THE CAKE ONLY GETS MADE WHEN SOMEONE DIES—the baker calls it his mortuary masterpiece. “A recipe from my great-grandparents in the Netherlands,” he explains when we ask. “So sweet it expunges the grief right out of you.” The first time he brings it to a wake, we think he’s crazy—cake can’t heal our wounds, erase our sorrow for the town dentist’s death. We’re pretty sure he was overcharging us for crown work anyway, so we’re not even certain it’s sorrow we’re feeling, except maybe for all the money he’d weaseled from us.
The cake really does all of those things, though—as soon as we eat that first bite, our tears dry, our wails melt into sniffles. Some of us even start to look forward to funerals—fingers crossed it’s just our neighbor’s great-uncle, someone who’s already 85 and lived a good life, but we’re not picky. The twenty-four-year-old who crashes his car into a tree is a tragedy, sure, but at least no one else suffered at the hands of his drunk driving.
The cake is black, or sometimes dark gray, depending on how much food coloring is in the icing. “It doesn’t take much,” says the baker, “just five or six drops.” Some of us don’t like the icing’s anise flavor, not at first: it reminds us of our alcoholic grandfathers, or nosy maiden aunts who visit twice a year. But we come around.
The cake has a slab of almond paste in the middle, a thick, golden mortar that shrivels our tongues and puckers our lips with its sweetness. But almonds take a lot of water to grow, water which has been in short supply for so long, despite some of our efforts to form a resource conservation council and unify the town to save water, which generally fails. Little water means few almonds, so often we settle for imitation paste, which isn’t as good. It has a bit of a chalky flavor simmering underneath. Better than nothing.
The cake goes unmade for three whole months, the entire town in suspended animation like prehistoric mosquitoes in amber while we wait for someone to start counting worms. Our nerves get worn down—we’re on edge, our patience constantly pressed against the edge of a knife, screaming at our spouses for chewing too loud, and one of us snaps and runs over the dog next door that just won’t stop barking. Maybe this will count as a death, we think. We hold our breath. Continue reading “The Cake” – Fiction by Jonathan Wlodarski→
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality– especially our present reality– which is why I’ll be re-reading FLAPPERHOUSE #12 every single day for the foreseeable future!” – Shirley Jackson
“I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees,
because I hold a copy of
the phenomenal FLAPPERHOUSE #12!”
– Maya Angelou
“Hungry readers, reach for a book: it is a weapon…and a copy of FLAPPERHOUSE #12 is kind of like a cross between a sniper rifle and a Molotov cocktail!” – Bertolt Brecht
Our Winter 2017 issue doesn’t fly until December 21, but if you’d like an early taste of all the hungry, beastly lit that lies in wait, here’s Deirdre Coyle‘s wonderfully bizarre short story “How to Vomit Living Creatures.”
AND THEN SHE VOMITED A CAT. Not so much a hairball as an entire cat. It folded out of her mouth and onto the floor, fur smoothed by mucus.
She was wearing her bumblebee sweater.
“You look like a bumblebee,” said her mother.
“I just threw up a cat,” she replied.
Her mother looked at the clock. “Isn’t it time for your therapy?”
“Well…is the cat dead?” It was not moving.
“Let me check on it. Go see your therapist.”
Veronica was a student of comparative linguistics. She walked two miles to class every morning. Sometimes she ran. Sometimes she ate Luna bars while walking. This was allowed. At lunch, sometimes she ate french fries or chicken fingers. This was not allowed. Sometimes she stuck her fingers down her throat afterwards. Other times she ran an extra five miles on her way home to make up for it. Nothing made up for it.
The therapy sessions had begun after her freshman year of college, during which she had dropped thirty pounds in a few months and maintained a perfect 4.0.
“Do you worry often?” the therapist had asked during their first session. “About grades, maybe? Or boys?”
“I worry about grades,” Veronica replied. “But mostly I just get good grades. That’s what happens. To do otherwise would be stupid.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I’m in college, right? My mom’s paying for it. So I’m not going to waste her tuition money partying, you know?”
Her therapist raised an eyebrow, one finger tapping the arm of her chair. “Why do you say that?”
After two years and as many pounds of weight gain, Veronica’s therapist continued to question obvious statements.
“You can’t just eat a cookie and then throw up a cat,” said her therapist.
“I could. I did.”
“Not physically,” the therapist said, scribbling on her pad. “In order to purge a cat—”
“I wasn’t purging.”
“I only meant expunge. In order to expunge a cat, you must have eaten a cat.”
“I never ate a cat. I only ate a cookie. And if I had eaten two cookies, I probably would have thrown up two cats. Or maybe one, much fatter cat.”
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