“You can’t Spell Mediterranean without Maine”

This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com

The theme for this story is ‘Surfer’ This is my fiction piece.

 

 

 

It was the sort of house that had a fireplace upstairs and down, but the painting only hung in their bedroom. The fireplace was entirely necessary for the cold Maine winters, but the painting was even more necessary. It was an oil painting of a man in a neon orange wet-suit surfing on what appeared to be a small lake. Pine trees lined the lake, oaks poking out where they could. The colors bled into one another with giddy fascination, as if everything in the painting was rushed and intertwined.  Although it didn’t keep anyone warm like the fireplace it so heartily lorded above, it did do what any great piece of art should do; lived as a reminder of love.

 

(—————–)

 

Five years into what she would call a very happy marriage, Lucy Young sat on the porch of her house and deliberately faced east where she could see through the trees to the ocean. Her husband Garret had left for work only a few hours earlier. He was a fisherman and restaurant owner, a hard worker who loved food and loved Maine possibly more than Lucy did.

It had been a cool morning but the day promised to be hot before the evening cooled off significantly; a reminder that it was, in fact, still Maine, and that in six months everything would be buried in snow and ice.

An unusual group of clouds hung overhead, one Lucy felt had verged a bit too far out of the realm of reality. Still, it was something that should be painted. But even though inspiration begged to be painted, Lucy could not. She was distracted and a bit mad at herself for being so spoiled. Here she had an opportunity to paint something truly beautiful and yet, she felt bored.

Lucy had spent the morning pacing her porch and nibbling on leftovers for breakfast. She felt drained and it wasn’t even noon. Nothing struck the spark in her that began the conflagration of inspiration, so she packed up her travel easel and drove from her home on the ocean towards the lake.

The lake looked as if someone had already painted it. Lucy decided long ago that Lakes in Maine were like all other pieces of natural wonder in Maine; perfect, formed of crystal and sunshine and the very essence of nature. It was this belief in her home state she felt she captured in her paintings, giving them their appeal.

The lake was calm and a slight breeze hung in the air, twisting in no particular direction. Lucy took a deep breath, convinced the air here was clearer than the sea air back home but more savoring the idea of taking a deep breath.

Movement on the lake caught her eye, far away but unusual enough that she moved along the west bank to get a closer view. It was the unnaturalness of the movement that drew her; part of her brain recognized that whatever was moving on the lake shouldn’t be moving the way it was. “That’s the way something on the ocean would go…” she mumbled to herself.

The trees got thicker as she drew closer, and Lucy decided to take advantage of this, hiding among the oak and pine grove.

The lake rippled and sloshed near her feet as she finally realized what she was looking at; a man, dressed in a neon orange wet suit, surfing on the lake.

There were no waves on the lake, it was too small to generate any kind of wave, let alone one large enough to surf on, but somehow large wave after large wave spiraled around the man as he surfed through the blue tunnels as if it were the most normal thing on earth.

As the waves crashed around the him, the man in the neon orange wet suit plunged underwater for a brief moment before surfacing again, a grin clearly outlined on his face. Lucy realized with a small shock that she knew that grin; she married that grin. A small splint of anger fractured Lucy’s chest before it gave way to a laugh. She was mad he Garret; mad that he would keep a secret like this from her, but amused that it was something so strange and absurd. How was he surfing? It was clearly Garret who moved the water to make waves; every few minutes his hand stretched as if gently pushing open a door, the water responding and forming into perfect surfing waves.

Her head spun a little as she watched Garret mount another wave. She let her mind wander as she took out a small canvas and her paints and, in about twenty minutes, she had a perfect painting of a man in a neon orange wet suit surfing on a pine lined lake.

She examined her painting and decided to head back to the car. Confront him! One part of her yelled, but she didn’t want to. He had his secret and now she had hers. She kept this thought close to her the whole drive home, letting it run through her mind, creeping and receding like high tide.

Back home, Lucy stood on the porch for a long time and made up her mind. She split the canvas in two and fed it to the fire pit on the front porch. By the time Garret arrived home, the painting was long gone; the image burned away in blues and oranges.

 

(———————–)

 

Lucy continued to steal away and paint her surfer muse every Wednesday for the next three months. Every time, she drove home, thinking of Garret out fishing, Garret at the restaurant, Garret surfing on man made waves, a shining grin lighting the lake, and every time, she burned her painting when she arrived home.

