Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Charles Wiegand

Eliana’s passion is baking. All kinds of baking—bread, candy, cakes, pastries, and pies. She loves baking so much she has three ovens in her kitchen. She is known throughout her neighborhood for her baked goods—everything from simple cupcakes to exquisite French pastries to her own intoxicating, quite literally, rum cake.

“These, hmm, whatever they are, are very good. What are these?” asked Miriam, one of Eliana’s neighbors. Miriam finished the first one and took a second before Eliana could answer.

“Those are pecan/rum bars. They are made from an old recipe,” said Eliana while slowly eating her first. The bars had a bit more than the typical amount of rum in them.

Miriam loved the bars, “What’s in them? I love the flavor; it’s almost like some kind of alcohol. Did you put some whiskey or something in the recipe?”

“Well, actually, there is rum in the recipe, that’s why they’re called rum bars. And I tend to use a little more than the recipe calls for,” Miriam said with a little giggle. “So, you might want to slow down on those and eat the pecan shortbread instead, there’s no rum in it.”

“Oh, that’s no fun,” Miriam said as she took her third pecan/rum bar.

“Okay, don’t blame me if your husband complains about your drinking in the middle of the day,” said Eliana with a laugh.

“I don’t care what he says, these are delicious!” Miriam said. “Hey! You know what we should do?”

“Lots of things, but what do you have in mind?”

“Let’s get the entire neighborhood together for a bake-off. Then you make these rum bars with even more rum in them and you’ll win for sure! And maybe get everyone drunk!” Miriam laughed, and it was maybe a little more than necessary.

“Ha-ha, yeah, that’s just what I need, a bake-off full of women getting drunk on my rum/pecan bars. I like the idea of the bake-off, though. We’ll have to work that out.”

Some loud noises from outside the house interrupted their conversation. They went to the window, Miriam a little less than steady, propped herself against the couch, and they peered out at the street.

“Hey, somebody’s moving in across the street!” Miriam said, “Oh, I wonder which of them it is?”

There were two moving van men and another two men all working on unloading the truck into the house across the street.

“Well, I’m sure it’s not either of those two, they’re wearing company uniforms,” said Eliana.

“Yeah, but those other two, wow, they’re handsome, I want to meet them,” said Miriam.

“You need to slow down, lady, and don’t forget that you have a husband who will be home from work in just a little while,” scolded Eliana.

“Ah, don’t worry about him, let’s go across the street,” and Miriam started walking to the door, then Eliana followed behind her.

“Okay, just don’t be too aggressive, or too flirty, or too, well, you,” said Eliana as they left the house and walked down the walkway. “No, on second thought, Miriam sweetie,” Eliana stopped. “Let’s wait until they get moved into the house. I don’t think we should interrupt them while they’re moving in. I’m sure they don’t want nosy neighbors poking around so soon.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Eli, you’re just afraid to meet them. You need to meet men! You need to find a man to be with!”

“Oh, I will, one day.”

“You’re too shy, that’s the problem. Now, come on, we’re going to meet those guys.”

They walked across the street and tried to be as nonchalant as possible, which wasn’t so easy for Miriam. She’d had just enough rum to loosen up her mouth and her attitude.

“Hi!” Miriam shouted at the men. They all stopped and turned to see who was coming up to them.

“Oh, hi, how are you?” asked one of the men. It was Carl. He was the one moving into the house. His t-shirt didn’t easily hide his six-foot, 190-pound, physique. He was a weekend warrior who enjoyed many outdoor sports and as little TV as possible.

“I’m Miriam, and this is my friend, Eliana.”

“Nice to meet you guys, I’m Carl, and this is my friend, Peter.” Peter joined them, and they all exchanged handshakes and greetings. Peter was also a weekend warrior, a sports freak even more so than Carl was.

“So, you both are moving in?” asked Miriam.

“No, just this bloke,” said Peter, giving Carl a little punch to his shoulder. “I’m married, he’s single. Now he’s going to have this big house to himself. Why? I don’t know. What are you going to do with all that space?” he asked Carl, who just smiled and continued to look at Eliana.

“Oh, um, I’m Eliana,” Eliana said. She blushed with a sudden realization that she was also looking a bit too intently at Carl, and she remembered Miriam already introduced her.

“Yeah, we already got that,” Carl said, and he winked at Eliana. “So, where do you guys live?”

Miriam said, “I live over there, in the blue house, and Miriam lives across from you, alone, in that big house, with no boyfriend to share it with, right Eliana?”

“Shush, Miriam, what’d I tell you before we came over here?” Eliana quietly said to her tipsy friend.

Carl laughed a little and asked, “What’s up with you guys? What’ve you been doing?”

“Oh, I baked some stuff that has rum in it, and she’s been eating too much of it.”

“Baking some stuff with rum in it? Really?” asked Peter.

“Yeah, it’s a rum/pecan bar thing she makes, and it’s fantabulous,” said Miriam. “Just a minute…” Miriam trotted across the street and into Eliana’s house and returned with the platter of rum/pecan bars.

They all ate the soft, almost gooey, bar cakes, and soon there was none left.

“Wow! These are really good!” said Carl.

Peter added, “Yeah, just don’t eat too many or you’ll be drunk. He’s a light drinker.”

Eliana shoulder-bumped Miriam and they all laughed at that and ate the last of the bars.

The moving company men had the truck emptied of all the household goods and they left.

“Well, we should let you guys get to work setting up your new home, you’ve got a lot of work to do in there,” said Eliana.

“Yeah, I suppose so. Thanks for the rum bars. Those are the best I’ve ever had,” said Carl, and Peter agreed while licking his fingers. The two men watched the women walk back to Eliana’s house, and then they returned to moving furniture into the house.

