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Saturday, April 16, 2011
All My Cakes by Nancy Goldberg Levine
The scent of cinnamon and unusual spices wafted up to me on the top floor of the duplex I shared with Langston Weil. I didn’t know too much about her since she’d moved in after Misty Melton got married to Jesse Cohn, the former tenant of my apartment, and they’d bought a house.
I knew she cooked and baked. Whatever she made smelled good like the scents in my grandma’s house. I wanted to taste the cakes or cookies or whatever she was cooking. The recipients of her goodies were very lucky people. I knew she worked, and that she left for the office pretty early. I wasn’t home a lot, especially in the spring and summer because when you work for the Boston Red Sox farm team, the Maine Marauders, you were on the road a lot. She wore aprons when she cooked. I knew this because sometimes I’d see her taking out the trash in her somewhat preppy attire. Her nice clothes were covered with aprons. Aprons? Who wore aprons anymore? Not even my grandma!
That afternoon, I heard a knock on my door. When I opened it,. Langston placed a fancy plate, filled with slices of hot cake, in my hands. “Here. I’m baking my way through my lay off and I need you to take this off my hands or I’ll eat it.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You’re…”
“I got laid off. From the IRS. I ordered some new cookbooks before that and I’m baking my way through the recipes. I usually take cake and cookies and brownies to work, but I’m not working, so I wondered…”
“How do you know I’m not diabetic?”
“I don’t,” she said. “I know you’re Brody Eisenbach, ace pitcher for the Maine Marauders, hoping to get into the big leagues. But I don’t know if you’re diabetic. I do know your stats. Five wins, two losses…”
She said my name like a big league announcer would have said it. “How do you know all this?”
“I’ve been to a few games. And I listen to the Marauders on satellite radio, especially now that I’m off. So this cake is for your team‘s winning game, too.”
“Impressive. So what is this I’m going to eat?”
“Chocolate chip banana cake.”
Chocolate chip banana cake sounded good, and smelled even better. I went to the refrigerator and took out a pitcher of homemade lemonade. I couldn’t cook, but I did do lemonade. “Try some of this,” I said, sitting on my comfortable sofa. “I made it myself, but that’s the extent of my culinary skills.”
“So is the cake. Where did you get a name like Langston?”
“My mom saw it in a baby name book. It’s also the name of a soap opera character, and she’s giving it a bad name. She’s kind of a slut.”
“How do you know?”
“You wear aprons, for crying out loud. I don’t think slutty women wear aprons.”
“Actually, that same soap opera has a character named Brody. He fought in Iraq, and now he’s a cop. You sort of look like him, but your name is very baseball-y.”
I didn’t know what this Langston character on TV looked liked, but the one sitting across from me in a wicker chair had shoulder-length black hair and eyes the color of the chocolate chips in the banana bread.
“So are you planning on helping me bake my way through layoff?” she asked, after I’d polished off a second piece of cake.
“That depends. What’s next?”
“Tunnel of Fudge Cake. Or Sock It To Me Cake, depending on how your game against Louisville goes.”
“Then I plan on helping. I know you don’t want to be laid off for long, but I’d like to try some of your baking.”
“It’s a deal.”
* * *
My pitching started to go downhill. I had a few meltdowns on the mound. I wasn’t doing anything differently, except eating some desserts that probably weren’t so good for a baseball player to consume. I hated to blame Langston for my problems throwing strikes, though.
The last road trip left me exhausted. When I came home, however, I found an old blue Fiesta Ware plate, the kind my grandma used to have, topped with a cake. Cinnamon and spices and a hot woman in an apron…oh my!
The cake tasted good, warm and soft, with lots of cinnamon. I knew this sweet stuff could not be responsible for my pitching slump, and neither could the woman who’d baked it. In fact,. I started to feel better. Rejuvenated.
I rushed downstairs to tell her thanks. She opened the door. On top of her jeans and twin set, she wore an apron decorated with blue and white stars of David and the words “Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? Don’t Ask!” printed on it.
“Thanks for the cake. But the Marauders lost their last five games on that last road trip.”
“I know. I’m still laid off, though, and I baked you a Sock It To Me cake so you could sock it to the next team you face.”
Hmmm. “So there’s a method to your mad baking?”
“Why don’t you come to the next game so you can see if your plan worked?”
“I’d love to.”
She stood there, looking so cute in that apron, her eyes gazing into mine. I pulled her close, loving the feel of her softness against me. I had to kiss her, so like a guy stealing first base, I took a chance. She responded with kisses as sweet as her cakes. When we stopped, I said “You’re going to go back to work. The Marauders are going to start winning ballgames again. In fact, I predict they’ll be in first place in AAA ball in two weeks.”
“Are you psychic?”
“Maybe I am.”
Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe bananas, about 1 1/4 lbs., peeled
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Combine flour, sugar, soda and salt. In a second bowl mash bananas; stir in oil and eggs until just combined. Mix dry ingredients into banana mixture. Stir in chips.
Pour batter into pan. Bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. From Food.com
About the Author: Nancy Goldberg Levine is the author of more than fifty short stories, and one full-length romance novel, Tempting Jonah. She wrote this story while cooking and baking her way through cookbooks and listening to Cincinnati Reds ball games during a two-month layoff from her day job.