Fruitcake Bake-Off (A Christmas Short Story)

Fruitcake Bake-Off

Grandma Clara bakes fabulous fruitcakes. Grandpa Mo always gets in the way in the kitchen by stealing small bits of the scrumptious cake. Sister Sherry who runs the senior center in town stops by to tell them about a Fruitcake Bake-Off happening at the center. The prize is Mo’s Honeymoon Christmas gift. A trip to Hawaii for Clara and Mo.

“Get out will you.” Grandma Clara slapped Grandpa Mo’s hand away once again while he snuck another sample of her fruitcake, or so he claimed it to be just a sample. Clara made the best fruitcake in town, at least Mo thought so.

“I can’t help it, it’s so good.”

“Go watch a football game or something.”

“They’re not on yet.”

“Well then go take a nap.” Clara shooed him from the kitchen. Every year he always got in her way while she tried to make fruit cake for gifts to give out to the family. She would begin making them during the month of August and continue to make a cake each weekend until Christmas day. The earlier cakes would be soaked with brandy. Those were the cakes she planned on giving to her older family members like her sister who traveled out to see her from New Mexico with her husband. She would be there by tomorrow, Christmas Day.

A car pulled into the driveway. Clara could see whom the occupant was from her kitchen window that looked out toward the main road, past the driveway. It was Sister Sherry from the Cathedral of Saint Anne. She ran the senior center in town.

Clara belonged to the senior center for the past few years. Her and her husband had taken many a bus trip that had been scheduled by the group. It made taking a vacation affordable for them since her husband had retired two years ago.

“Mo, can you get the door? It’s Sister Sherry.” Clara called out from the kitchen while she ran her electric mixer. Bits of batter leaped from the bowl while she tried to get the beaters as close to the side of the bowl as they would allow. By the time she shut off the mixer, Mo was leading Sister Sherry into the kitchen where he snagged once again another crumb of the fruit cake that was cooling on the rack.

Clara slapped his hand.

“Mo, I told you to get. Now go.”

Her husband ignored her protests and took another small piece of the fruitcake and held it out to the nun to take. “You really need to try this.”

“Oh, I couldn’t”

“You must. Anyways I can’t put it back.” Mo laughed.

Clara stood with her hands on her hips. There was no way she was going to get these cakes finished with her husband in her kitchen. Maybe she should give up and do what everyone else was doing on the day before Christmas by shopping in the crowded stores.

Sister Sherry took her time tasting the small morsel. “That cake is fabulous.” She licked her lips. “You certainly must enter that recipe in our annual fruitcake competition at the center. The contest ends today. You don’t even need to bake the cake, we can do it for you at the center. You just need to supply the recipe.”

Clara smiled. “I can’t part with my recipe. Even my daughter who is coming over today doesn’t know it. I might leave it to her when I die, but not before then.”

Mo began wrapping up the cake he had been taking samples from. The edge was beginning to show loss from his continuous samples. It was going to be his cake anyways. He had already laid claim to it even though he honestly shouldn’t be eating it. Being diabetic and all. “Here take my cake and enter it.”

“But Mo…” Clara protested.

“Now Clara, if you only knew more about the contest. The first prize is a trip to Hawaii New Year’s day. I know how you have always wanted to go to Hawaii, and we have never been able to afford the trip. It could be our second honeymoon.”

Clara giggled.

“If you don’t mind, Clara, I would like to enter this cake for you.” Sister Sherry said while she accepted the cake from Mo.

“Oh, all right. What could it hurt. It is just one more cake I will have to make today.”

“Thank you. Merry Christmas Clara, Mo. I need to finish my rounds. You will learn the results later this afternoon.”

As soon as Sister Sherry was seen out the door, Clara began ranting at Mo. “You gave my cake away. I can’t believe you did that.”

“But love, it was for a good cause.”

“You could of at least offered her the one that didn’t have all the chunks take out of it by your sampling.”

“That one was mine anyways. You go back to your baking, and I promise to stay out of your hair for the rest of the day.” Mo wrapped his arms about his wife’s broad middle and clasp his hands behind her back, giving her a sweet peck on her lips.”

Clara could help but smile. They had been married for forty-eight years this past September. Not many couples made it as far as they did. After three, children, four dogs and two cats traveled through the house they now resided alone in their retirement years. The children lived in two different states, only one lived right here in town.

Two hours later the phone rang. Clara’s nerves shook. It couldn’t be the senior center calling already, could it? Mo answered the phone since Clara was still busy baking.

“That was your sister. She called to say she would be making the trip this year.”

Clara was stunned. Her sister never canceled. “Why? Did she say?”

“She had to take her husband to the hospital last night. Apparently he had been having chest pains. It was an angina attack. He will be all right. They are keeping him overnight for observations. She said that they will make the trip after the holidays.”