 

One Thursday evening, she left home early in the evening to have dinner with her sister in the next town over. “Tell Steff hi for me,” Garret had said as he gave her a kiss goodbye in the morning. “I’ll be fine for dinner. I’ll grill some of that Octopus we hauled up yesterday.”

 

Lucy drove back from dinner, the setting sun a neon orange in the dark blue of the evening sky. She pulled into the driveway and turned off the car, heading around the back to the porch instead of going in through the front door. Garret sat by the fire pit, grilled octopus in a pool of olive oil resting on a plate next to him. She gave him a kiss and stole a bite of scorched cephalopod.

“How’s your sister?” Garret asked.

“She’s good. She says hi,” Lucy responded, and headed inside. “I’m going to change into pjs,” She called over her shoulder. She bounded up the steps and turned on the light in the bedroom.

The painting hung above the fireplace.

Lucy froze. It was the same piece she had painted yesterday. But she had burned it, right? No, she hadn’t, she remembered with a drop of her stomach. Garret had come home early so she had stashed it under the porch. But why would he go under the porch? There was nothing under the porch besides…

“I found it next to the extra propane tank.” Garret said from behind her.

Of course.

“You know,” Lucy said, staring at the painting.

“You know?” Garret gestured at the man in the painting. Lucy’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Why would you keep this a secret from me?” she asked. “And just how is it you can make waves?!”

Garret sighed. “It’s something I’ve always been able to do. Grandpa Kritakous always told me it was because we come from an ancient Greek family that counted Poseidon at the top of our family tree. I never told you because, um,”

“What?” Lucy demanded. “Were you scared?”

“Well, yeah. It’s not exactly normal, Luce.”

“Garret,” she said. “I love you. I’ll always love you. Even if you can move water or talk to Elves, I don’t care.”

“I’m sorry.” He paused. “I can’t talk to Elves. I don’t know any Elves.”

“I care that you lied,” Lucy said.

“I know. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Lucy nodded.

Garret asked, “How long have you known?”

“Only a few months.”

“Is this the only painting?”

“Um,”said Lucy.

“No?”

“I’ve… I’ve made more. I burned them.”

“Oh,” said Garret. Then, he laughed. A small laugh at first, but it turned quickly into a belly laugh. “Why?” he asked.

Lucy frowned, but couldn’t help but laugh as well. “I didn’t want you to know.”

They stared at the painting and laughed together, the summer cicadas humming outside.

Garret took her hand in his and squeezed it. “It’s a really lovely piece.”

“Thanks,” Lucy said. Then she looked at him, the ghost of tears in her eyes. “No more secrets?” she asked.

Garret pointed at the painting. “No more secrets?” he asked.

They kissed in the affirmative. The painting never left its spot above the fireplace.

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“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Finale!!”

Episode 7: Slice of Pie? Filling in the finale, the contestants are tested by the more than just today’s challenge, as the epic finale comes down to a tie-breaker vote!  

Elon White looks up to the skylight of a ceiling. An unexpected Hurricane has hit Miami, rendering the sky the color of ash. From outside, wind sings the lullaby of the dead and the kitchen ceiling is accosted by an unyielding downpour and bolts of lightning. White is flanked by the two suits of Samurai Armor, two Knights, two Conquistadors, two Pirates, two Aztec Jaguars, two Roman Legion, and 27 terracotta warriors, their faces dour in the dim light of the hurricane.

The challenge is delayed, as Luka Bretzagalatzin of Romania drives a stake soaked in Holy Water through the heart of the Vampire Raleigh Simone. She cracks like plaster and turns to ash. Luka bows to the camera, another noble hunter of the damned from Eastern Europe who fulfilled his job. He will receive a hefty commission from this job, which he spends on women and alcohol.

The remaining contestants become the new judges as they wait patiently for Elon White to describe the final challenge. The two suits of Samurai Armor sous-vide a rack of lamb for their mutton-apple pie. The Aztec Jaguars lightly dust their sweet potato and corn pie with sifted powdered sugar, a white cloud rising to meet the Hurricane outside.  Sam Brown gets the tie-breaker vote, which he awards to the Roman Legion’s Chocolate-Potato Chip and Bourbon pie. He is gruesomely sliced in two by the Samurai Katanas as Elon White’s eyebrows bounce like Groucho Marx, a giddy goodbye escaping his lips from a crowd of 1,000 Terra Cotta Warriors, who, in anger for losing despite the best Cardamom- Rhubarb Pie anyone has ever had, form one Giant Warrior before the roof crashes down and breaks them back into 1,000, easily portioned remnants of the Qin Dynasty.

