MAYONNAISE IN MY CAKE By William E.

Spear

Two Plus Plus Productions LLC Clinton, New Jersey www.TwoPlusPlus.com Two.Plus.Plus.Productions@gmail.com

Mayonnaise in My Cake Summary “The Clarksons, like most families, were a universe unto themselves. Unfathomable, but comically hostile, planets dominated the landscape.” Those are the thoughts of The Man. He is an academically trained, professionally experienced chef who owns a newly opened restaurant. He teaches college classes and is prominent in business and philanthropic circles. He is a successful and respected executive. Except when he is with his fiancée, Francessa, and her family, the Clarksons. During those times, he’s unnamed and invisible, more an accessory for her than a separate entity. Worse, his cheffing skills are demeaned. But on a challenging Thanksgiving Day with his future in-laws, The Man creates a memorable impression when he insists on not putting any mayonnaise in his cake. Main Characters The Man

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Professional chef, restaurateur, and passionate about making great foods. Engaged to Francessa Clarkson but invisible to her family. Happily engaged to The Man but benignly neglects him when she’s with her family.

Francessa Clarkson

Clarissa and Sharissa Francessa’s sisters. They are protective of her and antagonistic toward him. Until the mayonnaise. Aquaphobe The hypochondriac of the Clarksons. Allergic to water; can’t take baths but endures showers. Commanding presence and booming voice. Otherwise, the patriarch of the Clarkson family is clueless.

Mr. Clarkson

Mayonnaise in My Cake The man asked, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” He knew that holidays were special to her family and they were not expecting him on Thanksgiving Day. The woman, Francessa Clarkson, assured him that she would be with him the entire evening. “Besides,” she said, “Everyone wants to hear about your new restaurant.”

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“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he said. His great joy was cooking. From soups to grilled lobster tails, his stage was the kitchen. He had 15 years of academic training and professional accomplishments. But when he was around the Clarksons, everybody became a master chef and ordered him around: try it this way, use a bigger knife, get me a smaller pot, and, the worst, we do it like this.

But they were more than simply a collection of opinionated people. The Clarksons, like most families, were a universe unto themselves. Unfathomable, but comically hostile, planets dominated the landscape. And the man had not yet learned how to navigate their terrains.

Mayonnaise in My Cake As he stood on her parents’ front porch with snow steadily falling and holding his Kiss Me, I’m the Chef canvas tote full of ingredients for a chocolate cake, he suggested running away. “Don’t worry, the entire family’s going to be here. You’ll blend right in,” she reassured him. “If only that could happen,” he thought.

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She rang the doorbell while he stayed in the shadows with his dark cocoa frosting mix. When the door opened, her sisters shrieked with approval, “Frankie!”

The first sister, Clarissa, breathlessly shared that so-many-things-have-happened-you-won’t-believe-it-andneither-do-I. The second sister, Sharissa, matched the other’s velocity by saying I-told-her-not-to-do-thatbut-she-never-listens-and-what-do-you-think?

Francessa revved her verbal engine and announced Iknow-exactly-what-you’re-talking-about-because-thesame-thing-happened-to-me-just-the-other-day-in-frontof-all-the-people-I-work-with-and-I-was-mortified. She bolted between Clarissa and Sharissa, whirled them back into the house, and closed the door.

Mayonnaise in My Cake

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The snow continued to fall and he thought of hiding in the car. Thirty seconds later, the door re-opened. She stepped out and pulled him into the house.

Francessa announced a “Happy Thanksgiving and here’s the world famous chef” to the living room full of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins. The reception was as indifferent as the snow falling outside. They walked in a twisted and jagged path around Clarksons straining to watch a sporting event on the large screen television.

Behind them were her spouseless sisters. “I thought only family was coming,” Clarissa whispered. “Francessa says she’s really comfortable with him,” added Sharissa. They laughed. “You know what that means,” continued Sharissa. “Sure,” added Clarissa. “High school math class and let’s be friends.” They laughed more.

In front of them, and presumably out of earshot, the man cringed at being called comfortable.

Mayonnaise in My Cake ~ ~

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All four walked into the great clatter of the kitchen. It contained more people than the living room but in a smaller space. Dozens of conversations splashed on top of each other. Sports were a favorite subject and a few of them were talking about running and catching. The man drifted away from Francessa and, wanting to blend in, asked how their baseball teams were doing. “It’s football season,” they replied. He excused himself from further conversation.

A few hearty and sturdy Clarksons were discussing the nearby mountains, fresh air, and exhilaration of being outdoors. The man steeled himself for another attempt at blending in and asked the group if they had been hiking lately. Nearly in unison they answered, “On our bad knees?” The man called for Francessa to slow down.

At the very middle of the kitchen, more Clarksons were preparing appetizers, salads, and main dishes. Every course of the meal was being prepared – except one.

