Just Desserts

Cooking was her greatest passion, dessert her dearest love. She was renowned, in fact, for what she could do with sugar; not just chocolates or fruits, but sugar, pure and simple, or mixed with the most eclectic ingredients, to make creations of gustatory genius.

And, like all chefs, she was the first to test her newest creations.

So it was with the greatest of woe that she received her diagnosis of diabetes.

The restaurant was shuttered for two weeks. Her regular patrons were dismayed when they arrived to consistently see the “Closed” sign. Inside, she alternated between tears of woe, and experiments with aspartame and other sweeteners, only to be met with failure.

Of course, the diagnosis didn’t need to be a death knell for her work. She still had a vast supply of previously created delights to draw from. But it was the creativity of the work she loved, the experimentation, the love of new things, that made her want to continue as a chef.

It was early on a Tuesday morning that she woke up inspired. Sugar had been her medium before, but like an artist abandoning oil for acrylic, she had a new thought: nut butter.

Not the sugar-laden stuff on many shelves, but the pure, peanut- or almond- or cashew-only stuff you find hidden away, a few shelves down. She bought several dozen jars and began her experiments.

A week later, she flipped the sign to the restaurant to “Open”. A few customers came in and left sated, discussing the delicious, yet somehow healthy dessert. Her first experiments a success, so expanded in all directions: tofus, lentils, and nuts became her new media, and her restaurant a mecca for the insulin-challenged. Her business expanded threefold, and though she still enjoyed the occasional sweet, her disease proved a boon for all.


The Bread-Breaker

When Annabelle wrote a letter, it was always about something very serious.

It helped that she hadn’t finished elementary school. Her parents had both died when she was young, and rather than go to a state home, about which rumours had always swirled, she struck out on her own to survive. It had been difficult those first few years; laws made child workers illegal, at least when documented. But she managed, and it became much easier when she reached sixteen.

Now, in her old age, she had a small pension to live off of and a wealth of opinions to express, but only enough education to do so with great effort. When the news showed a story on poor conditions in orphanages, she was annoyed, but enough to express it. The various sexual appetites of the leading politicians were similarly banal to her mind.

The rising cost of bread, however, was worth a series of stern letters to local, regional, and national authorities, from the media to the government, about the need to keep things affordable for those who, like her, had been met only with difficult and had struggled to overcome it. She hand-wrote each letter, a computer being beyond her means, and sent them, by the dozen, to anyone who listen, and many who would not.

She began by fighting the rising prices set by the only bread-maker left, which had bought out all others. Failing this, she encouraged others to do the same. When that failed, and she heard nothing from those she thought should care for their constituents, she started writing out a simple bread recipe that anyone could follow, and mailing it to every address possible. Where she acquired the stamps, no one knew. But the still-diversified flour producers saw a spike in sales as people everywhere, strapped for cash, took up baking. The bread-maker’s profits slumped. The business was sectioned off, sold to various others, and it became a mere husk of what it once was.

It was thus that Annabelle, through sheer force of will, managed to stem the tide of the bread monopoly.

The Sweater

John loved his sweater. He loved it more than any other piece of clothing. He loved it like some people love their sports teams, and like other love their knitting.

John’s sweater was grey, made of a cotton and polyester blend. It fit him snugly, and was just thick enough to be warm without making him look pudgy.

He wore his sweater almost every day. People came to know John by his trademark grey sweater, and the days he wasn’t wearing it, the days it was in the wash, were days when they asked him if he was okay, if his sweater, long since pilled and ragged beyond proper wearing, had finally bit the dust. But the next day, they same him in it again, happily tugging on the sleeves or sticking his hands in the small pocket in front.

He was an old man and still wearing that sweater every day, until the fateful newly-hired nurse in the nursing home, finding a ratty old rag in the sleeping man’s chair, discarded it. When John awoke, he searched high and low, but it wasn’t to be found. He wept for a day, and died the next; life without his favourite sweater just wasn’t worth living.

The nursing home had him buried with a new grey sweater, in hopes of undoing some of the spiritual damage, but mostly to avoid blame.