 

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 6”

Episode 6: Soufflé Away! Delicacy and care are required in this ultimate test of skill!

Elon White stands beneath two enormous stuffed Grizzly Bears, Stuffed Wolves nipping the flanks of one and Saber-Tooth Tigers on the heels of the other. Behind Jeff Londing, now recovered from his scare at the hospital, and official spokeswoman for the VoBH (Vampires of Beverly Hills) Raleigh Simone, stands a stuffed Megatherium; the Giant Land Sloth.

The contestants stand behind their cooking station, the taxidermy corpses of five Quetzalcoatlus circling above them.

A large projector beams a hologram of a Soufflé into the middle of the room as Elon expounds upon the origins of the French food, its flaky crust and ability to hold different flavors both savory and sweet, and its brief stint in the field of medicine.

The timer begins and the camera pulls in close on Jenalee Wolland, who explains that she began her career as a soufflé baker in Liverpool. She flies through the steps with the ease and practice of a master, laughing as she tells her favorite story of the old drunk who thought her soufflés were what Americans called pretzels.

Sam Brown, momentarily confused, scraps the Pretzel he is making and consults an old, leather bound cookbook on how to make a soufflé. A Ghost reads over his shoulder, pointing out the footnotes She left in the margins to Sam. “No ghosts!” calls Elon from the other side of the room, and the ghost is escorted into the audience and given a glass of New York State Fingerlakes Riesling, talk of flavors of slate and stone fruit filling an audience made up of ghostly animals and real residents of Miami. Sam Brown looks like a Megatherium next to Jenalee who moves slightly slower than the speed of sound but fairly close, making one dozen soufflés before Sam even puts his in the oven.

Luke Bretzagalatzin mixes chia seeds into almond milk to make a chia pudding he plans on topping his soufflé with. As he bakes his soufflé he begins to suffer a nervous breakdown. The looming figures of the Quetzalcoatlus remind him too much of the monsters that haunted his childhood, flying figures of the dark that came for his family, taking their lives through their veins and leaving decaying husks behind. Luka begins to imagine his soufflé is his brother’s head, pouring the chia pudding on top to help heal his wounds. He places two coins where he imagines his brother’s eyes might be; payment for the soufflé to cross safely into death.

Adonis Letapolis hums as he makes his dough, an ancient, wavering melody that consumes the space around him and makes it glow with slight, soft, gold bands of light. He does this to calm his soufflé, bringing the chances of its trip into the oven a more even and easy affair.

Richard Rand fails his first attempt at dough and must resort to a magic spell he had tattooed on his arm years ago. It is his secret weapon as a baker; a spell that bends time and heat to the user’s needs, perfectly minute in its power and especially suited to baking. The green-black ink on his arm glows a silver-blue as he recants the spell, drawing magic from deep within him. Time warps around him in a haze and Rand moves like a dream; anyone who looks in his direction is wrapped in the spectacle, a feeling of exhaustion and nausea pushing them away, a self defense the magic discharges to keep the user safe.

As Richard Rand’s spell bends time, it warps the world around it, sending the stuffed beasts of antiquary into the past where they are no longer dead. They come alive with fearsome roars and howls, chasing each other around the room. They bump into one of the Samurai Statues and it almost crashes to the ground before the Megatherium locks it into a bear hug. The Megatherium begins to imagine the Samurai is its brother’s body; felled by hunters for its meat, the head ripped off and consumed first. It pours chia pudding on the statue to help heal its wounds.

Elon signals time up and the beasts take their seats next to the judges. Sam Brown’s soufflé is deemed passable, while Jenalee receives high marks for her amassed army of flaky goodness. Adonis Letapolis’ soufflé survives its delicate trip to oven and comes out better than Sam’s. Luka Bretzagaltin’s chia pudding was a divine stroke of genius; the Saber-Tooth Tigers are particularly enamored. The Quetzalcoatlus eye Luka suspiciously but enjoy nonetheless.

Richard Rand’s soufflé is the most perfect of all, but the magic spell he performed, obvious to all thanks to the now living creatures eating soufflé, renders him disqualified. “Unfair, mate.” He tells the camera as he walks slowly out the door, the camera focusing on his now empty station. Only four remain.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 5”

Episode 5: Cookie Craze!- Things heat up as Elon divides the contestants into two teams. The winning team gets a special prize: the ability to send a rival contestant home!