Mayonnaise in My Cake “We’re here to make the dessert,” Francessa declared. “Actually, I’m just here to help the chef.” She turned the stage over to her fiancé and joined her sisters.

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The man unpacked the ingredients – fine Belgian chocolate powder, Louisiana cane sugar, French vanilla extract, and exotic spices and flavors from around the world. From behind him, a Clarkson commented that the heat of the kitchen was withering. The man offered a glass of water and the future in-law shrieked in agony, “I’m allergic to water. The slightest taste and my whole face swells up.”

All conversations stopped and everyone looked at the chef. Trying for a third time to blend in, he said that bathing without water must be a challenge. “Not at all. I take lots of showers,” said Aquaphobe in a calm and pleasant demeanor. The chef was grateful for conversation with Francessa, even if her sisters were part of the package.

“So, what great culinary treat are you creating?” asked Clarissa. “Is it a cake mix in a box?” asked Sharissa. “He only makes desserts from scratch, with

Mayonnaise in My Cake the finest ingredients from the best stores, and recipes handed down through his family,” bragged Francessa.

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The man agreed and said it was the first recipe he had made in his new restaurant. Also, his family added a secret ingredient in 1872.

“Eighteen Seventy-Two’s an interesting name for a restaurant,” said Aquaphobe holding a mug of eggnog. Francessa’s fiancé responded 1872 was the year his great-great-so-many-greats he couldn’t remember which grandmother in Ohio wrote down the recipe with the secret ingredient. His restaurant was named La Eaterie.

“So your family opened La Eaterie in 1872?” asked Aquaphobe.

The fiancé leaned forward and, with a pained expression out of the sight of the questioner but clearly in Francessa’s view, silently begged for assistance. She shrugged her shoulders and offered

Mayonnaise in My Cake nothing. Finally, to get rid of Aquaphobe, he agreed that the restaurant was opened in 1872.

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“That’s impressive. I’m going to watch the game but call me when it’s ready,” said Aquaphobe and wandered into the living room.

The chocolate cake ingredients were spread on a counter top and the man began cheffing. As he mixed and stirred, Francessa and her sisters gravitated toward him. They did not offer to help; rather, they volunteered comments.

“Shouldn’t you use more cocoa?” asked Francessa. “The oven’s too hot,” said Clarissa. “The recipe seems familiar,” was Sharissa’s insight. He continued cheffing and did not respond.

“It needs more sugar,” said Francessa. “I’ll turn down the oven,” said Clarissa. “Aunt Tillie makes her cakes like this,” said Sharissa. The man assured them, through a pained smile, that the amount of sugar was fine, he wanted the oven set to 375, and that his

Mayonnaise in My Cake recipe was completely different from their Aunt Sally’s.

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“It’s Tillie, Aunt Tillie, and I don’t see any peppermint, either,” continued Francessa. I don’t use peppermint he said while straining not to roll his eyes. “Maybe the oven should be hotter,” insisted Charissa. The oven’s fine he said through gritted teeth. “It’s missing mayonnaise,” said Sharissa.

He snapped and roared a no, no, no, enough already, NO to Sharissa that his cake could not, should not, and would not have any mayonnaise.

“It’s in the refrigerator,” offered Aquaphobe, back in the kitchen for more eggnog. The man was stumped and asked what was in the refrigerator. “The mayonnaise, of course.”

The man spun around and glared at Francessa and began collecting the ingredients and mixing bowls. He knew that he shouldn’t have come and was taking his ingredients to make the cake his way in his apartment.

Mayonnaise in My Cake “You mean the apartment we’ll live in after we’re married?” Francessa corrected him. He yelled back that at this rate it would only ever be his apartment. She rocked backwards ever so slightly. From the back, Clarissa and Sharissa chimed in with a duet of, “It will only ever be his apartment” and barely muffled their snickering.

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Clarissa continued her sniping and said, “You’re acting a bit harshly.” The man told her it was his recipe and he’d respond any way he wanted to.

Sharissa walked forward and spoke, “You’re hiding something.” The man feared she would guess he was hiding an intense desire to pour the batter on her head and that he really didn’t want to be there.

They worked their separate ways through the Clarksons and he felt increasingly uncomfortable. They were breaking through the inner circle and only a few feet away. Two more steps and they’d be directly in front of him. Zero moment arrived.

Mayonnaise in My Cake “It seems to me that you don’t want us to know the secret ingredient in your great-great-whatever grandmother’s recipe from Ohio,” Clarissa guessed. Every Clarkson leaned forward to revel in discovering his secret. “We know what it is,” Sharissa said.

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He lowered his eyes, hung his head, and spoke with a small voice. He said it was worse than that and the Clarksons inched closer. He had mayophobia, a rare, genetic condition. They backed away from him.