Last Piece of Pie

He would not give her the last piece of pie. Why should he? It was, after all, his pie. He had purchased all the ingredients, had mixed them up, formed the shell, put in the blueberries and sugar, made the cross-hatched top (a rather difficult process in it’s own right, for a novice pie-maker), and baked it. And in the end, she hadn’t even said she liked it. She shrugged her shoulders, told him it wasn’t great, and kept playing on her computer.

So when she asked for the last piece, of his pie, that she hadn’t even liked, not only was he enraged, but he felt bitter and spiteful, and replied simply, “No, you can’t have it,” before grabbing the slice and shoveling it into his mouth as fast as possible. And granted, it wasn’t the best pie in the world, and he had some practice to do, but dammit, it was his pie, which he worked hard to make. A little kindness and encouragement wouldn’t have killed her.


Dating and Marriage

His offer hung in her mind like a pendulum, swinging back and forth, coming ever closer to forcing her decision. Her thoughts whirled. It was 20 years ago that her husband had died, and it still seemed like he had just stepped out.

The man looked at her, expecting an answer.

If I do, it will be cheating, she thought to herself. Nonsense, her rational mind replied. Your husband is gone, and has been for years. He told you to move on, at the end. But before that, she replied, he said he’d see me in the next life…what if I arrive with someone else? And he was always so jealous. What if he left her in heaven? But how would that be heaven? No, he said move on, find someone else, be happy. That’s what I’ll do.

But what if this man is just after my money? Granted, I don’t have much, but still, it’s mine, and I’m leaving it to the kids. They shouldn’t have to worry about it. But that’s ridiculous, it’s not like we’re getting married, it’s just a date.

Oh god, a date. I haven’t dated in 20 years. More, I haven’t dated since I was married, that was 30 years ago. What if I don’t remember how? What if I mess up, or can’t do it right? What if he expects sex on the first date? I don’t know if I can deal with that, not now, not in a month…maybe never. What if I can’t have sex? Will he still want to date me?

What if he doesn’t like me? I mean he does now, but maybe dating me is entirely different from regular me? What if I can’t date normally? Will I be expected to pay? It’s so different, the dating world now. How do I know what to do? What if other people look at us, and think less of me? He’s a bit younger, and he’s never been married…oh, marriage, I’m still wearing my wedding ring. Should I take it off?

She held the ring with her thumb and forefinger, ready but not ready to take it off. He waited, looking at her, and the silence drew on.


Tuna Smell

“I love him, but he smells rather odd.”

“Really? Odd like how?”

“Like…tuna fish.”

“Wait, do you mean-”

“Yup. His fingers, his forearm. The whole length from nail to shoulder. tuna.”

“Dude. That’s a sign of some kind of sickness. He needs to get that treated.”

“I know it. You know it. I’ve told him. But nothing. He doesn’t do anything. He says he loves the smell of tuna. It’s gross.”




He is not good with money. Bills tend to get piled together on a shelf. Always paid on time, as soon as he receives them (it only took one overdue bill to teach him that lesson). But afterward, they are not filed, or categorized, or sorted. Simply put together, in a folder, on a shelf. It’s a terrible filing system, but anything else is simply not worth his time.

When it comes to paying money, he knows what he wants to do, but what he actually does is often quite different. He buys things wantonly, choosing what would be more enjoyable first, then figuring out how to fit it in his budget (or, more particularly, which food group not to eat that week). Tipping is done purely by whatever he has available at the moment. If it’s by credit card, he usually pays between 3 and 4 dollars, though he has occasionally been known to work out the appropriate approximate 15%. Sometimes he gives less, or even nothing, when he knows he has little left to give. He feels bad, but justifies it with responsibility, before buying a chocolate bar at the corner store to further ease the guilt.

He always waits for someone else to pay, or for the server to forget to give him the bill. This has worked more than once, though not often. He always sings a song for them as he leaves, hoping to pay for himself this way. And that’s how his talent agent discovered him.