            Elon White stands under the six Samurai Statues, who now hold razor sharp Katanas and face opposite two British Knights, the armor former exoskeletons of some brave souls who died for a king that didn’t care. White divides the teams into two, contestants from the USA, Britain and Jamaica (Team Chocolate) face off against contestants from Australia, Romania, and Greece (Team Vanilla).

Team Chocolate gets off to a rocky start, as Jenalee is incapacitated when a bag of flour explodes in her face, rendering her blind. She drags along like the walking dead, blinking flour off her corpse-white face. Team Vanilla brainstorms quickly and decides on making one giant cookie out of 1,000 smaller cookies. Adonis Letapolis of Greece turns on every stand mixer in the kitchen, the sound of so many motors forcing Elon White to shout while narrating the action.

Sam Brown burns his hand on the oven, a monster scab forms and shines like grotesque scales, and Betty helps Jenalee roll out the dough for their Rosemary-Brandy shortbreads. Luka Bretzagalatzin of Romania finishes spooning the dough for cookie 907 as White calls 40 minutes left in the battle. Luka rolls another cookie, his palms raw and bloody from forming so many perfect balls and stomach pregnant, ready to burst with stolen samples of raw dough.

The giant cookie comes out of the oven perfectly. It is cut into 1,000 equal pieces so that the judges may have a reasonable portion.

Jeff Londing is rushed to the hospital when it is discovered that Team Chocolate’s cookies contained not Brandy, but Formaldehyde. The episode closes as White awards Team Vanilla the prize: the power to send one contestant from Team Chocolate home. Under the shadow of the armor of two Spanish Conquistadors, Adonis Letapolis deems Betty eliminated; she explodes into flames and the credits roll.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 4”

Episode 4: Tea Time Deviating from the norm, the contestants must use their baking skills in an unorthodox challenge: a tea ceremony. Who will steep the challenge, and who will go home?

Elon White stands under a rubber umbrella, a necessary tool to stop the thunder that continually strikes him from a small rain cloud that has formed specifically over his head. Four newly added Samurai statues flank him, creating a menacing but honorable line on either side of him. He introduces the contestants to the guest audience for the day, the local Wizard University’s Football team, the Wizards of Miami Zebras, who wear their uniforms, complete with two blue stripes on one sleeve and an old Monastic drawing of a Zebra stitched onto the front. Today’s bake, explains Elon darkly, is a traditional tea ceremony, complete with scones, tea cakes, crumpets, Japanese mochi treats, and the American tradition of a Cheeseburger Omelette.

The contestants grab the necessary ingredients except for Richard Rand, who is left only with 14 pounds of carrots.

Sam Brown begins an Earl Grey shortbread before he starting on his scones. As an ex-linebacker, Sam was not allowed to get anywhere near tea, he explains, as the NFL banned tea. He is obviously nervous and wonders aloud why he can’t use coffee instead.

Jenalee loses a staring contest with Sean and, at Elon’s command, is forced to relinquish her use of the gas burners and electric kettle. She is forced to try to boil water for tea using six candles and an admiring Wizard’s lucky talisman. Betty decides that, in hopes of saving time to brew her family’s secret tea recipe, she can use the same batter for her tea cookies, mochi, and cheeseburger omelette. Adonis Letapoulous lost his mother to Hemlock tea when he was a boy so, in protest, he omits the tea from his shortbreads, makes loukoumades, a salad of smoked salmon and smoked avocado with feta dressing, made from cheese from goats of Mt. Olympus, and Greek Coffee (also smoked from Mt. Olympus.)

Richard Rand turns his 14 pounds of carrots into a subservient robot that, while scoring high marks for reproducing the Japanese Matcha tea ceremony perfectly, will not stop calling Jeff Londing a ‘Loquacious Assnose’. (loquacious assnose)

As the contestants frantically fight their delicate teas, the student Wizards’ presence releases an influx of magic into the Bake Off, creating more thunderstorms. The four newly added Samurai statues now create long, warped shadows on the walls as lightning rains down. They look ready to fight, but each other or an oncoming army, no one knows. On a map, would they be two parallel blue lines? Or one red and one blue, a burst of spiky lines representing battle?