“What is mayophobia? An allergy to the county in Ireland or the fifth month on the calendar?” someone asked. It’s not that kind of reaction said the man.

“Are you allergic to Maypoles or May Days?” asked another. No he said. “How about May apples, May beetles, or mayhem,” asked a third. None of those he said. He was enjoying their collective cluelessness.

“How about April showers?” came from a familiar and irritating questioner. It was Aquaphobe. Again the man was stumped and admitted he didn’t understand. “April

Mayonnaise in My Cake showers bring May flowers,” was the explanation. Silently, he detested Aquaphobe.

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Yet another asked, “How about May queens, May trees, May weeds, or May wines?” No, no, no, no, and NO he said. “Then what?” they all asked in varying ways. After a dramatically lengthened pause, he confessed he was allergic to mayonnaise.

“So you don’t like the taste of mayonnaise,” said one voice. It’s more than that was his response. He had bad reactions to it. “Then you’re allergic to eggs. Lots of people are,” said another. He was fine with eggs but reacted to mayonnaise.

There was a general chorus of doubt over mayophobia, what it meant, and whether the man was making up the whole story. After a few more minutes of verbal skirmishing, he continued collecting his cheffing gear to leave.

Nobody had ever left a Clarkson party early and Francessa asked where he was going. Home to bake the cake was his response. A chorus rose and bade the man

Mayonnaise in My Cake to stay. He continued packing up his canvas tote with the ingredients and accoutrements.

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When the last speck of powdered Belgian chocolate had been wiped from the counter, he grabbed his Kiss Me, I’m the Chef tote and turned around to leave. There stood Francessa’s father.

“I hear the family’s kind of burnt your cocoa beans,” he said. The chef concurred and Mr. Clarkson continued, “Why not let Francessa and her sisters finish the cake and we watch the game?”

Clarissa and Sharissa immediately protested. “Why should we do his work?” whined Clarissa. “He’s the chef,” complained Sharissa. But Mr. Clarkson cut them off, “This man’s about to join our family and it’s time you two gave him the same respect as everyone else.”

The man asked if he might get a bit more respect than they gave the others to compensate for their previous antagonisms. Mr. Clarkson agreed and he snapped a curt

Mayonnaise in My Cake “Are we clear, ladies?” at his daughters. He got back a sullen duet of “Yes, father.”

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Mr. Clarkson turned toward Francessa’s fiancé and asked, “Now, how about that game?” The man agreed but only if they follow the recipe. Francessa agreed. Mr. Clarkson draped his arm around the chef’s shoulders and led him towards the living room. As they disappeared into the sea of sports viewers, the chef asked what they were going to watch and Mr. Clarkson answered, “There’s a lot of running and catching. I think it’s baseball.”

~ ~

Back in the kitchen, Francessa coordinated the cakemaking endeavor. Most of the ingredients had been mixed and it was nearly ready to bake. She cautioned her sisters to follow the recipe as promised. They were incredulous. “You’re not doing what he said, are you?” demanded Sharissa. “He’s not even family,” piled on Clarissa.

Mayonnaise in My Cake “Allow me to remind you,” began Francessa, “That in three months he will be a member of the family. Further, I promised we would follow the recipe.”

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Just then Mr. Clarkson re-entered the kitchen looking for Francessa. “Your husband-to-be,” he said, “Has requested the honor of toasting you, your mother, and me. Won’t you join us for champagne?” As she walked with her father, Francessa turned and mouthed three words to her sisters, “Follow the recipe.”

The two sisters simmered with resentment. “He can’t tell her what to do. He’s not one of us,” whined Clarissa. Sharissa joined in, “We have recipes, too. Aunt Tillie’s recipe is just as good as his greatgreat-great-whatever grandmother’s.”

Clarissa turned to her sister and said, “You’re brilliant.” Sharissa admitted she knew that and enjoyed hearing the compliment, but wondered what specifically she’d been brilliant about.

“Aunt Tillie’s recipe for chocolate cake,” said Clarissa and the lights went on inside her sister’s

Mayonnaise in My Cake head. “Plus,” added Sharissa, “He didn’t say which recipe to follow.” “And,” they looked at each other, “It’s got mayonnaise.”

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“A quarter cup should do the trick,” said Clarissa. “He deserves a bigger welcome than that. Make it a whole cup,” insisted Sharissa. They stirred in the toxic mayonnaise and slid the potion into the oven.

~ ~

Dinner started with an invocation by a Clarkson whose sole qualification for the task was his neighbor’s brother studied at seminary. After that, the meal was a polished affair of salad, appetizer, and main course. Everything was perfectly prepared, perfectly presented, and pleasantly conversed. The meal progressed towards dessert. From opposite sides of the table, Clarissa and Sharissa shot each other knowing glances. When the time came for the chocolate cake, they volunteered to present the chef’s great creation.

