUMMY

by Felix Macnee

Alysia loved my family, and loved visiting New Orleans. It was always nice having her around because of her enthusiasm for everything, the details of life, the little things that made each new moment different from those that had come before.

She and I were walking to the French Quarter one crisp, chilly day in January, and she was picking out the details of architecture that fascinated her, under-radar beauties such as the Water Department logo of a crescent moon that adorned the worn metal discs in the sidewalk.

She and I passed a bakery and on a whim she suggested we get a cake.

“That’s brilliant,” I said. “Why not just get a cake for no reason?”

“Yeah,” she said, “for no reason!”

This was what I loved about her. An adherence to spontaneity.

“Why do we always have to have some special occasion for a cake?” I said, belaboring the point.

“What kind should we get?”

“How about German chocolate?” I said. “Nothing like the classic chocolate cake!”

We were about to pay for it, but Alysia stopped me:

“Hey,” she said, “why not have them write something on it? I mean, why not? How about a joke?”

“Yeah, that’s good …” I said.

“How about ‘Happy Birthday, Dummy’?”

“That’s great!” I said. “Brilliant! A cake for no reason, and a stupid inscription!”

“Right!” she said.

We brought it home, and later that evening I remembered it was my birthday.

–Felix Macnee

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