Monday, August 23, 2010

Freeing myself from the ineluctable details of my Art

Behold the opening paragraphs of a short story:
I bought myself a birthday cake today. After all, it is my birthday. I stood up after dinner and told everyone I’d be right back. Then I went to the grocery store, headed straight to the bakery section and picked one out, just like that. It was round, with two layers of yellow cake, white frosting and flowers.

'Happy Birthday!' it said.

The lady asked if I wanted a name written on it. I looked at the white, flat area in the center of the cake.

"No," I said. "I’ll take it just as it is."

The woman in my story takes the cake home and does not allow anyone to eat it. She saves it for week after week, month after month, and so on.

I am fastidious with research to a fault. Hence, I wanted to see what would happen to a store-bought cake if I left it in its package on a shelf for a while.

The photo accurately depicts its subject. The cake is quite hard and it has shrunk. At the expense of a dry gag, I sniffed the cake. It smelled softly rancid. It smelled like failure.

I purchased the cake in May 2001.

Since I never properly finished and drafted the short story (which, in the true sentiment of this post feels like something woefully wasted), I have decided to throw the cake away. It's maxed out, beyond its point. Getting any harder, more yellow, and smaller feels false to me somehow.

Perhaps I've turned everything inside out. Maybe this means that the story's time has come. Maybe I'll pull it up and give it another go (a decision I've made in the time it's taken me to author this post).

I don't intend to abandon the plan to throw the cake away. I can redraft the story without it. All of its secrets are ensconced in my mind. It's done its job. My Tops Cherry Bar Cake may have died a virgin, but she did not die in vain.

In death there is life. Is there a famous Latin equivalent to that? Should there be?

* * *


Bill said...

How did the goat not dive into that cake in june 2001? any baked good would never last more than a week in my house.

dean said...

TAKE SOME FELS-NAPTHA to that puppy! I'm thinking it will bring it back to life.

Fels-Naptha is the Soap of Resurrection.

JEFF9K said...

If you would have invested that $3.29 in the stock market in 2001, today you would have eighty-five cents.

Kirk Jusko said...

So is your short story also going to place over a span of nine years?

Anonymous said...

A Vestal Virgin cake:

"The priestesses of the goddess Vesta were known as the Vestal Virgins. They were responsible for maintaining the sacred fire within the Temple of Vesta on the Forum Romanum. Other duties included performing rituals in regards to the Goddess Vesta, and baking the sacred salt cake to be used at numerous ceremonies in the year. They were the only female priests within the roman religious system. The head of the college of Vesta was called the Virgo Vestalis Maxima, and she was under the direct authority of the Pontifex Maximus."

Donate it to Case Western Nutrition Sciences for research.


sevnetus said...

The cake in my fridge is only two years old, so I'm taking lessons.

TalesNTypos said...

Enjoyed this post. Loved it in fact.
Just a cake, but it isn't.
"In death is life." I might have read or written this myself at some point. Though not on my blog.
I'm glad you've decided to resurrect the story.

Bill said...

I understand that your local government is monitoring (or is about to start) your garbage to make sure you're recycling. So, make sure that cake packaging gets tossed in the right container. Did you ever think your government would actually check your garbage?

Erin O'Brien said...

Hello all and thanks, Tales.

Bill, I'm about to start putting your shit-eating comments in the trash.

Bill said...

I'm sure they'll get recycled at some point. I hope, though, my comments are allowed to continue to appear here. After all, I'm not offending anyone and the comments are mostly on topic. Thanks.

Erin O'Brien said...

Bill, of course you can comment here anytime you like, even when your humble hostess is grouchy and barks at you rudely.

Sorry about that ... Erin

glittermom said...

maybe it will shrink down to a hard cookie, then you can dunk it...

Bill said...

Thanks E.

Bill said...

Thanks E.

Auntie P said...

My sister made cupcakes for her best friend for her 16th birthday. They are 47 and just had their 31st photo taken with the "Meg" cupcake. Meg's mom saved the cupcake with Meg's name on it in a paper lunch bag. The cupcake hardened without rotting or smelling or changing appearances in any way. I am not a scientist so I have no idea about the chemistry or physics behind that. I am a sentimentalist and do understand the power of a pastry that should have withered long ago but is still here to keep the treasured secrets of their friendship.

Mrs. C said...

Dickens may have tried a similar experiment before writing he [delicious?] description of Miss Havisham's wedding cake upon Pip's first view of it in GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Good stuff (old cake) can yield GREAT stuff...

(and my word verification is NOMSO--as in so nom-nom-nommy?)