Love At First Bite
Disclaimer: The Lancers belong to them, but they ran away to stay with me.
Author’s Note: For Debbie and Amber… Debbie because she asked so nice, and Amber because she needed a distraction.
I wrote this real fast this evening as someone (Amber) wouldn’t leave me alone. I’ll catch any mistakes before I archive it.
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Johnny surveyed the utter destruction of the kitchen. He ran his flour and goop covered hands up his face and into his hair. He momentarily considered pulling his hair out in frustration, gripping the silky strands with a half-hearted tug, and then letting go. Had he bothered to look he would have seen the mixture of chocolate, eggs, butter, sugar and flour that had been on his hands was now residing in his hair, standing it up in a shocking new style. Johnny turned slowly viewing the kitchen through squinted eyes, as if that would make the annihilation of Maria’s pride and joy look less horrific. It didn’t work. Things appeared every bit as bad as they had with his eyes wide open.
A sick feeling churned in his stomach, how in the world was he going to explain this? He would never ever live this down…this could be the absolute ruin of his fierce reputation as Johnny Madrid, gun fighter, brought down, DEFEATED, by his craving for chocolate cake. He had no one to blame but himself. No, wait just a blasted minute here, this was his father’s fault; after all he was the one that subscribed to the Weekly San Joaquin Republican. On second thought this was Scott’s fault, he was the one that encouraged him to read the stupid thing. Well actually the true guilty party was Teresa and the Dover rotary egg beater company. If she hadn’t seen that ad for the new kitchen gadget, he wouldn’t have ordered it hoping to get more chocolate cake out of the ladies, and then he wouldn’t have found the recipe booklet that came with the tool. For that fact if Teresa had never supplied him his first piece of the sweet confection he wouldn’t have become addicted to it.
Standing in the middle of the kitchen he had just destroyed, Johnny’s mouth watered at the thoughts of his first piece of chocolate cake. Not long after he and Scott had come home, and he had recovered from Day Pardee’s bullet, Aggie Conway had invited the Lancer brothers to join Murdoch at their once monthly dinner engagement. Teresa had baked a chocolate cake and sent it with the Lancer men. After a rather strange meal of some beef dish Mrs. Conway called beef burrs and all, or some foreign something or other, she had brought out the cake Teresa had sent to have with coffee. Feeling somewhat starved since he had not cared for the flavor of the main dish, Johnny had requested a glass of milk to go with his dessert. He wasn’t so sure he would like the cake either as he had never seen one quite like it, that he could recall anyway.
It was love at first bite. He had scooped just a small taste onto his fork, but the second the creamy, chocolate flavor touch his tongue, his taste buds screamed for more. The light icing of chocolate on the cake had melted quickly in his mouth, drenching his mouth with pleasure. The sweet treat tasted nothing like the bitter chocolate drink he recalled having one time down in Mexico. The bread of the cake had been moist and heavy, yet so soft that the salvia in his mouth caused it to come apart and coat his whole tongue with its decadent essence. A gulp of milk after each bite had even lent the savory sugary taste to the drink. He had not even realized he was fluttering his eyes and moaning in bliss, until Scott had elbowed him and asked if he was okay.
Now here he was trying to remember just how one skilled gunfighter trying to follow a cake recipe that came with a rotary beater could cause so much destruction. Truthfully he was kind of scared to move, as he feared he would end up laid out on the floor knocked out cold again. His head pounded with furious abandon as his eyes tried to backtrack from one disastrous accident after another. The evidence, of his lack of culinary skills, was apparent from one end of the kitchen to the other. Limping with an uneven gait as he had managed to rip one of his boot heels off, Johnny stumbled, with egg shells crunching under his feet, to the table and pulled out a chair, and then plopped down. He was tired, sore, and confused as to where he should start cleaning this up. He was so consumed by his thoughts he didn’t hear his father and brother arrive home, until they entered the kitchen by way of the dining room door.
“WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED IN HERE? Murdoch bellowed. His mouth hung open as his astonished eyes took in the once immaculate kitchen.
Scott rushed forward to his brother, concern for his brother more powerful than his curiosity about what had obviously exploded in the kitchen.
“Oh…no,” Johnny moaned in vexation, as his manly reputation flew out the window with his family’s appearance.
“I would like an answer young man. What happened here?” Murdoch demanded, as he sat down at the table and placed a large white box in one of the clean spots.
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Swallowing his embarrassment, Johnny cleared his throat and began to explain. “It’s like this… you know that Dover rotary egg beater that was advertised in the newspaper? Well it came, and I opened it to make sure it was the same thing that was in the picture in the paper. A little booklet fell out of the box, it was recipes for cake. One was for chocolate cake, and it looked like it would be real simple to make…so I thought I would try, and well things didn’t go as smooth as I thought they would. I don’t know how the ladies do it. I had one accident after another…it was worse than being caught in a stampede! First I…”
Johnny read the recipe booklet that had been in the box with the Dover rotary egg beater he had ordered for Maria. It looked to him like it would be the easiest thing in the world to follow. He could bake this cake and hide it in his room and snack on it every night. It wasn’t like he could share it, because then the others would wonder where he got it from, and he couldn’t confess he had made it.