With tremendous flourish, they sliced the cake for the assembled diners. With insincere deference, they

Mayonnaise in My Cake insisted the chef have the first taste. With great

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flair, the chef, wielding a dessert fork, pulled off a delicately sized portion, and toasted his great-greatso-many-greats grandmother from Ohio and her secret ingredient. He placed the morsel in his mouth and allowed the flavor to melt.

Thirty seconds later, he looked at Francessa with wide eyes, grabbed at his throat, and collapsed. Bedlam ensued.

The Clarksons sprang into convoluted lunacy. Clarissa cried that they never would have put in mayonnaise if they knew this would happen. Sharissa screamed into the phone for the Mayonnaise Antidote Hotline. The Aquaphobe lined up glasses of water for the man and accidentally drank one. Another Clarkson, the one whose neighbor’s brother studied at seminary, began offering last rites. Everyone cut him off immediately.

Meanwhile, the man was laying on his back mumbling. Only Francessa saw his mouth moving. She bent lower and heard him say, “Get us out of here.”

Mayonnaise in My Cake Her head snapped back and she looked around to see if

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anyone else had heard him. She bent over, asked him to say it again, and he repeated, “Do anything. Say anything. Just get us out of here.”

One Clarkson saw his lips moving and called the others around. They huddled around him four and five deep and none of them knew what to do. His faint voice rose up from the floor, “Home.”

One of them shouted that he said foam. Another insisted the man had said scone. The one whose neighbor’s brother studied at seminary was certain the man had said Rome, which proved all along that last rites were needed.

Once again, this time with the slightest trace of convulsing laughter creeping into his voice, the man offered his single word plea, “Home.” He compounded it with unspoken emphasis and, out of the sight of the others, kicked Francessa.

She stood and took charge of the situation. She drafted two family members to help the man up and

Mayonnaise in My Cake ordered Clarissa and Sharissa to gather up his cheffing accessories. Despite the family’s protests,

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Francessa led the rescuee and rescuers out to his car.

They placed him in the back seat, propped him up in a corner, and he spoke feebly, “Frankie, are Clarissa and Sharissa here?” She acknowledged they were. He continued, “Tell them what they mean to me.” The two sisters wept openly and they had to be pulled from the car.

Francessa drove away through the squalling snowstorm with squealing tires. Her sisters, still shaking with sobs and needing support from other family members, faded into the distance.

~ ~

The ride home was a bouncing, jarring affair and Francessa monitored the man’s condition through the rearview mirror. With each turn, she watched him slide lower in the back seat. After the first turn, she saw his shoulders, neck, and head. After the second turn,

Mayonnaise in My Cake only his head. And after the third, he was gone from sight.

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She yelled his name several times but he said nothing. The silence pushed her to drive faster and more recklessly. After one frantic stretch of driving, she heard the faint, weak voice of the man say, “Family.” Francessa dared not stop but she desperately sought to keep him talking. What about her family was the man talking?

“Tonight, caused this, family did,” he struggled with the words. “Family,” he repeated. Francessa spoke as fast as she drove. She knew her family had been rough on him. The man labored finding the strength to speak again, “Father said, burnt cocoa beans.” He coughed to cover up the laughter that shook his body.

The woman admitted her sisters were beyond her control. The man agreed and added, “Just let me out here.” Francessa stopped the car and argued that her aquaphobic relative was a terror to everyone. “Carry, chef, tote,” said the man.

Mayonnaise in My Cake She helped him out of the car, slung his Kiss Me, I’m the Chef tote over her shoulder, and insisted he go straight to bed. She then proclaimed she would watch

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over him throughout the night. “No,” he said in a firm voice. “You should go back to your family. It’s Thanksgiving Day. Be thankful for what you have.”

They were nearly in the building when she claimed that her family would understand if she stayed to take care of him, but he refused. “Maybe, some other, time, if, if I,” he said and left his sentence unfinished for effect.

She staggered back from the implication and asked how he would get better. He smiled weakly and said, “If it is meant to be, then it will happen.” He thanked her for being so comfortable. She protested that his mayophobia was making him say crazy things.

He was nearly in the apartment building and she was behind him. The woman repeated that he was gravely sick and might not make it through the night. Hysterical laughter flowed heavily from the man and

Mayonnaise in My Cake his body convulsed. He gasped, “The only death was a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving Day.”

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The door closed between them. Francessa called to him through the door and said his mayophobia was clouding his mind. She knew he was reacting to the mayonnaise her sisters had put in his chocolate cake. Silence. She began to panic and called to him again. She heard his wheezing, rolling cough. With a loud sustained voice, she insisted on helping him recover.

With an equally loud and sustained voice, he yelled back to her, “There is no such thing as mayophobia. Good night, Happy Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The End