Fiasco

Moving from here to there
Can put you out of socket
It lobs your life up in the air,
Nudging your brain out of socket.

That’s what happened to me;
That is why I’ve been absent.
But here I am, this is me,
Slowly reframing the fragments.

Next month, I will have a thrilling novelette for your reading pleasure. This week I have a funny little scene sketch exploring stream of consciousness. Enjoy!

Surprise?

They call me Fiasco Fiona.

Once I boiled bagels for twenty minutes because I thought that’s where all the cooking happened. At least Lafayette liked them, to gnaw on, that is. Lafayette is my dog. 

Another time, I decided to quarter a custard tart recipe—my hips don’t need 48 pastries to eat while watching the Great British Baking Show. But I forgot to quarter the butter and ended up with lumpy yellow islands floating in puddles of oil. 

And then there was the time I didn’t have chili powder for my fajitas and substituted cayenne in equal measure. I still have nightmares about that one, that my grandma tasted it, and it killed her.

But today is going to be different.

Today I am baking a cake for my sister’s surprise birthday party. I’ve read the recipe for that two-layered chocolate cake twice through, and I’ll triple-check each ingredient as I go. It will be fine. Of course, it will.

That’s what I thought before my accidental nap. 

I bolt upright on my sofa. No, no, no, no, no! I had been tired after my shift at Tiffany’s; I didn’t even remember closing my eyes! Where’s the clock. Blink, blink, rub, blink. A quarter after six! People will arrive in an hour! Do I have time? I scramble over to the counter, tripping on my blanket and fuzzy socks. Cook Time: 30 minutes. Prep Time: 10 minutes. 

Yea, right. Ten minutes my foot!

No, think positively. I have time. Sure I do. I can do this! I throw an apron over my party dress, and thank heaven I got ready and decorated before I sat down on my nap-inducing sofa. Running around the kitchen, I pull out all the ingredients, utensils, and measuring tools I own and start dumping dry things in this bowl and wet things in that. 

I have never understood why sugar goes with the wet. It’s dry, isn’t it? Wait. Sugar. Where is the sugar? No… What? How can I be out of sugar? I check every cabinet and drawer. Desperate now, I even look in the sugar bowl. Twenty granules skitter across the bottom. How did this happen?

Then I remember my dad dropped by before work this morning to exchange magazines—our scam to only subscribe to half as many. I left before he did but told him to help himself to the coffee. His excessive use of sugar makes me swell with irrational anger. Who needs that much sugar?!

Not important. Focus Fiona! Focus!

I can’t ask my neighbors. The one I’m friendly with doesn’t believe in sugar like it’s some sort of religion. Another couple will sink their claws in you and talk you to death. I only know one other, a man who may or may not bury people in his basement. 

My armpits are sticky with nervous sweat, and I’ve barely even started.

Okay, what else is sweet? Candy? Candy alone can’t sweeten baked goods. I’ve tried. It’s gross. 

Molasses? Yes! Why not. It’s sweet! It will give a smoky flavor. I glance at the fancy baker’s chocolate on the countertop. Smoky chocolate. Smoky like s’mores? Or like the burnt crispies left on the pan after baking chocolate chip cookies? Do I have any other options? Tick, tock, tick, tock.

My eyes land on the honey pot. Yes! That’ll do. I quickly pull up a ‘honey for sugar’ conversion chart on my phone and charge onward. Tallyho! 

My baking soda is clumpy. I find my sifter, but it’s rusted. Which is better, clumps of soda or flecks of rust? I choose clumps. I don’t really have the time to sift anyway. In it goes!

It seems weird to put bars of chocolate into simmering water. Oh well. Plop! I look at the recipe for the next step and gasp. I dive at the boiling water with forks, fishing out the slippery chocolate and dumping it in a bowl. A bain-marie is where you melt chocolate over a pot of water, not in a pot of water. Sheesh. 