As per the instructions in the booklet, Johnny began to gather his ingredients. On top of the list was flour. Jogging into the pantry with his spurs ringing with a tinkling tune he looked for the flour. Spying it on a shelf at eye level he reached for it. As he was pulling the canister down he realized it was empty. Swinging around to look for the big cloth sack the flour was bought in his spur caught the bag on the floor. He jerked his foot to dislodge it, never seeing the rip in the cloth caused by his spur. He didn’t really pay attention to the trail of powdery white he left from the pantry to the table either.
Rushing back to the pantry for the sugar, Johnny was thankful to find the jar, it was kept in, was full. In his haste to get back across the kitchen his foot slipped in the flour. He fought valiantly to keep his balance, he succeeded but the sugar jar became a shattered causality of the hard tile floor, its white crystals flying from the jar and sprinkling in his hair. Deciding he could clean-up any mishaps after he got his cake in the oven Johnny left the mess and carried on looking for his ingredients. He returned to the pantry and lugged the twenty-five pound sugar bag back to the table. He tossed it on the table and groaned when the end opened and sugar spilled all over his father’s chair.
Checking his recipe he saw he needed the Bakers cocoa powder. Searching the shelves he finally located the expensive item. The brown tin felt so light he feared it was empty so he shook it to see how much was in it. To his horror the lid was not pushed down tightly and he ended up coated in the powder. This caused a sneezing attack, which caused him to stumble about and upset a shelf of home canned pickles. The jars clattered together, glass clinking against glass as they fell and then exploded on the floor, drenching it with a pungent vinegar and spice scent. The slick pickles made walking treacherous. Two steps later Johnny’s feet shot out from under him. He landed with a solid thump, pickle juice soaking into his pants, glass bits biting into his hands. His right foot catapulted up and kicked the shelf the iron pots were stored on. The edge of the shelf ripped off his boot heel. A couple of heavy pot lids tumbled from their perch and bruised his shins. Yet through it all he held onto the precious can of cocoa powder.
Groaning from the abuse his body had endured, Johnny struggled to sit up. He placed a hand on a shelf to help him push up, skidded on a pickle under foot and crashed his head into the wooden structure. However he was still determined to have his cake so he continued on. He decided he needed to slow down and think this through better. He saw that the next ingredients on the list were small enough to carry all at once. It took a few minutes to locate the baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla but once he had them he hurried to the table with the items.
Once again looking at his recipe he noticed he needed boiling water so he backtracked to the stove and set the kettle on. He was so busy reading the instructions before him, that he didn’t pay attention when he decided he’d better stoke the firebox so the oven would get warm enough and he burned his fingers. Rushing to the sink he pumped the handle until cold water flowed over his injured digits.
The last three ingredients were milk, eggs and butter. All the items were kept in the icebox so that’s where he headed. Pulling open the wooden door Johnny reached in and grabbed the butter plate. He didn’t see the glob of butter that dropped off the plate and plopped on the floor, as he reached to the back of the icebox for the bowl of eggs. He balanced the butter plate and egg bowl with one arm so he could carry the milk pitcher. Johnny laid his arm across the top of the icebox door so he could swing it shut. It should have worked perfectly. He had shut the door that way many times before…however, all those other times he didn’t have a large dollop of butter under his feet. As soon as he felt his foot sliding away from him Johnny tried to catch himself on the icebox door, to brace himself up…but the door couldn’t take his weight and it was snatched completely from the frame.
The sudden lost of the door pitched Johnny forward. He stumbled and tumbled, as he endeavored to keep his feet on the floor and his body upright. Gravity mocked his efforts and soon he was slip-sliding across the floor like a first time skater on a frozen pond. The butter crashed to the floor, adding to his inability to steady his feet. Onward he skidded on the butter, and then the eggs began jumping from the bowl, shattering into gelatinous shiny yellow puddles. Right through the wet globs he careened, until the milk was thrown from the pitcher in a white geyser. His arms began to windmill and the milk container flew across the room and shattered the kitchen window, sending Dewdrop into frenzied honking flight. The last thing he heard was the clunk of his head against the table leg. He didn’t know how long he had been unconscious when he later came to and struggled to his feet to survey the damage.
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Johnny finished the sad story of his chain reactions of mishaps and cautiously lifted his eyes to gauge his father and brother’s response. His face flushed deep crimson red when he realized they were highly amused by his tale of woe.
“You mean to tell me this kitchen looks like it was blasted apart by a case of dynamite just from trying to follow the recipe! You didn’t even manage to salvage enough to bake at least a layer?”
“No sir, not one layer. All I have for my efforts are bruises, cuts, burns, a heel-less right boot and a goose egg on my head. I’ll clean this mess up as soon as I get my second wind.”
“Perhaps you should eat something first,” suggested Scott as he flipped open the box his father had placed on the table earlier and revealed a large chocolate cake.
Johnny didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or cuss at the sight, but one deep breath later and the scent of the intoxicating chocolate had him caught in its power. He jumped up to retrieve forks and plates, in his haste; he forgot the puddle of milk on the floor. The next thing he knew the bright morning sun was streaming in his window. He had no recall of how he had ended up in his bed, and he would have thought it had all been a bad dream were it not for his boots lying beside the washstand, the heel of the right one missing.