With her sister’s cancelation, Clara felt a tweak of disappointment for the first time in her life during the holidays. She had always looked forward to her sister’s visit. Even though she never could truly stand her husband John. His know it all attitude always frustrated her. Just last year he and Mo had gotten into a heated argument over who had won the previous Super Bowl. Mo turned out to be the winner in that argument that was ended when the newscast came on TV with the Sports Cast speaking about the Super Bowl from the year before.

There was only one thing Clara could do to rid herself of the disappointment, by baking more fruit cake.

She baked and baked all day and night. When she was done, it was well after six o’clock that night. Mo had done as he had promised and left her alone in the kitchen. Not once did he bother her about something to eat. Which was unusual. She had to see what he was up to.

When Clara entered the living room, the football game was blaring, and her husband was sitting in his leather recliner. The table beside him held a small pizza box. She never heard him leave to get the pizza, she had been so involved in her fruit cakes. At the sight of her, he stopped his rants at the TV.

“You bought a pizza?”

“I told you I wasn’t going to bother you anymore.” He lifted the lid of the box showing a single slice remained. “I saved you a piece.” He was like that. Always making sure to save something for her. “Sorry it’s cold.”

“That’s okay.” She took the last slice from him.

The phone rang.

Mo answered it. “Hello Sister Sherry. We did, I mean she did? How wonderful, I will tell her.”

He cupped his hand over the receiver. “Babe, guess what! You won the contest. I knew you would win. We’re going to Hawaii.”

Mo removed his hand. “And Merry Christmas to you too Sister Sherry.”

Clara was stunned once again.

Cold wrinkled hands clasped her own. “We have to begin packing. We are going to Hawaii. The plane leaves tomorrow, and we won’t be back until after the first of the year.”

“We really won?”

“Yes, babe. We’re going to Hawaii for our honeymoon. The honeymoon I always wanted to give you. Merry Christmas Babe.”

“You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you? You told my sister to cancel, didn’t you?” She could read him like a book. His smile told her all she needed to know.

“But Babe, it’s our honeymoon we have always wanted. What’s the problem?”

Clara began to sniffle. She wasn’t sure why she was teary over the fact that she was going to Hawaii or the fact that her sister had canceled her visit. “What am I going to do with all that fruit cake I made?”

“I know, I will make a call and take care of it for you. You just go and start packing.”

Mo was right. It was a trip of a lifetime. The trip they had always wanted to take. It was his Christmas gift to her. She was sure he would come up with a solution for the fruitcakes piled in the kitchen.

Three hours later, their daughter arrived with their ten year old grandson, Dylan. He had stopped believing in Santa two years ago when he had spied his dad putting the Santa gifts underneath the tree. Now he no longer needed to go to bed early.

Mo helped them pack up all the cakes into larger boxes. He was surprised to see how many cakes his wife had made. It was surprising to learn that she had managed to buy so much flour over the past few weeks. How had he missed that purchase was beyond him. The cakes were going to make delightful gifts.

“Now I want you to make sure no one sees you leaving these,” Mo instructed his grandson.

“I won’t. I promise Grandpa.” Dylan replied, “I have always wanted to play Santa.”

That next morning, on Christmas Day, while Clara and Mo sat on the plane waiting for it to take flight, the entire neighborhood woke up to find a fruitcake by their front door.

 

Copyright © December 24, 2013 by Linda Nelson

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House of Skeletons

Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.

Image credit: “love Don’t live here anymore…” – © 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

House of Skeletons by Linda Nelson – © June 12, 2013

Tara loved the house she grew up in, she hadn’t been back home in over twenty years. How time flies and things change.

She pulled up to the curb and put the car in park. Tara could see the property from her car. A rickety For-Sale sign hung on a wooden post. She wondered how long the property had been for sale. How could the home that she had loved so much fallen into such disrepair?

“There it is,” she said to her best friend Maddy. “That’s where I grew up.”

“That is the house you are going to buy?” Maddy asked. “Your kidding me. You can’t fix that unless you plan on bulldozing it down.”

Tara got out of the car and walked briskly toward the rundown home, Maddy followed close behind. “I’m not going to plow this house into the earth. I can fix it, I know I can.” She poked her head in the doorway where the door was off it’s hinges and leaning up against the wall. Dirt billowed in the front door, spilling across the floor.

Tara stepped over the threshold to look about the building. The Real Estate agent would be there any minute.

The back part of the house was missing where the kitchen and the dining room used to be. All that remained of it was the broken caved in bricks. She had helped her mom bake many a cake and cookie in that kitchen. Her mom passed away while she was in her second year of college.

She could still picture her dad sitting in his recliner in the living room. The chair was no longer there, but her memory was, there he sat watching many a ball game on Saturday afternoons. None of the furniture remained, just the memory of it in her mind. A single tear streaked down her cheek.

Tara’s dad passed away six months ago from a heart attack. Being an only child now meant being alone. But she had Maddy, her best friend and the closest she had to family. Maddy was like a sister to her.

“Hello,” A voice called from outside the house.

“The Agent is here Tara.”

