“Sorry Sally, but I don’t sell them. I make them for my own enjoyment, and occasionally to share with friends,” Tom shyly replied, turning a deep crimson under the dissecting stare of the three women as they chewed slowly.
“Why do I do this to myself?” Tom wondered to himself as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. But, he couldn’t help it. No matter where he went or who he met, it always ended up the same. He would get the urge, and slowly it would grow stronger and stronger until he couldn’t resist it and he would succumb- and bake. Cheesecakes, specifically, seemed to be his downfall- he just couldn’t keep from making them and then sharing them with whomever would accept a slice. And, just like clockwork, those he would share the dessert with would rave about its creaminess and flavor, beg him for the recipe and urge Tom to sell his cheesecakes- they were just too good to keep to himself. This reaction and eventual unwelcomed attention would go on for days.
And then Tom Levingstein would be gone.
Moving to a new town, picking up odd jobs wherever he could find them, Tom could never manage to stay put for any more than a month or two. He couldn’t risk being found or tracked and his cheesecakes were the one thing that kept him in constant jeopardy. “If I could only resist the urge to bake… or maybe if they weren’t so good…” he could be heard mumbling to himself. It was no use. Every man has an undoing, and Tom’s was cheesecake.
“Excuse me, Tom Levingstein?” a strange male voice asked from behind Tom as he dropped the sack of scrap metal he had been hauling towards his truck. The tone used by the stranger alerted Tom that he was not asking if he was Tom Levingstein, rather he was confirming it. Despite having used an alias for more than three years, Tom had broken the cardinal rule of living on the run- don’t react when called by your given name. Letting out a deep sigh, Tom turned slowly to face the stranger and the reality that he had finally been found out.
“How’d you find me?” Tom responded, pulling out a soiled handkerchief from his back pocket and slowly began to wipe his hands, hoping the action would mask how badly he hands were shaking. He expected the worst and scanned his surroundings quickly for both an escape route and encroaching law enforcers. Seeing none, he focused again on the man who had discovered him and couldn’t help but frown. “This is the man who’s found me out? This guy, really?” Tom thought to himself with disbelief giving the man thorough scan. Not tall, and not short, the stranger had no real remarkable traits aside from a watery mouth that drooped on both sides, giving the man the resemblance of a kind of fish, a flounder, perhaps.
“Well it wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that much. But when I took a bite of that key lime cheesecake my aunt Doris brought home two weeks ago, I knew I had to find the man who made it,” the fish-man said with no sign of the enthusiasm his declaration might warrant.
“Somehow I knew it would come to this, key lime you say?” Tom said thoughtfully. “Hmmm, thought it might be the blood orange or black forest that would eventually do me in,” he said with a bit of humor in his voice.
“Do you in? I’m not sure I understand,” fish-mouth replied scratching his head as if to better illustrate his bafflement.
It wasn’t like them to play coy, either this guy is new or twisted or… “What exactly do you want from me, Mister…?”
“Oh! How rude of me! I’m Jonas Fingerling, master chef at Le Pantalons Fantaisie in New York City, NY and I’ve been searching my whole career for you! You are to be my pastry chef; I won’t hear anything but a ‘yes’. I will pay you anything you want, money is no option when you serve perfection!” the fishy chef declared with sudden flourish.
Seeing that the man was in fact telling the truth and he was not here to haul him away, Tom relaxed a little and formulated a reply.
“Ah! My dear aunt told me how shy you were, but please believe me you will not want to pass this opportunity by,” the chef interjected, seeing Tom was seconds from refusing.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fingerling but I-“ Tom began to reply before the chef held up his hand to silence him. Taking a few steps towards Tom, the man leaned closer as if he wanted to whisper something.
“Do not refuse me so quickly, Mr. Levingstein. I would hate for them to somehow find you and take you from me and your destiny to be a premier pastry chef. It would be nothing short of a tragedy, I’m quite sure of it,” he said, a twinkle in his eye giving him an even fishier demeanor somehow.
Tom rolled this new information around on his tongue like a tapioca pearl.
“When do I start?”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Yay! I finally found some time to make a cheesecake! I used to whip up this delights on an almost monthly basis until another hobby of mine interfered (ahem… blog). So this evening I slaved over the mixer and oven to create a lovely-looking key lime cheesecake. It’s still cooling and won’t be ready for tasting until tomorrow, but it was lovely just throwing one together after almost a year of not making any.
TWO: Ever since moving into my house, going on three years ago, I have received what I assume was the previous owner’s mail. After numerous ‘return to sender’ and notes to the mailman I’ve given up and usually just set the man’s mail back in the ‘pick up’ slot beneath my mail box. Who was this man? Where did he go? Is he on the run? Why didn’t he leave any forwarding address? Why does he still get all the good coupons?!?
Love & Squirrels.