Flash Fiction: The Sunday Night Call

Sunday Night November 4,  9:00pm

"Hey sweetie, it’s your Sunday night call. Well, um I missed you again—I’ve missed you the last few Sundays, I hope you're doing well. I sure love talking to my sweet daughter."

"I remember that you started that new job—I hope you’re liking it. Your last boss sounded like a real jerk. I still can’t understand it; giving you a hard time for going to a weekly dentist appointment. Appearance is everything when you're a receptionist. He should be grateful that you wanted to look your best. He didn’t deserve to have a hard working girl like you in his office. It’s good you quit. Next time though, you need to have a job in hand before giving notice—I thought I taught you and your sisters that."

"Anyway, I'm glad I could help you out. I saw that you had cashed the check I sent. I hope I sent enough— rent, car payment, groceries, other unforeseeables. Yeah, I think I sent enough. If you need more cash before that first paycheck though, just let me know; I’d hate to see you put things on a credit card. I didn’t get my first credit card until I was 35, I still can't understand how you got a credit card in college. You needed to graduate with a degree, not debt. Ugh! Well, if you’re short – it’s best to call me at the office. Your mom thinks I help you girls out too much, so call me there and we will keep her out of it. "

"Hey, if you get a chance this week, call Grandpa. He has not been doing well. It would have been your grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary last Thursday. He just can’t believe she’s gone. Your grandmother always talked about what a grand party she wanted to plan for their 50th— at the country club with all her sisters from Kansas and all the grandkids. She wanted an ice sculpture, punch table and a steak dinner.  She really looked forward to throwing that party.  Hard to think she’s been gone four months now. She was a neat lady. Her sisters and you kids came to her funeral instead of her party— sad.  Anyhow, give Grandpa a call if you can. He says he can always hear your smile over the phone when you call. It would really make him happy to hear your pretty voice."

"Alright sweetie, I will hang up now. I hope you answer next Sunday. And I am serious, if you need a little cash before that first check, just call me at the office. Oh, also Election Day is Tuesday, I hope you vote. Remember voting is the only way we can have our say in this country. Maybe your new boss will give you some time off to go vote—just an idea. "

"Okay, I love you, talk to you next week, keep up your hard work.  Bye."

Sunday Night November 11,  9:00pm

"Hey Sweetie, it’s your Sunday night call. Well, um I guess I missed you again…"

The Chocolate Cake

In January 2008 I threw a dinner party to celebrate the birthdays of two dear friends. What was served for dinner has faded from memory, but what was served for dessert has not. The dessert enjoyed that cold winter evening was chocolate, dark, moist and amazing. The recipe in Food & Wine magazine titled the cake: Crunchy Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake. The name alone inspired me to create it for my friends. The recipe claimed the cake took four hours to prepare; I found it took six, but I loved every minute.  As I finished the cake and topped it with ganache, the thick chocolate ran over the sides of the cake and overflowed onto the counter-top. The mess and mass of chocolate worried me: Would the cake be too much for the crowd to handle? 

After the table had been cleared of the dinner plates, I anxiously jumped up to slice and serve the cake. Many of those in attendance begged that the slices be thin, for they were 'not that into sweets' or 'watching what they ate’. I tried my best to make the slices thin, but the cake demanded just the opposite. The plates of the dark brown slices were passed about. A few plates were returned to the kitchen half-eaten, but most of the guests slowly enjoyed the cake in amazement. "What is this?" I was asked more than once. I reveled telling the story of the recipe and all the marvelous ingredients...rice krispies, sliced almonds, creamy peanut butter and over a pound of chocolate. I also got to say words like ganache and meringue which filled me with pride.

A small amount of cake was leftover from the evening’s festivities and one friend happily volunteered to escort it home. The cake was wrapped and sent away. I went to bed that night pleased with the dinner party and dreaming of cake.

One week later
I received an e-mail inviting me to a lunchtime gathering of old co-workers. One of the women in attendance was the same dinner guest who had taken the cake home the week prior.  During lunch, I found the leftover cake made it to the office. After the word ‘cake’ was blurted, the conversation turned to all things cake. They loved it. They marveled over it and I again got to talk proudly of my master baker moments.

Then the proposition came: The dinner guest asked, "Will you make it for my 40th birthday?"

"Of course!"

Five years later
My friend, the dinner guest, is turning 40. She has decided that renting a house in Healdsburg is the perfect way to celebrate her grand day. The e-mails are sent and I’m asked to bring a side dish. I remembered about the cake, but since it was her day I figured that she had something else in mind for dessert and I didn't want to impose. The day in Healdsburg was beautiful. The friends, the setting, the weather, the food, it was all good. Then came dessert...

A stupendous chocolate fondue platter with fruits, cookies and marshmallows for dipping into either dark or milk chocolate had been prepared. The crowd clamored over the fondue; nobody could get enough. The children were almost shark-like in their frenzy.

As we were polishing off the tray of fruit and other goodies, my friend turned to me and mentioned the cake, “Do you remember the cake you made a few years ago?”

A tingle went down my spine, yes the cake! “Of course I remember the cake. I would've been happy to make it and I will make it again.” 

Two weeks ago 

The same dinner party group has an annual Christmas party. When the date was set in early December, I immediately offered to bring dessert and simultaneously started the hunt for the November 2007 issue of Food and Wine (yes, I do save those special issues of food magazines but could not remember if I was looking for Bon Appetit or Gourmet which hindered the search).
Baking the cake took a little less effort; this time taking five hours to prepare instead of six. In the final step of preparation, I poured the ganache over the cake. I held my breath waiting for the ganache to overflow onto the counter and…this time it did not. Had I made a mistake or had I mastered the cake? It was midnight and I had to wait a whole day to find out. I stored the cake safely beneath a domed cake plate and stored it in the frigid garage overnight.  

Party time! 
We were the first guests to the party. My husband offered to carry the cake from the car, but I declined. I carried it through the house confidently and asked the host to make room for the cake in the outside refrigerator. The second dinner guests arrived. After greetings and hugs they announced they'd brought chocolate martinis. The crowd cheered and the hostess begged, “Are you making these martinis now?”

“No, I thought I would make them for dessert.” The husband replied.

My heart sank. I was worried that the martinis would outshine the cake or that guests would opt for one over the other.  I asked for a glass of champagne and took a moment to strategize. After a few handfuls of nuts and a glass of champagne, I offered to the host,   “hey, let’s have the chocolate martinis right after dinner and cut the cake after we open presents.”

“Perfect!” she piped.

And perfect it was… (and my dreams are are still tinged in chocolate)