“Okay, can you tell her I will be right out?”

Tara waited for Maddy to step outside the doorway before she crossed what was left of the living room and stooped before the dusty fireplace hearth. There she found the loose brick and underneath it the ring she had hid when she was five. How her mom had gotten into so much trouble for reporting her engagement ring missing. Her dad was rip shit. Tara never told anyone that she had taken the ring. Today she couldn’t remember why she had taken it and not given it back. It was just water under the dam, and all she had left of a memory from a time long ago.

She left the home and stepped outside to greet the Real Estate Agent whom Maddy was now questioning about the price of the property.

“I’m sorry to say. I can’t sell it to you. The property is taken. It was sold last night.”

“Can’t we counter the bid?” Asked Maddy. She looked toward Tara out of concern.

“I’m sorry to say, the owner has already accepted the sale. The property has been paid for in cash up front.”

Tara’s eyes welled with tears. She was too late. She clutched the ring in the palm of her hand that was thrust deep inside her pocket. At least she had that. “It’s all right Maddy.”

“Can I show you another property?” the agent asked.

“No never mind. I only wanted this one because it was where I had been born and raised,” answered Tara. “Thank you for coming out to meet us.”

“Are you sure, I have other properties like this one.”

“No this was the only one I wanted. But can you tell me who bought it?” Tara asked.

“Oh yes, a very nice elderly man. I think he said his name was Barry Cooper.”

Tara felt the blood leave her face. She had no idea her uncle Barry was alive. Her folks told her that he had died when she was five and was never allowed to ask about him ever again. That was until she had entered college and had done a little bit of investigating that turned up a hidden secret. Apparently her Uncle Barry was her real father. No one knew except her dead parents and her. So the skeleton was about to return home and look in the closets and Tara would pay him a visit when he did.

Bed Bug Ridden

Howard and Lorna just moved into their new home. They have come to learn they are not the only inhabitants of their new home.

“I never would have purchased this house if I’d known that…” Howard said to his wife.

“Known what?” she asked.

“About this house being infested.” He replied.

“Is that what you think the problem is?” Lorna held up her arm to examine the rash. Red marks covered her right arm and she had more of them on her right leg.

They just moved into the house on Friday. After spending the past three days in it, both of them were now covered with some sort of strange rash. The rash was itchy.

Howard ripped the sheets off the bed to expose the mattress underneath. It was clean. He then lifted the bottom of the mattress seperating it from the box spring. A couple of small bugs crawled closer to the center of the mattress.

“What are they?” Lorna tried to peer closer, helping him lift the mattress higher.

“I don’t know, but look there is a mess of them there in the corner.” He pointed to the far corner which had slid off the box spring.

Small brown bugs which looked like small beetles clung to the corner of the mattress. Howard grabed a can of bug spray and squirted it on them. There was no sign of them being effected by the spray.

“How do we kill them?” Lorna grabbed a kleenex and wiped them off the corner. She missed a couple and they fell onto the floor beside the bed. They scurried away under the bed.

“I’m going to go call an exterminator and see what he says.”

Howard left the room. Lorna followed him into the den where he searched through the yellow pages, searching for local exterminators. He found a couple of them and called them.

He told the exterminators of their problem with the bugs and the rashes. He tried to describe the bugs as best as he could over the phone.

“Bed bugs!” he said to the exterminators. “You say I have bed bugs?” He listened again to the exterminator.

“But how can my mattress be infested like it is? We have only been living here for three days now.”

Lorna listened patiently to the one sided conversation. She began to wish they had never moved out of their home they had lived in for the past fourteen years. A bug problem, they never had a bug problem before.

“When can you come out and take care of this infestation?” Howard asked the exterminator. This was the third exterminator he called. So far they were all back logged with current clients with extermination issues.

“In two weeks? I will keep looking then. Thank you for your time.” He hung up the phone and called yet another exterminator.

This exterminator was also booked up for the next month.

“This is rediculous.” Howard sat down on the sofa in the living room. He had called about ten exterminators in the area and they were all backed up for the whole month. Apparently every one was having a problem with bed bugs.

“Oh my God!” Lorna said. She noticed a bug crawling on her leg while she sat back on the sofa with Howard. “They are every where!” She smacked the bug on her leg, squishing it dead.

She lifted the cushion to the sofa and there were several bugs underneath the cushion. Lorna looked around the room. There seemed to be no where they could sit in the living room with out risking being bitten by the bugs. They would not be able to sleep in their bed either.

“I can’t live like this,” she told her husband. He looked just as distraught as she felt.

“I know…” he replied, “I can’t either.”

“We should never have moved.” Lorna said angerly.

“Well we are not going to deal with this problem much longer. I will take advantage of the home owners insurance. They can pay to for the removal of the bugs from this home.”

“But the homeowners insurance does not cover for infestation.” Lorna stated.

“I know… That’s why tomorrow I’m setting it on fire.”

Copyright © July 31, 2010 by Linda Nelson

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