Diary Entry

Slept night at Mike’s. Made himself barely worthwhile. Laid like a fish. Came back home and showered —on bed miserable with shame — called Tina who reminded me that Mike’s girlfriend is Rita, a deceiving and spiteful skank. Chatted awhile —sleepy. Happier and calmer today — dealt with and pushed aside thoughts of Mike — all done now. Back out to beautiful city.


High Status

“Can I get you anything Allen?” Karl asked. “Tea? Wine?”

“Hmm, do you have any Merlot?”

“Well, we have a ’08 Chateau de Moyen” Karl said, searching his memory. “I’ve found it quite nice, a rich bouquet with just a hint of floral and cinnamon.”

“Hmm, I think a glass of water will be fine for me,” Allen said.

Karl went to the kitchen and, pulling out his nicest tumbler, poured Allen a glass of water from the large water cooler kept beside the fridge. He returned to the tastefully furnished living room and placed a glass coaster down before setting the water on top of it.

“Thank you,” Allen said.

“You’re welcome.”

“Did you get a new television?” Allen gestured to the wall, where a very large flat screen was mounted with care.

“Yes we did! 1080p, and it has a beautiful picture. You can practically see the nose hairs on the actor’s faces when watching.”

“1080p, huh? That’s pretty impressive, my computer had that back in 2006.”

“Well, television technology is taking its time catching up, isn’t it?” Karl sat down on the recently re-upholstered chair under the TV.

“True. Nora and I just bought another plasma TV for our son’s bedroom so he can play his video games there, rather than having the sound carry up from the basement. I don’t understand it myself, but Nora seemed to think it was necessary. The picture quality on the plasma, I find, is significantly better than on any others out there. More true to life, brighter colours.”

“Ah, yes, of course.” Karl placed his right leg over the left, and wished he had brought a glass of water for himself. “Anything new going on in the banking world?”

“Oh, you know how it is, we’re keeping people’s money, the government is bearing down on us to make sure we do so ‘responsibly’, whatever that means. Seriously, there are no guaranteees with any money, how can they expect that of us? Just let us do our jobs! Bloody bureaucrats.”

Karl, who Allen knew was an MP, thought a moment before responding, “Well, you can see the point, of course, we don’t want another financial meltdown. We escaped fairly well here, but other countries were not so lucky, with unemployment spiking and people losing their savings. We’re just trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“Well, those countries shouldn’t have been so careless then. Diversify. It’s their own fault for not being marketable enough.”

Karl didn’t say anything, but let his neighbour stew in self-righteousness for a moment. “How dare they assume they can have a career,” was all he responded with.



Paul sat alone in the front seat of the rollercoaster and waved to Laura as it began to move. Laura waved back, smiling for him.

He gripped the bar in front of him as the ride started up the hill, the clicking and clacking always an off-putting sound to his ear as it built the excitement of the coming fall.

Laura would love this, he thought. Her fear of heights really shouldn’t be such a downer to her, if only she’d just show a bit of back bone and try it once, she’d love the ups and downs and going through it all togeth-

Paul didn’t have time to finish his thought as the car arched over the top of the hill and began its downward course. It picked up speed, faster and faster. They reached the bottom of the hill. The car curved upward, lurching Paul’s stomach down. Up a shorter hill, then down again, faster this time. At the bottom, the track curved. It climbed. It fell, curving down under the last climb. Paul was thrown to the side as the cars turned.

Another climb, helped this time by the clicking and clacking, and he could see Laura sitting on the bench. She looked so sad, all alone, staring off into the distance. Or maybe she was watching a squirrel or something. Maybe when he was done, they could go on the Tilt-A-Whirl, or something else she liked. Or maybe I can get her on this –

The car started down again, the hill they had climbed even higher than the last. It shot down like an out-of-control skier, before climbing up and to the side, over another hill, then down down down and looping up, over, around. Paul hadn’t seen this part of the ride. He was dizzy and excited, gripping the bar harder as the car climbed again and fell, climbed and fell. Finally it leveled off at the station, and when the bar lifted, he stood.

Paul stepped off, looked at Laura just standing from the bench, and said, “Again!” She sat down as he jogged to the line.