All around Luka Bretzagalatzin the influx of magic causes tiny, bright, flying ghosts rain down, calling names of loved ones long dead. He tries hard to focus on the pickled red onions for his Cheeseburger omelette, but the ghosts invade his skull, glowing behind his eyes and in every hair on his head. Through pure force of will, he pours his Coconut Rooibos as the ghosts of ex-lovers and countless men who have died by his hand infect his tea cakes.

Sean O’Malley makes the most beautiful display of the Round, with perfect Irish Breakfast tea, perfect scones, squishy Mochi, mouth-watering tea-cakes and a deconstructed Cheeseburger Omelette. Unfortunately for him, the extra magic turns his tea ceremony into a collection of tiny glass animals, delicate and strange in the flashing lightning. The Wizards delight in this; the make the creatures come to life and prance before the judges. One tiny glass horse defecates tiny glass shards into Jeffrey Londing’s lap.

Sam Brown serves the judges tea with the leaves still in the water. Jenalee’s food is undercooked, her tea cold. Betty’s tea is perfect, but her Omlette is simply bread and her mochi are, as Raleigh Simone puts it, “Basically garlic knots without the garlic.” Londing has, by now, used a samurai sword to cut Richard Rand’s robot to a perfect julienne salad, and Adonis Letapolis’ protest has only offended the Wizards, who grumble testily about the smoked coffee being too strong and not malty enough. Elon White, under a dark pillar of clouds that resemble the Horse Head Nebula, shouts “Enough!”

Despite the other contestant’s misgivings, Sean O’Malley is sent home for not providing the judges with any food and nearly killing Jeffrey with glass horse shit.

He bids a teary farewell to the camera, his beauty radiating sunshine through the storms. He leaves a weathered Celtic cross in his wake. The camera plays a melancholy fiddle arrangement of ‘Cockles and Mussels’ as the episode fades.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 3”

Episode 3: Muffinmania! Elon White looks to the solar system for inspiration for this week’s challenge and packs it into the small but mighty muffin!

Elon White, flanked by two columns of Union soldiers, fresh from their trip from 1864, watches as an ambulance carts off Amir Usif, rendered to mad, half-conscious ravings by the flat side of Bianca Peteron’s Nagiata.  Elon announces that they are now down to eight contestants as a large, immersive map of the solar system appears around the contestants.

Each contestant, Elon says from the middle of a hand of poker with the boys from the Ohio 54th, will have a planet assigned to them. He wins his hand, the boys in blue throw their cards down in frustration. Your muffin must have your planet as a theme. Go!

Bianca Peteron of Spain is assigned Mercury. Jenalee picks Venus. Sean O’Malley, former fairy from Ireland, is given earth, Adonis Letapolis, current Centuar from Greece, Mars. Sam Brown from the United States is assigned Jupiter. Betty, tall and mysterious, is given Saturn, ringed and brave. Richard Rand despondently receives Uranus, the Union soldiers snickering in his direction. Luka Bretzagalatzin, finally, is given Neptune, an ice Giant to match the cold, dark, ice blue of his eyes and oft-exposed soul.

Luka begins making mini blueberry muffins with smiley-face icing. Bianca Peteron, at a loss, decides on corn muffins for her Mercury Muffins. One Union soldier attempts to convince her to just make her muffins with liquid Mercury before Elon White has him shamefully dismissed and sent home. Sean O’Malley, after some thought, decides to theme his muffins around Danu, Irish Mother Goddess of Earth and Fertility and, consequently, as a former member of the fairy folk, his own mother. His muffins taste of disappointment and infrequent phone calls.

Betty makes double chocolate muffins with enchanted rings that hover around them in an ever changing rotation of neon greens and yellows. Sam Brown makes a few texts to some friends and, to go with his Rhubarb- Cardamom muffins, presents the judges with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, who play Gustav Holst’s Jupiter movement from his Planets Suite. Jeff Londing cries as the music swells; the Union soldiers remove their caps and remember their fallen brethren. Raleigh Simone shrugs and says she doesn’t care much for Cardamom.

Adonis Letapolis rages to anyone who will listen about the petulant Romans who came from the Greeks, stealing their laws and their Gods and perverting them. Instead of making Mars Muffins, Adonis makes Ares muffins, filled with mint, pistachio and orange, topped with a ginger icing that, when eaten, summons the Greek God of War who slams his spear on the judges table and demands the Centaur be given the prize. After the episode, Ares and Raleigh consort, producing a Warring Vampire Lord who is sentenced to life in prison for a Ponzi Scheme before he can bring bloody, fanged war upon the world.

