The Last Perfection

By Gary Fincke

September 13, 2021

The Last Perfection

The week-old “Going out of Business” sign sagged in the store window the last night my father baked. Bread and sandwich buns near midnight. Coffee cakes and sweet rolls at two a.m. Last, as always, the deep-fried doughnuts were finished near dawn while my mother readied the display cases where cookies, cakes and pies were already waiting for their last opportunity to sell. At six-thirty, he filled cream puffs and whoopee pies, and then he drove home to sleep.

Saturday afternoon, there was one final wedding cake, three tiers, the white-dressed bride and tuxedoed groom standing in a gazebo that needed to fit snugly inside a circle of sugar roses and loops of icing. For the first time, three months now, since I’d received my license, my father allowed me to drive so he could balance that beauty for nine slow miles.

At the VFW, three women were preparing pierogies and kielbasa, sweating in the small kitchen. They praised the cake and offered beer, but my father waved his spatula until one handed both of us cherry sodas from a cooler.

With his body shielding the cake from those women, my father placed that gazebo on the top tier, erasing, before he stepped away, the dot of icing that reminded him which one of the sugar roses faced front. It looked, the women agreed, as if those newlyweds had been perfectly centered by the hand of God, and my father finally smiled, raising his soda in salute.


Gary Fincke's latest collection of essays, The Darkness Call, won the Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose (Pleaides Press, 2018). His collections of stories and poems have been awarded the Falnnery O'Connor Prize (Georgia) and what is now the Wheeler Prize (Ohio State). His essay "After the Three-Moon Era," originally at Kenyon Review online was selcted to appear in Best American Essays 2020.


Picture by Rene Asmussen courtesy of Pexels

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