by Nick Gregorio
Bill was a vanilla birthday cake. Nice on the eyes. Tasty. But plain. And a little stale, to tell the truth.
Genoise—Gen for short—was everything Bill was not and so much more. Mouth-watering, soft, sumptuous. The type of cake other cakes wanted to be. The type of cake to which humans assigned fancy names, like Genoise. She had never once acted as some would assume such a profound beauty would act, however, and the air of that quality was the very thing that afforded Bill the gumption to say hello to her—albeit after a brief bit of deep silence once Bill had been set next to
Gen in the display case.
Bill and Gen spent all of their time together—truth be told, they didn’t have much of a choice, being cakes and all. Still, they would chat and laugh and poke fun at one another. Discuss their fears of being sold. Promise to make sure they’d do their damndest to find display case spaces next to one another once the baker used their recipes again someday. Then more laughter. Even more after that. And then more still.
It would have been a delightful little dance to behold if the other cakes and cookies and pastries weren’t so jealous of Bill’s luck and/or confused by Gen’s taste in desserts.
“How could she spend so much time talking to such a bland cake?” The Danishes whispered to their cupcake pals.
“Who does he think he is?” The other birthday cakes asked one another.
“She’s slumming it,” the cookies said.
“He needs to lock that down ASAP,” the pound cakes grunted.
“She should be with her own kind,” the Cannoli said. “Italians, like us.”
But the chatter, no matter the volume, didn’t seem to bother Bill. He was spending his time with a cake next to whom he could imagine himself on display at an extravagant human party; ornamented in lit candles, inches away from his one and only someone—who, by the way, needed no additional trappings to look as fresh and lovely as the day she was pulled from the warmth of the baker’s oven
And Gen, unburdened by the inane ogling from the riffraff in the display case, was her fullest self with Bill. Honest and silly. Funny but sometimes sad. Kind and caring and whip-smart. All the things the pound cakes would never assume her to be in a billion years. All the things the cookies and the other birthday cakes couldn’t see. All the things Cannoli say they want from a delicious cake, but wind up completely emasculated by once they experienced such qualities in person. And every moment Bill and Gen were able to spend with one another, no matter how fleeting, felt like those big moments every dessert hopes to have a handful of times over the course of their lives—without the arrogant presence of wedding cakes, of course; those insufferable elitists.
Life went on like that for a good long while—a good long while for sugar-based foodstuffs, anyway.
But one day, a human came for Bill. A kind-looking one, searching for something simple for a party they were throwing.
Something everyone would like. Nothing fancy.
As Bill’s box was being folded into shape, he said to Gen, “I wish you could come with me.”
Gen said, “I wish that too.”
There was a pregnant pause between them. A thing the likes of which hadn’t happened since the first few moments they were together. So Bill said the first thing that came to mind: “You’re the icing on my life cake—cake life—no, life cake—no…”
Gen smiled, in so much as cakes could smile, and said,
“That’s the corniest thing you’ve ever said.”
Bill was embarrassed. He’d had one chance to say goodbye and he’d blown it with that pathetic life cake/cake life line. Whatever that meant.
“You’re my icing too,” Gen said, lifting Bill’s spirits. “And if I were a human, I’d call dibs on you the moment I laid my eyes on you too.”
They didn’t say much after that.
Bill was lifted from the case and placed gently into his box.
The baker tied a string around the box and into a little bow.
Then the box was handed over to the customer.
The human left with Bill.
Gen understood what it was to be a cake. How fast things happen. How quickly things can end. How extra little by-chance circumstances—two cakes being placed next to one another for no reason other than their both being cakes—can make a life positively shiny for a lifetime despite having only lasted mere moments. And nothing ever really ended anyway, did it? Recipes would be followed again. Spots in display cases were vacated nearly constantly. Gen and Bill could be sitting next to one another again in no time.
Until then, though.
Until Gen could make a regular old birthday cake like Bill feel like a dessert crafted for the coronation of some festooned-in-velvet-robes human king out there somewhere.
Until the next time Gen could sit, and be, and do nothing at all with Bill; no expectations, no demands, no pressure.
Until the next time life could be so soft and sweet.
* * *
Nick Gregorio is a husband, writer, teacher, dog-dad, punk, nerd, teeth-grinder, and mall-walker living and writing just outside of Philadelphia. He is the author of four books, and his work has appeared in many print and online journals. For more, please visit: www.nickgregorio.com.