Arts/Literature

Tired of politics? Here, have some cake.

by Terry Hargrove

This has been the most interesting, and by interesting I mean hilarious, presidential election I’ve ever experienced. See the tears? I must be laughing really hard. It seems meaningless to criticize the Republican candidates, since they’re doing such a great job on each other. The primary season is doing its work: eventually, we will hate them all.

Romney is in trouble. He is assuming that, eventually, the base will rally to him, but he misses the point. If you want to defeat an incumbent, you don’t need supporters to rally. The bingo club rallies. They have to flock to Mitt, and if they don’t, he’s flucked. Santorum? Really? That would look good on a bumper sticker. If you are part of that over 60, undo-your-pants-on Thanksgiving demographic, then he’s your guy. Ron Paul has the young Republicans, all 43 of them, and he’s the only one I’ve given serious consideration to. I like Ron Paul. Sometimes. But when I don’t like him, I really don’t like him. And then there’s Newt, the man with a plan for a moon base.

Newt Rogers of the 25th Century. In space, no one can hear you cheat. I believe the moon base idea was planted by Calista, an ambassador from the planet Thirdwifeia, where all women are beautiful and all men are required to get two practice shots before they mate for real. I can’t be the only one who thinks this. I mean, look at her. Then look at him. Then look at her again.

So it looks like four more years of Bush. I mean, Obama. What’s the difference?

But enough about them. We still have months of political talk to endure. Let’s talk about me. I have written a cake book. I’m trying to get it published, and only a crippling lack of artistic talent stands between me and a payoff that might exceed hundreds of dollars. Here is the first chapter.

ZOMBIE APOCOLYPSE STRAWBERRY CAKE

The Recipe

Bake a Duncan Hines Yellow Cake as directed. I guess you could use a white cake mix – the recipe says you can – but the recipe does list yellow cake first. It won’t be the same with white cake. Trust me. When the cake has baked, let it cool and wrap it in foil. Put it in the refrigerator for four days. Yes, four days of living with a Duncan Hines Yellow Cake cooling mere feet away is going to be tough, but it has to be done this way. The recipe says so, and you must trust the recipe. After four days have passed:

Mix together : 1-1/2 cups sour cream
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups mashed strawberries (drained)
Add: 3 Tablespoons Strawberry Jello dissolved in ¼ cup boiling water. Cool before adding to above mixture.

Keep mixture in refrigerator until you are ready to prepare the cake.

Now that I look at this, I think you were supposed to put the mixture on the cake and between the layers before you put the cake in the refrigerator. This is why I’m supposed to be a meteorologist! I’m sure you can do it either way. When you are ready to serve, ice with Cool Whip.

The Story

Ms. Aileen had three passions in life. She loved the piano and had taught, by her count, over 200 of the town’s young people how to play. She was fiercely protective of her husband’s large, and frankly very dated, stereo system. He had told her it was very valuable, and some people would do anything to relieve him of it. And when she wasn’t teaching piano or listening to her husband’s music collection, she was baking. She had baked a Duncan Hines Yellow Cake on Sunday afternoon and prepared the strawberry frosting on Wednesday evening. She was looking closely at her recipe, wondering if she had made some small mistake, when the warning blared over the radio. For a moment, her scapula hovered in her hand. It was Thursday-time to frost the cake properly. But she had not counted on a zombie apocalypse. Ms. Aileen was quite peeved.

“I shouldn’t be so surprised. It says Zombie Apocalypse right there on the recipe,” she said. “But why couldn’t the zombies have come on Monday, when I could have used their arrival when I met with the zoning commission? ‘Steel bars on windows are not allowed in a residential neighborhood.’ They’ll ruin this weekend for sure. How is a person ever supposed to get anything done with zombies around? They’ll be in my petunias or banging on my piano as sure as I stand here!”

But she was not overly concerned. Her husband was the chief of the fire department, and he had taught her how to behave whenever situations mutate. She had thought it funny that her husband should use that word, since it was mutations that caused the zombies.

“I do hope Sam is not kept late because of these zombies,” she muttered. “They do bring death and destruction, but they generally don’t cause fires.” She removed the Duncan Hines Yellow Cake from her refrigerator and set it on the table in the center of the kitchen. She then removed the frosting and placed it carefully beside the cake.

“This will be the best underlined strawberry cake ever,” she gushed, “although I do wonder why it was underlined on the recipe.” She placed the first cake layer on her cake pan and covered it with red deliciousness. Then she carefully placed the second layer on top of the first and, wielding her spatula like an artist, she slathered the entire cake with the strawberry mixture. It glistened like an open wound. Dozens of ripe, red strawberries glared up at her from the cake, so many that she felt uncomfortable. So she topped the cake with Cool Whip and smiled. Then the doorbell rang.

“Who is it?” She sang.

“Zombie, ma’am,” was the answer. “Just wondering if I could come in and have a taste of your brains.”

“Zombies,” muttered Ms. Aileen. “And here I am all covered in red frosting. What a terrible time to look delicious.” It did not occur at all to Ms. Aileen not to open the door. Zombies might be zombies, but it was her responsibility as a lady of culture to make all her guests, even the undead ones, feel at home.