Jenalee Wolland, inspired by Venus’ volcanic surface, makes dark-chocolate cayenne volcano muffins. They explode with fiery red delight, causing a stir of wonderment and fascination among the Union Soldiers. For the remaining year of the Civil War, the 54th Ohio keep cayenne muffins in their pockets.

Richard Rand finds himself out of ideas for a Uranus muffin and picks a fight with a few of the Union soldiers who keep heckling him. In the last minute, he pulls of a beautiful Carrot Cake and Prune muffin, guaranteed according to Richard, “to make Uranus work.” The crowd groans.

By the end, Bianca Peteron is sent home. Her corn muffins, Londing explains, were dry and lacked cohesiveness with the subject. Before she can be interviewed, Confederate Cavalry storm the building, resulting in a bloody engagement under the set of Samurai statues, their swords gleaming in the flashes of gunpowder and smoke. Bianca is eliminated.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 2”

Episode 2:  Slow Rolls With Cakes under their belts, the contestants must move on without beloved fellow baker Dolly as they try to master a smaller, more flavor packed challenge: rolls!

 

Elon White and a puppet version of himself stand in front of an oil painting of King Henry VIII. Elon’s puppet dryly notes that the contestants must bake enough rolls to satisfy the wife-killing King, while Elon slowly gorges a puppet Anne Boleyn with rolls until she is too fat to move.

Jenalee starts a batter for Kaiser Rolls before realizing she has made a life size ice sculpture of Barack Obama instead. She grits her teeth and starts over, the ice President slowly melting under the heat of the ovens. Sunshine pours through the skylight; surfer babes and beach dudes prowl the outside of the building, drawn from the beach to the sweet smell of rolls. Sam Brown makes his dinner rolls in the shape of tiny footballs, wrapping them in bacon to make them ‘pigskins.’ Betty cracks eggs, shells splintering all over and embedding themselves in her skin. She will need surgery by the end of the episode to remove them all. Jeff Londing paces about, checking in with contestants, stealing six bananas from Sean O’Malley, who must replace them in his Peanut Butter Banana Bun-Buns with whole coconuts. Amir Usif and Bianca Peteron both make cinnamon buns. Richard Rand of Australia finishes quickly, making perfect fruit rolls out of dried apples and figs. He starts next on a crumble for the top. Soon his hands are perfect spheres of butter and oats and cinnamon; the producer must lick through the crumble so that Rand, his face wet with nervous tears, may use his hands again. Adonis Letapolis makes traditional Greek Easter Rolls which he infuses with centaur magic, guaranteeing a perfect consistency.

Elon White’s puppet finishes making love to the engorged puppet of Anne Boleyn before his human counterpart beheads her. Each contestant’s roll is fed to not only Londing and Simone, but the portrait of Henry VIII as well. He exclaims with glee over Rand and Brown’s rolls before denouncing them as “Rats, unfit detestable excess of human waste, traitors to the crown.” The rest of his anti-American and anti-Australian rant is edited from the episode. It is determined that Usif and Peteron must fight to the death, as is customary, because they presented the same dish. As Usif takes a longstaff and Peteron a naginata, the credits begin to roll, robbing the end of the episode from an eliminated contestant. Episode 3 promises to begin with drama.

 

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 1”

Episode 1: Cake Off!- Drama unfolds as the newly introduced contestants are put to the test. Poorly baked cakes go home, well baked cakes live to see another day!

 

Elon White, culinary genius and Season 1 host, stands before a group of ten contestants, each from a different part of the world. The kitchen is a large, cylindrical beast; all stainless steel and chrome offset by rustic wooden chef stations. The roof is entirely skylight. Outside, the Miami skyline bleeds a reminder of the 1980s in pinks and neon greens for the camera. Japanese influences flank the walls; bamboo thickets and pagoda molding set around two seven foot suits of Samurai armor.

The action kicks off quickly, as each contestant is given the task of baking a simple Bundt cake. Sam Brown, ex-linebacker for the Chicago Bears and contestant from the USA crushes raspberries for compote, red juice staining his apron and dying his dark hands an eerie crimson. Jenalee Wolland of Britain preserves lemon, mummifying it before topping her Bundt with slim pieces and a lime meringue. White counts the clock down like Orson Wells while dangerous horns score an uneasy overture. The contestant from Jamaica, a muscular, rail thin woman named Betty, deconstructs her Bundt with a machete. Richard Rand of Australia sings a traditional lullaby to his Cake, smiling wide as it wobbles with each lilt of the natural minor scale. Amir Usif, representing Turkey, crushes pistachios individually with a hammer twice the size of a normal man. “Ouch!” each one screams, but Usif continues to harvest with a deaf ear.

