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Cake : Red Cake in the Middle of the Road

November 10, 1994|JOHN MULLEN | Mullen is a writer, performer and radio personality from Seattle, Wash

I sat in front of Debbie's house in my idling 1961 Comet. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in February.

"Debbie, get back in this house!" Debbie's mother was leaning over their porch, railing and screaming. "John, I forbid her to get in your car."

"Mom, you're embarrassing yourself." Debbie, holding a red, heart-shaped cake out in front of her, walked as fast as she could. "Hurry, John, before she gets her shoes on. . . ."

We'd gotten good at quick getaways, pulling out before her mother could grab onto the car door handle.

Once we were halfway down the block, Debbie lifted the cake off her lap and offered it to me. "Happy anniversary, John."

*

Debbie and I were 17. We'd been going together for two years and had decided to start being really nice to each other.

"I've got stuff for you too, Deb." I handed her a package I'd wrapped in the Sunday comics, something I'd seen done in a movie about hippies. Inside were two eight-track tapes: Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle" and George Harrison's "Crackerbox Palace."

Two blocks from her house, we parked under a huge, bare oak tree that was tipping the sidewalk next to us. Debbie put the cake in my lap. It was the reddest cake I'd ever seen, and the icing was swirled just like cakes on TV.

" 'Crackerbox Palace!' " Debbie was ecstatic. "John, I've wanted this so bad, I can't believe you got it!" She didn't even mention not having an eight-track player--probably because there was one in my car and she knew she could use it whenever she wanted to.

"I've got stuff for the cake," she said and pulled a knife and two big plates out of her gigantic purse. Our plan to treat each other really good was working. Already, this was the best anniversary we'd had.

*

The inside of the cake was even redder than the outside. "I used too much food coloring," she said. "I think it kept the cake from rising, so I made a third layer."

We tapped our pieces of cake together like Champagne glasses. As I bit into mine, it felt like my teeth were sliding into Play Doh. It was even salty like Play Doh. "It's, um, really good, Debbie."

Smiling into each other's eyes, we took another bite. This time, my tongue curled up and I let out what I thought was going to be a little chuckle, but it turned into a gag, and then a laugh.

Debbie started laughing so hard she couldn't close her mouth. "Oh, John," she said with red cake sticking all over her front teeth. "This is dees-gus-ting !"

We decided to run the cake over with the car.

*

We drove for an hour on wet mountain roads, with Debbie playing "Crackerbox Palace" loud and all the windows rolled down. We stopped on a long stretch of road that ran between empty fields. I set the cake down on the wet blacktop. It looked nail-polish red. I backed the car up until we could see just a tiny red dot in the distance. Debbie cued up Steve Miller singing "Fly Like an Eagle" and I hit the gas.

That cake was so dense, I swear it made the front end swerve.

We parked and got out to survey the damage.

The cake had a tire mark cut straight across it. You could read the treads. We were laughing so hard we had to lean on each other to stay standing. Only one rounded corner of the heart was unhurt. I wanted to turn the car around and finish it off.

"Let's leave it for somebody else, John." Debbie turned away from me. "I don't want to run over it again."

Steve Miller sang about wild mountain honey as we drove off. In the rearview mirror, I watched that corner of my heart cake sticking up in the road until it disappeared. Even after Debbie and I kissed goodby a block from her house and she loaned me her new eight-tracks, I couldn't stop thinking about that last piece of unflattened cake. I still wonder who finished it off.

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