Monday, January 11, 2010


On what I imagine to be the Southern equivalent of tonight’s weather, I TRIED to be a good neighbor. I’d heard at work that a friend’s Dad had died that day, and of course, my GCL genes kicked in---go home and COOK something.

So I did---a Chocolate Cake. It was a really good cake, moist and rich, with the two round fluffy layers stacked with a cooked fudge frosting between, the swirls on sides and top just so, as befits taking to a home during a sad time. By the time I got it baked and almost-cooled and frosted, it was getting late in the day, with a crisp darkness coming on. My two sons and I wrapped up warm and started out in my wagon, Son #1 driving and me beside him in the passenger seat, holding the cake---I even imagined I could feel a little of the residual warmth coming through the plate.

Just as we made the turn from our long drive onto the blacktop, we heard the unmistakable thwhop-thwhop of a flattening tire. Gloom, Despair, and Misery on me. We got out and the boys got the wheel all jacked up and pulled out the spare. And on this day of all days, in the cold and dark, it was WAY too loose and soggy not to be flat, as well.

SO, we all walked home---before we had cell phones---and I called the owner of the little tire store we used. He agreed to meet us at the store as soon as we could get there. So Son 2 stayed home and we took the boys’ new pickup two-towns-over, where the man was waiting to sell me two new tires. After the usual time-a-day passing and business transacting, we got the two new tires loaded into the truck, and headed home--at least an hour-and-a-half since we had started out. Son #1 got out at the wagon to get a new tire on, while I ran back home to get Son #2.

We all were shivering in the cold, hands numb and noses reddened, while the boys changed the tire and I held the flashlight. They got all the bits and pieces back into the wagon , and we all took our places again, Son 2 in the back seat. And just as we all got buckled in and Son put the car in gear, there was one of those moments which take a fraction of a second, and you view them down a long tunnel, while time moves like syrup.

I watched, just frozen, as the big ole flashlight, which I’d laid up on the dash as I secured my seatbelt and picked up the cake, rolled toward me, going airborne and landing PLOP in the top of the cake. That thing bisected that cake as neatly as an ax---I’ve seen weddin’-cake servers who couldn’t do that good a job.

And we all burst out laughing---from the tension and the cold and the sheer absurdity of it---that one moment of thoughtless misplacement which caused the whole evening to come to naught, and the absolute NOTHING WE COULD DO. We couldn’t go into a house of mourning with a battered offering; the cake was WAY beyond repairing, and there was enough still-soft frosting down the front of my coat to serve two or three sweet-teeth. Plus, we were all about to wet our pants from the cold and from all that laughing.

So we turned around, went home, made a pot of coffee, washed up, and ate cake. And I never DID tell my friend about that silly attempt to be a Good Neighbor. It just never seemed to be the right time.


Kouign Aman said...

God bless you.

Southern Lady said...

Bless your heart, Rachel ... even though your friend never knew about your good intentions, at least you and your sons have a fun memory (looking back on it) of that ill-fated "Murphy's Law at work" night.

Keetha said...

I love that you can laugh at that! What a good spirit, and good intentions although I was really glad to read you went home and ate some of that cake. I think that was the only option at that point.

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

I had to laugh right along with you, but if it had been me, I'd probably still be crying...At least you and your boys and God knows you were trying to be a good neighbor.