Sean O’Malley, the contestant from Ireland, pays tribute to his roots. He was born one of the fairy folk; a beautiful fairy, her hair waterfalls of gold and red, twirling, dancing in the forest around long forgotten rocks marked by Catholics who, despite praying to the Holy Trinity, knew better than to disturb the world of the fairies. Formerly Slethá, now Sean, bakes a white cake he sprinkles with copious amounts of magic and, for a touch of zing, cinnamon. Adonis Letapolis, a centaur from Greece, makes a giant Baklava cake, his syrup mixture of honey, water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon boiling in cauldron. Bianca Peterón, proudly carrying Spain on her back, liquefies the pure essence of citrus, distilling it to two eye drops worth of liquid that she adds to her long, flat cake that soaks in Rum and is topped with a coconut meringue.

The judges come out, recently outed Vampire Raleigh Simone, her hair four shades of blue and pink, her fangs proudly displayed, and the enormously fat Jeff Londing, former chef turned critic turned exploiter of the free food these sorts of competitions give out. They taste each cake, Londing remarking that Betty’s has “A really nice bake and lovely consistency.” Simone flirts shamelessly with Adonis Letapolis, picking his cake as ‘Gold Level’ for the week even though, as White and Londing point out, it was technically not a cake. Rand almost goes home, but, after deliberation and a pause for a commercial break (that never materializes because the show was made not for television but for online binge watching ‘fill your craving with watching cake instead of eating cake!), and a dramatic gong solo, Rand survives for one more round while the contestant from Japan, a humble Shiba Inu named Dolly, is sent home.

“International Bake Off”- a primer.

Last fall, my wife and I discovered the joy that is The Great British Bake Off on Netflix. We were completely sucked in for the short but glorious ten-episodes we found and my wife  suggested I write a Bake Off story.

After reading a few short stories from Karen Russell and Kelly Link, I decided it would be fun to write a sort of absurd, surreal version of an International Bake Off.

So here it is!  Starting today, I’ll be posting each ‘Episode’ as one entry for the next seven days. Enjoy!

The Very Counterfeit of Death

This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

The theme for this story is ‘Voice’ This is my fiction piece

 

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, 1923

Hans Kroeger strolled through the plain wooden door, its frosted glass guarding the outside world from seeing inside, and set his briefcase down heavily. He set about brewing a pot of coffee, from which he poured himself a large cup and stared out the window.

Thomas Todder, his business partner of five years, interrupted; slamming the door behind him and pointedly avoiding eye contact with his partner.

Thomas poured himself an equally large cup of coffee and added two fingers of whiskey. He sat at his desk and began to sweat under Hans’ nervous stare.

 

 

Though the two men departed from their office the night before and retired to their own homes, they found themselves reunited in a dream. It was a shared dream, impossible yes, but seemingly less impossible than the landscape around them. It was made of crimson reds, violets, oranges the color of the sunset and teals that flirted with indigo but never gave in. They stood in a desert, wavering cacti stretching for miles. It was night in their dream, daytime seemed a ridiculous notion, and under an oversize moon hung six or seven big dippers.

Death a voice repeated, simultaneously in Spanish and English.

Hans and Thomas found themselves tied together, back to back, palm trees sprouting all around them and dancing violently.

We know. We know and we will rinse your soul clean.

 

 

If you asked Hans Kroeger or Thomas Todder about their newspaper, The San Antonio Voice, they’d say it was the most popular paper in Texas, the National Paper, hard journalism, and the best read since The Declaration of Independence. It was the same paper that had unmasked the Cattle Killer as Carlos De Sueña, discovered the Texas Desert Ape and proved it was Ricardo Jimenez and his wife Maria, and had proved the corruption charges against Mayor Jonas Rodriguez true, running him out of office.

It was a three man operation with only enough glory for two. Matta Zoltón, the young man who ran the presses, cleaned and maintained the machines, and loaded the cars for delivery, was a shadow stuck behind the scenes.

This morning, Hans and Thomas found their hubris deflated, both wondering about the strange dream they had, unaware the other had dreamt the same nightmare.

