A short story inspired by Raymond Carver’s of the same title.
‘So did you want the pink or the blue sponge for the cake?’
‘Oh er, we don’t know yet. The gender scan isn’t ‘til Thursday, so if we could let you know then?’
‘Yeah that’s fine’
The young couple gave the deposit for their cake and left. My uncle waving politely as the bell above the door rang on their way out, then promptly returning to his flustered state. Not that we were particularly busy, we had been dead all summer.
‘first we had baby showers now we’ve got gender reveal parties. Should we just start doing cakes for every time a poor bastard cums in his missus?’ He joked.
I smiled and coughed up a half laugh. My uncle Terry was a breathless older man set in his ways. I only helped him out on weekends, so I didn’t have to put up with him nearly as long as his ex-wife had to.
‘So, can I ask when is Michelle due?’ Terry asked.
‘Another negative test’ I sighed. ‘Can’t wait to be a dad it’s gonna be boss’
‘well if you’re anything like your father I maybe it’s just not in Gods plan.’
‘but I won’t be. this child will want for nothing when it’s here’
Terry thought the five years of my childhood I spent in his care gave him the wisdom of a father. I feel he just envied what me and Michelle have, what that young couple with the gender cake have. I didn’t speak much for the rest of the shift until leaving:
‘see you tomorrow’
The bell above the door rang as I left. Thank fuck for that. I couldn’t stop thinking about that couple from the shop. Defo too young for that child to have been planned, fuck. Imagine getting a kid by accident?! I clenched my wheel just at the thought of Terry. I know I’m meant to be a dad, and when it happens, this kid will have the best fucking cake in ten streets.
I’d rang terry to let him know I was going to be late knowing that was a lie. I wasn’t going to be in at all. That’s another thing about Terry, he’d call you lazy for being in a coma. It wasn’t that bad really, just a concussion but Michelle is still waiting to be seen for a check over. We’ve been here 3 hours. The hospital was chocker because of it. There had been crash at rush hour including a bus full of people. I heard that being involved in a car accident on a bus means you get dead good compensation.
‘how much longer do you reckon we will be waiting?’ Michelle asked me. Her eyes pleaded with me to take her home, hoping I’d suggest it first.
‘It can’t be much longer now’
‘do you reckon we just go?’
‘Michelle Howard?’ The doctor called us over before we could make any escape plan. We followed her down a corridor towards another waiting room. This time in an ultrasound department. Blue and Pink herrings decorated the wall with glass eyes. I’m not sure what they were going for with that design feature. Perhaps a hidden camera or peep hole, how weird would that be. The nurse had said something about this being a routine thing they do for patients who could be pregnant to make sure the baby was okay. I didn’t have the heart to admit out loud that we knew we weren’t and the tests have been coming back negative since last April so we sat there for another hour, uncomfortably discussing the reason for the herring’s glass eye. Perhaps he lost it in the war.
It felt like ages until we went in, just after the couple from the bakery funnily enough. I was about to ask what they were expecting but they just slid past and down the corridor not saying a word. They mustn’t have recognised me. God I’ve freaked them out, I sound like a proper weirdo.
Sunday mornings in the bakery were either really busy or really quiet, no in between. Today it was quiet. When Terry got stressed out he loved to bake so I spent most of the morning on the front counter while he made his own tea cakes in the back. The bell above the door rang and the young couple walked in. The shame, to be the weirdo that has to server them. Terry walked out front thank fuck, complete with flour on his face and a tray of tea cakes in one hand. Who was the weirdo now.
I’ve been ringing since Thursday. It’s Sunday now’ He said firmly, dropping the tea cakes down.
‘we are gonna have to cancel the cake’
‘why did you find someone better’
‘well, we, won’t be needing a cake anymore’
The girl burst out crying into the arms of her partner. I looked at Terry and he didn’t know where to look. Where do I look? Not a them. I couldn’t. What am I meant to say? I waited for Terry to say something, hopefully something that’s right.
‘Right then. Well I, I am so sorry. Terry said, for a man who had dealt with loss, he was still as awkward as a teenage boy in the face of it.
‘Eyar’ he said, scanning the room for a solution he wasn’t asked to give. ‘Fresh out the oven, tea cakes, take some’.
Maybe that’s how Terry dealt with loss for all this time. No matter what’s going on there’s always a cake for it. The couple, to kind or scared to refuse the hot tray in their face took a cake each and thanked Terry with a smile. Terry sat them down whilst I put the kettle on and had to do again an hour later. The rain poured over the August morning and when it stopped they got up to leave, thanking Terry for whatever he said to them.
‘anytime’ He said.
He took a sigh, clapped away any remaining atmosphere and rubbed his hands together.
‘So, can I ask when Michelle is due?’