She undid the bolt lock and opened the front door. In front of her stood a disheveled man, his face black with soot, and his eyes sunken.

“Good evening ma’am,” said the zombie. “Now, about those brains?”

“Well, I suppose I could offer you my brains, but wouldn’t you rather have a large slice of my delicious underlined strawberry cake?”

“That does sound good ma’am,” said the zombie, “although I’m not sure why you included the word ‘underlined.’ Perhaps I’ll start with the cake and then have some of your delicious brains after. With coffee.”

Ms. Aileen stepped back from moment.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You would prefer to eat cake before brains? What kind of zombie are you? And why did you ring the doorbell? I don’t know much about zombies, but I think a zombie’s preferred mode of entering a dwelling is through the wall or a window. Zombies don’t ring doorbells.”

“While it is true I thought about coming in through your window,” said the zombie after a moment’s hesitation, “I decided the doorbell was worth a try. You see, I was a science teacher when I was alive, and many of my neurons are still firing. Therefore, I recall some information about the economy of effort.”

“And you’re still talking,” added Ms. Aileen. “I have seen a few zombie movies in my time. We once had a drive-in, you know. In those movies zombies do not talk. They might moan or groan or make some hurgle gurgle sounds, but they don’t talk, and they certainly never say ma’am.”

“Now miss, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that what you see in movies, even the ones based on a true story, seldom depict the world as it really is. If zombies could not speak, how do you suppose we would all know which supposedly deserted farmhouse out in the country we should descend upon at the same time? You would have zombies wandering all over the place, and that’s no way to strike deep fear into the hearts of the living.”

“I guess that makes some sense,” she said.

“Now about that strawberry cake,” he added.

Fifteen minutes later, the zombie leaned back and stretched his hands above his head.

“That was the best strawberry cake I have had in a long, long time,” he said. “Was that a Duncan Hines Yellow Cake by any chance?”

“Why yes, yes it was,” said Ms. Eileen. “It can be made with a white cake, but I don’t think it’s the same. My husband loves our underlined strawberry cake. He is the Fire Chief you know. I wonder why he’s not home? Thursday is usually a light day. He always tries to make it back to the house before the six o’clock news. Is that thunder I hear?”

“It was clouding up as I shuffled down the street,” he said. “Alas, the rain falls on the dead and the undead.”

“Yes, it does,” she said. “It says so in the Bible. I think. But I do wish Sam would get home.”

“Well today is an unusual day,” said the zombie. “Perhaps we could have some music until he returns? I would feel bad if somebody wasn’t here with you and that person didn’t make the effort to save you from my vile clutches.”

“I could play the piano?” suggested Ms. Aileen.

“I’m not sure a piano would fit the current situation,” said the zombie. “Zombies require something darker. Perhaps some classical jazz? Does your husband own a particularly fancy stereo system?”

“Why yes, he does indeed,” said Ms. Aileen. “His stereo system is the pride of the block. I can’t tell you how many times he has come in from a hard day’s work, pulled out one of his old vinyl records, and let the sound of music fill this house. Sam loves Mozart. I have often told him that he needed to branch out, to try different types of music. I much prefer modern Irish, but Sam loves his jazz.”

“And where might Sam, his name is Sam, is that correct? Where might Sam keep that stereo system?”

There was something in the way the zombie looked at her, something in the slight overarching of his eyes and the obvious lack of carnivorous appetite, when he asked the question that made Ms. Aileen suspicious. She narrowed her own eyes and looked hard at the zombie. You don’t play piano for 63 years without learning something about people.

“Why would a zombie care about stereo equipment?” She asked. “I would think the screams of the living would be music enough for the likes of you.”

The zombie began to shift uncomfortably in his chair.

“I didn’t mean to stir up anything,” he mumbled. “Just trying to make some small talk. I mean, I would be a rather pathetic guest if I just stormed in here, ripped out your intestines, and started eating them without so much as a how do you do.”

“You didn’t say anything about eating my intestines,” said Ms. Eileen. “You said you were going to eat my brains. Do you know what I think? I think you’re not a zombie at all. I think you are Mr. McAllister who lives down the street. You are just the kind of person who would take advantage of people during a zombie apocalypse if you thought it could get you a cheap good stereo system. I am shocked, Mr. McAllister. There is no other way to say it. I am shocked.”

Mr. McAllister sat stunned. He was about to retort when the kitchen windows shattered. The walls shook with the sounds of heavy bodies ramming the doors. Grimy, bony arms were grasping into the open air of the kitchen. Outside could be heard the hurgle gurgles of numerous bony throats.

“I am tempted to hand you over to those real zombies,” said Ms. Aileen. “But I don’t want your last experience on earth to be my delicious underlined strawberry cake, and I’m not sharing it with undead who are too rude to use a doorbell. They are coming right through my bar-less windows, as I knew they would! Wait until I see that zoning commission. I am going to give them a piece of my mind.”

“If the zombies don’t take all of our minds for dinner,” said Mr. McAllister.

“Quiet you. Grab that shovel and hold them off until I come back with my ax and shotgun.”

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