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Chocolate Cake

Short Story.


by S.E. Shepherd
March 29, 2002

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Chocolate Cake_S.E. Shepherd-Short Story. Charles stood there, crouched over the glass display case, staring at the chocolate cake. It wasn’t real chocolate cake, the deep chocolate with buttery frosting that Charles loved. No, this was the plain, bland chocolate cake, the kind all the chain coffee houses served, with powdered sugar sprinkled on the top; an inferior brownie at best.

Charles was, in fact, in one of those chain coffee houses, located in one for those chain bookstores. And a chain coffee house employee was getting annoyed by Charles presence.

“The cake is $.159 plus tax. Are you going to buy something or not?”

Charles looked at him, a typical coffee house employee with spiky blonde hair, post-college pimples and a tuft of hair sprouting from his chin. Two earrings were stuck in his left ear, another in his right eyebrow, and a surfer’s necklace hung just above the collar of his black t-shirt. Over the shirt he wore a company green apron with a nameplate pinned on that said “Greg.” Charles turned back to the cake in the display.

“Dude, you’ve been staring in my display case for like, 10 minutes now. Do you want the cake or not?”

Charles looked at Greg blankly and then looked back into the display case. Greg sighed and picked up his pocket Kafka. Strange people came by all the time, though few as strange as the guy staring at the chocolate cake. He was wearing a dark suit, somewhere between black and dark gray, that didn’t fit him quite right. He wore a white shirt underneath and a mop top of dark brown hair covered his head. He looked to be somewhere between thirty and forty-five years old. Greg thought he might be Amish, but he had no hat. No, he just looked like one of those eccentric types; goofy but harmless, a real character.

Since Charles wasn’t bothering anyone, Greg just let him stare at the cake; there weren’t very many customers anyway. Eventually, Greg hoped, Charles would get bored and go away. Or order a piece and go away; anything, just go away.

Charles was slightly bothered by Greg’s presence. Ever since his initial “Can I help you,” Greg had been frequently interrupting Charles’ study of the chocolate cake. He could almost taste its blandness; it was the kind of cake you would have to wash down with a big glass of milk. Normally, Charles would scoff at such a cake, not even consider it so, yet today he couldn’t help but look at it, digest every morsel with his eyes. He wasn’t even hungry, not even for cake, but the sight of this particular cake made him think and taste every cake like it he had eaten.

This cake spoke of cafeteria food, of cardboard pizzas, and milk so cold in the tiny cartons, it was almost frozen. It spoke of Coke machines with too much carbonation in the water, of fries not crisp, but soggy, of hamburgers cooked until there was no taste left to them. This was the cake he always received when he wanted the deep, rich, chocolaty cake with the buttery frosting.

And here it was again, staring up at him. You know how I taste, it seemed to say to him, and you want my taste. No, Charles thought, I do not want that taste, though he could feel it throughout his mouth. The slight chalky feel was heightened by the powdered sugar, more like dust than sugar. How could they even dare to substitute that for frosting? Charles would bet anyone the outside edges were stale and dry too, as they always were with that type of cake.

So enthralled with the experience, Charles failed to notice the rather large woman who had stepped up at the counter and placed an order.

“I’ll have a tall double latte,” and looking at the display case, “and some of that chocolate cake.”

Greg put down Kafka and began working the espresso machines. He reached into the display case and snatched up a piece of the chocolate cake.

The sudden appearance of Greg’s hand fumbling over the chocolate snapped Charles out of his trance. He watched as Greg put the piece of cake on a plate, and the plate in front of the woman. Uneasy by Charles stare, the woman gave him a sharp glance back.

She was a large woman wearing an unflattering brown dress. Her reddish-brown hair curled down towards her neck in an uneven pattern, and murky brown eyes peered from thick glasses. She was clutching the latest Danielle Steele novel and her breath was slightly audible.

Charles watched in almost reviled horror, as this ugly woman paid for her food, sat down, and began to read her novel. She was exactly the kind of woman who would enjoy such cake, the kind who would eat any kind of cake indiscriminately. It was because of her and people like her that that type of cake existed at all. She had deliberately chosen that cake, in a window full of tempting pastries! Almost completely turned away from Charles, the woman continued reading and began sipping her latte.

And eating inferior chocolate cake as well, thought Charles. Disgusted, he left.

Comments (1)


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Everett Wilson writes:
April 3, 2002
I like chocolate cake. I like the story too. Wine snobs have nothing on cake snobs.

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Chocolate Cake
po Books
Now Available!

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by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

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