I wipe my forehead, smearing it with chocolate, and glance between pot and bowl. Most of it is salvageable, and I have chocolate chips to make up the difference. It’ll be fine. My eye twitches.

The directions say not to over mix, but when I pour the batter into the pans, there are blobs of white flour. I poke and swirl them around with my finger, not too much, though, or it’ll dispel the nonstick spray, and I won’t be able to get them out of the pan—the voice of experience. 

I’m pretty sure the two pans aren’t evenly filled. Whatever.

While baking at the correct temperature and with the egg timer set (thank you very much), I whip together the buttercream frosting, puffing my face, front, and floor with powdered sugar. Time is ticking by. I dash to set out my present, straighten cushions, and put on my nice shoes, hurrying back to ogle my cakes as they bake the last few minutes.Then I spend the next five leaning into the oven and stabbing it to death with toothpicks, feeling my makeup sweating off. No one likes a dry cake, but no one likes to drink batter either! ‘Happy Birthday, sis, have some salmonella to celebrate!’

I plop the cakes out onto the cooling rack. Surprisingly, they hold together. I’m halfway to the freezer, rack in hand, when I glance at the clock. The guests will arrive in four minutes! FOUR!

I can’t wait. Spatula in hand, I glop the frosting onto the bottom layer, which is slanted because my oven is uneven, and top it with the second cake. The buttercream melts, and the top tier starts to slide off like a stack of gloopy mud pies. Ahh!

What do I do, what do I do? Removing the top layer, I scrape off the icing, hack off the slanted dome of the bottom tier, and plop the top back on. At least it’s staying upright. Oh my, holy churro, it looks like something that came out of the wrong end of Lafayette.

I grab the powdered sugar and the rusty sieve and give it a nice little snow shower. I hold my breath. It’s beautiful, actually lovely… for about two seconds… before the powdered sugar melts into the brown cake. El stupido! 

Fiasco! It’s a FIASCO!

I consider running away from home. I had two responsibilities for this party. Hang streamers. Bake cake. Why did I say I would do this? Why did they let me? It doesn’t matter. People are counting on me. I can’t give up, can’t abandon my own sister’s surprise party.

I tear through the cabinets, pulling things out left and right, and then I find it—a tub of sprinkles. 

One minutes to go, I swipe the runny icing from the plate rim with a rag, and then, I drown that cake in sprinkles, reshaping the off-kilter bits, filling in cracks and crumbles. I step back, cocking my head. 

You’ll never believe it, but it looked… okay! Almost on-purpose like one of those eccentric designer cakes.

Knock-Knock.

I rip off my apron, floofing my hair something awful, and toss it on a pile of spilled ingredients, knocking the flour canister’s lid to the door with a clang-rattle-rattle. My sigh sounds like Chewbacca. As I go to answer the door, my eyeballs hitch on the wedge of cake I removed from the tip-tilted bottom. Tentatively, like it was a temperamental chihuahua, I gather sticky crumbles and a mass of sprinkles with my fingertips and pop them in my mouth. 

I could cry. Melt and cry.

But it’s a happy weeping. Thank the baking gods! The cake is rich and fudgy and positively scrumptious, and the ridiculous amount of sprinkles actually improved the texture. 

I need to reapply deodorant, fix my streaky mascara and brush my hair, but instead, I skip to the front door.

Two friends hug me, laughing amiably at my appearance, and step inside, and Mom and Dad arrive soon after. I wait in the entryway in a euphoric daze. My cake is edible. I suppress a hysterical giggle and let in another trickle of guests. Our neighbor is the last to arrive. She comes bearing reusable shopping bags stuffed to the brim.

“I brought keto, vegan, gluten-free snacks so everyone can have something to eat!” Her smile has the innocence of a sunrise.

“Thaaanks,” I reply.

“Would you like me to put them in the kitchen?”

“NO!”

**All of us have days where nothing seems to go right. But don’t give up! Learn from your failures and boldly carry on my friends, carry on.

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