Hillary’s hair caught on fire during the Christmas Eve service that year, and we were thankful that, for once, something new happened. In the congregation, Hillary’s father fainted, her mother shouted hysterically and somewhere way in the back, a chair was loudly overturned. Hillary rolled her fiery head on the ground and we threw bibles and bulletins at her curly, hay-colored hair, which was crackling into ash.
The next year we didn’t get any candles and no one got to pinch bits of melted wax into little cubes, or run their pointer finger quickly through the flame, showing each other how it could escape unburned. When the lights went down and the flame was passed wick to wick through the congregation of adults, we watched from the dark from behind the preacher. Those of us who didn’t know Silent Night by heart just hummed or stared though the black at our songbooks, waiting for the end.
Catherine Lacey’s debut novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Her work has been published by McSweeney’s Quarterly, Granta, The Paris Review Daily, The Believer, The Atlantic, Electric Literature’s Reccomended Reading and others. She has received fellowships from NYFA and Columbia University, where she earned an MFA in creative nonfiction. A Mississippi native, she now lives in Brooklyn, where she co-owns and operates 3B Bed & Breakfast.
“Kids’ Choir” originally appeared in matchbook.