Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Cake

It was cold outside. And inside our 1989 Dodge Caravan it smelled of butter cream, cheap toffee, and NestlĂ©’s cafe.

We were public high school students. We lived in a small, conservative, religious town where football was king and we were lucky to be the court jesters. It was not the best of times, but we tried to make the worst of it funnier than it really should have been. So we were comedians underneath it all, each of us taking on our separate roles of chummy sidekicks with crackerjack wits.

NC and I had decided to bake that night as a birthday present to one of the few people that would have ever invited us to a party--a Dungeons and Dragons (D and D) playing, theatre kid who went to the private Catholic high school. We’d never taken Home Economics. This was apparent whenever we glanced down at the little lopsided brown one-layer cake topped with neon candy canes that sat, uncovered, on my lap that December night.

"Why did you insist on putting coffee icing on it?" NC asked me, exasperated with my creativity and general obsession with coffee.

"I thought it would be interesting," I scoffed.

D and D Girl lived far too far in the woods. We were unfamiliar with the general darkness of her area and neither one of us really knew where were going. Just as I said “interesting” a deer scurried in front of the wood-paneled minivan. NC gasped and swerved to the right. I held steadfastly to our cake.

Without missing a beat he said, "Well, it smells like rotten coffee."

"It smells rotten," I offered through gritted teeth, "because you crystallized geraniums with egg whites and old sugar, which tends not to smell too perfumery when left out."

"You are insane," NC indicated as a matter of fact.

"You are going to hit a mailbox!" I screamed.

NC swerved to the left. "It is not mailboxes that I am concerned about, K," NC sighed and calmly outlined his true concern, "It is our reputation as premier cooks."

"Our reputation as premier cooks?" I repeated as I raised a single eyebrow. "We are in high school.""This is the time to start working on the reputation that we might possibly want to have someday!” he pointed out as a tree branch hit our windshield. Where were we anyway?

“NC,” I quietly began. “Last week you wanted us to read the “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” because you were concerned about our future as Jungian analysts. The week before that you wanted us to practice Fung Shui in our bedrooms so we could develop our inner beings in such a way that would be beneficial to our future as Buddhist decorators. Well I’ve got a news flash for you, buddy--we do not have a ‘reputation’ other than that of the freakiest freaks on the freak show! We will not have a better reputation until we leave this god forsaken town!”

Then I picked off a miniature candy cane and began to suck on it.

NC ruminated. “So, what you’re saying, “ he eventually said, “is that you’re not enjoying our little hobbies?”

“NC,” I said, “what I’m saying is that no one cares about our reputations or who we’re trying to be. To everyone else, we’re just a mess. Weirdoes, you know? We’re like this cake. Like, maybe this cake doesn’t taste too bad,” I held up the cake, “but would you want to eat it?”

NC glanced over at it. “Ummmm. No,” he confirmed, “but maybe someday I will…want to eat it. See, K, that’s the difference between me and you. I like to keep an optimistic attitude even in the face of discriminating circumstances. See, we’ll just have to make the best of our current situation.”

“Where are we anyway?” I asked as I peered into the darkness. All I saw was trees; no houses, no mailboxes, no cars.

“We’re here.” NC announced as he suddenly took a sharp right and we began down a gravel driveway. “I knew we’d find it if we just kept looking!”

As we pulled up next to Dungeons and Dragons girl’s house I opened the door before NC had made a complete stop. I almost fell out except NC grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back in. The cake slid halfway off the plate it was on. We both looked at the little pastry and sighed.

We got out of the minivan and walked up to the house. After we rang the doorbell, D and D girl greeted us. “What’s that?” she asked, sticking her nose up in the air a bit as she pointed at our cake.

NC and I looked at each other. We grimaced and squirmed for about 15 secs. Then we looked back and said in unison, “It’s for decoration.”

“Decoration?” she repeated.

“Yeah,” NC said, “It’s art. It’s the newest thing. Obscure cake art. K and I are exploring it right now because we’re thinking of becoming nouevou art buyers. It’s all the rage in Holland. Right, K?”

“Yeah. Exactly. See, this cake represents our tortured souls…that we’re trying to cover up with, uh, other stuff and such,” I offered.

D and D girl shrugged and said, “Whatever.”

And then she invited us in.