First Communion by John C. Mannone

               The priest said the wafers are holy, and by a miracle, changed into the body of Christ, just like the wine turned into blood (but I wouldn’t be getting any of that at seven years old—no matter, after our last supper, Daddy would let me sip a few drops of Dago Red clinging to the glass at the dining room table).

               Father Iaia said not to chew, just swallow. I nodded and said I understood. When the time came, in solemn prayer with my hands folded, I inched toward the altar in my white suit. Latin prayers swarmed all around like bees. A buzz from the incense lingering from the censor just increased my anxiety.

                As instructed, I opened my mouth to receive the Eucharist (none of us but the priest could touch the wafer lest we die, and then only with his thumb and forefinger!) As he chanted, he slipped the host onto my tongue and I nearly vomited on the spot. How could Christ taste like lactic cardboard? I could not swallow it. I felt it disintegrate into pulp; held it in my mouth until after church. My gag reflex kicked in hard. I couldn’t help it; I was compelled to spit it out on the
grass. I thought I was going straight to hell!

               My mother called my name with all the Italian melodrama you can imagine asking why, then went to the priest who cleaned it up. I don’t remember much after that, but I don’t think anyone understood my reaction. I think it caused me some post traumatic stress, but a little later Jesus whispered in my ear. He said that it was okay and not to worry; he made it safely inside me.

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The Linnet's Wings, Portnashanagan, Corkaree, Mullingar, Co., Westmeath, ROI