In the house, Miriam immediately went to the window to see if she could catch another glimpse of the two men. She couldn’t; they had gone inside the house.

“Wow! Did you see them? Yes, you did! You were just about staring at Carl! You liked him, but you said almost nothing!”

“Oh, Miriam, he’s moving in, he’ll be around for quite some time, I think.”

“Yes, he will, but you’re too shy to do anything like actually getting to know him and ask him out and start dating him.”

“Oh, really, Miriam, just because I like to move a bit more slowly than you.”

“A bit more? You move at the speed of a, of a, what, a, oh I don’t know, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do, and I don’t mind at all. I see it as being cautious and careful.”

“I see it as being a fuddy-duddy. Oh, I have to go, my man is just getting home,” said Miriam when she saw her husband drive by, and she walked to the door.

“Okay, here, eat this, maybe it will help hide the rum taste in your mouth,” said Eliana as she gave Miriam another piece of pecan shortbread.

***

A week later Miriam asked Eliana, “Well, have you talked to Carl? Please tell me yes.”

“Well, I waved to him a couple of times.”

“What? Seriously? You waved to him? That’s all? My god, what must he think of you?”

“You know I’ve been hurt too many times. I don’t think I want to get started in another relationship that will just end with me being hurt again.”

“You don’t know if that will happen. And you don’t know Carl, yet.”

“Well, we’ll see what happens. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m pretty sure he’s not going anywhere, either.”

“Hmm, you need a man in your life.”

“Come on, let’s make some plans for the bake-off.”

A week later, the women had made their plans for the neighborhood bake-off just about finalized.

“We should ask Brenda and Joanna to help pass these flyers around the neighborhood.”

“Good idea, I’ll be seeing Brenda tomorrow so I’ll ask her. Can you call Joanna?”

“Yeah, then we’ll be ready for the big day! This is going to be so much fun!”

***

The big day finally arrived, and most of the neighborhood was in the small park. There were half a dozen tables set up, and they were filling up with all kinds of baked goods, as well as a few other dishes for people to eat for lunch.

“Look at all this wonderful food!” Miriam said. She was going from one to another tasting everything.

“It’s turned out so well! I’m so happy about it,” said Eliana as she looked around to see who was and wasn’t in the park. In the back of her mind, she was hoping to see Carl, but at the same time, she felt a little trepidation at the thought of actually getting to know another man in a personal way. Her last relationship ended badly when she discovered her fiancé was already married with two kids in another state. She also found out that when he had been in Mexico some years before, he married a woman in Puebla, and he never divorced her. All of that came after another bad relationship a couple of years before she got involved with that man.

“Who are you looking for? Carl?” asked Miriam. She invited him to the bake-off in the hope that he and Eliana would get together. She knew exactly where he was.

“Oh, no, just looking around,” said Eliana. She realized she should be less obvious in her new interest in the man.

“Hmm, sweetie, why don’t you go over to the table with the pies and taste the strawberry-rhubarb pie, it’s amazing!” said Miriam, knowing that Carl was at that table also tasting the pies.

“Okay, thanks, I’ll give it a try,” said Eliana, and she went to try the pies.

As she approached the table she saw Carl, and at the same moment, he saw her, too.

“Well, hi. I was hoping to see you here,” Carl said as he put his plate on the table.

“Oh, were you? Ok. Um, how’s the pie?” asked Eliana, obviously somewhat uncomfortable, and trying to be coy.

Carl had reached out to give her a friendly handshake, but it ended up being a handhold, and Eliana let it drag on a little extra before she caught herself and suddenly released his hand.

Carl wondered about her and wanted to get to know her better, so he got her a slice of the strawberry-rhubarb pie and they sat down and talked.

“Wow! This pie is amazing!” said Eliana. “Who made it? I have to congratulate her.”

“Maybe it was him,” suggested Carl. “It is okay for men to bake, isn’t it?”

“Oh, of course, it is, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

“Hehe, it’s okay, no problem. But I’m sure the person who baked it knows it’s amazing.”

“I’ve tasted almost everything here, and I’m one of the judges for the contest, so I’m giving this a 10,” said Eliana.

“Well, I’m sure the baker will be pleased by that.”

They continued to talk and Eliana was becoming comfortable with him and she opened up to him, but one thing she hadn’t asked about was his work.

Soon the time came to announce the winners of the bake-off. Eliana was at the front and the people were all standing around eating all kinds of delicious pastries, pies, cakes, and bread.

Eliana said, “Now, for the winner of the pie competition, I still don’t know who baked it, but the baker of the strawberry-rhubarb pie, you win! Please come up for your ribbon!”

Carl made his way through the crowd and walked up to Eliana.

“Carl? You baked that pie?” asked Eliana.

Carl looked directly at her and said, “Yes, I did.”

The crowd applauded and agreed it was the best of the pies.

“Really?”

“Well, don’t sound so surprised. Some men can bake, too.”

She handed him the ribbon, the people applauded, and Carl turned to face her, leaned in, and gave Eliana a big hug. Eliana liked it so much she didn’t want to let go. Then Miriam whistled, and Eliana suddenly turned red with embarrassment and let go of him.

Carl looked at her and said, “That was nice, I hope we can do it again.” He turned to the crowd, held his ribbon up high as if it were a grand trophy, and waved it around as the people applauded and laughed with him. Then he smiled at Eliana and walked to the back of the crowd.

At lunch a week later Miriam asked, “Have you seen Carl recently?”

“Hmm, yeah,” teased Eliana, with a smile.

“What? That’s all you’re going to say? Tell me everything!”

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