They moved slowly, but by lunch both men had put the terror out of their minds and, by evening, felt jovial enough for a drive up to the Hill Country for a drink at the Beer Hall.

They left Matta with a full night’s work. Tomorrow’s headline read: SANTOS CERO: OFFICER OF THE LAW, OR KILLER OF LOCAL BATS; CHIROPTERA KILLER.

 

 

Hans’ crimson tie lay on the table next to Thomas’ teal and purple diamond print one as the two men readied themselves to leave the Beer Hall. It was not a large Hall with mostly outdoor seating, but the warm night air of the Texas summer kept patrons comfortable where walls and ceilings did not. The owner brewed his own Ale and kept a plethora of pretty daughters behind the bar, both contributing to the continuing success of the establishment.

It was dark and the moon had not yet risen when the two men decided to call a car and return home. Without the blanket of stars, the sprawling, open fields of the Hill Country remained seemingly unconquerable. Thomas grabbed both men’s ties and encouraged Hans to follow him on the short walk to the road where they could more easily meet their driver.

As they trudged through the wet grass, the moon rose violently, stars coming into view under a wavering orange band of light. Trumpets sounded around them, playing a dark melody in an incongruously snappy, crisp performance.

The sound of hooves snuck up on the two men until they spun around to find a glowing white figure atop a horse. It was clearly, even through the haze of a few pints of Ale, a skeleton wearing a General’s uniform, a tailored black and red coat with black pants that made the apparition resemble some sort of vampire if not for the unnerving, grinning skeleton face the two men could help but fixate upon.

The hands and head of the skeleton sucked the glow from the full moon and illuminated fully in the space around the men. Its face was adorned in the traditional Dia De Los Muertos Calavera Skull, flowers around the eyes, with smaller more decorative lines in oranges, teal and crimson all across the face. On the forehead a small sun faded to crescent moon and back again every few seconds. The Skeleton pulled the reins of the horse and jumped in an acrobatic spin, landing in front of the two men and knocking them to the ground.

Hola! It cried.

“Who are you?” Thomas demanded.

Oh, senior Todder, you do not recognize me? Is it perhaps because I am dead? It does alter the face a bit, no? the apparition laughed, drawing his face in close to Thomas’.

“I know that voice…” Hans murmured.

It is General Posata you odorous gringos!

“No, no you’re dead.” Hans retorted. He had only met the man a few times, but this did not sound like General Posata. Or did it? Perhaps having no vocal chords altered the voice?

I AM??  The General cried, looking back in forth, his features pulled into exaggerated surprise, like a glowing, undead tragedy mask. He laughed heartily, a meaty chuckle that sent shivers down the two men’s spines. Walk with me. He said, and set off.

“No. Leave us alone,” Thomas spat.

Wasn’t asking. Posata said, and Thomas realized his feet were moving independent of his brain. They were no longer in the Hill Country; the landscape had changed to that of the desert far west of San Antonio.

It is cold here at night, but not as cold as death. Did I mention I’m dead? Posata said lyrically. I believe that you two had something to do with that. And I believe you two have had something to do with a number of deaths, all which number among the Mexican men and women of San Antonio.

The desert was indeed cold. The Big Dipper fell from the sky, crashing to earth and revealing itself to be seven souls, each men and women The San Antonio Voice had proved guilty a crime that had sentenced them to death.

Posata circled the men. I am a blunt man, so let me say this; You have brought death upon too many who did not deserve it, including myself, all in the pursuit to prove a your so called truths. You are not journalists, but prejudice harbingers of death. Tonight, this ends, unless you can report from this desert, your new home Someday, you will feel the cold of death, but first ,you will burn in this place.

Hans and Thomas could not protest; their voices were stripped from them. The big dipper danced around in cold, fiery torment, and the coyotes of the desert laughed and laughed.

 

 

 

No one in San Antonio ever figured out where the two men who ran The San Antonio Voice had gone. The bar maids at the beer hall said they had wandered off and were captured by wolves. Others claimed the old Native American Gods who protected the land had taken them. Matta swore it was an Angel sent from hell to take them.

Matta took over the paper, proving swiftly that the previous management’s versions of the truth were both fabricated and dangerously askew. The Mexican community rejoiced at his ascension and fine work running the paper.

He was not only a fine journalist and well respected member of the community, but also the best horseman in all of San Antonio

And the coyotes laughed and laughed.