The Last Brownie

by Linda W. Curtis

The Motorcycle Rider’s Club had organized a progressive dinner, with stops at four member’s homes. One home served appetizers, another salads, next, the main meal and last on the dinner ride, our home for homemade desserts.

At first, only 12 people had signed up for the dinner, so when Jim volunteered us to be the dessert stop, I rolled my eyes, but thought it was do-able. He really wanted to host an event. Twelve motorcycles parked in the driveway were possible if Jim directed them through the drive-through garage and they could circle around and park facing back up the driveway.

Things changed, as they always do. Jim heard from the club president that the number of riders including passengers was now up to twenty. Oh, my.  I rolled my eyes again when Jim gave me the news so he responded with, “We’ll have to go to the bakery and buy pies.”

My family has never served cadaver bakery pies, that was just unthinkable.”  “No.” I said, “We can do this if you help me.” And he, who had never baked anything in his life of 70 years, said he would.

That was before the next day when the call came in, the number was now up to 44.  I was stunned. I was totally engrossed in writing my next book on the computer when he delivered the news, and I froze in place and could not move for twenty minutes, not even my lips.

Finally, I spoke with all my spiritual muscle mustered and said, “We’d better begin now.” So, that night we stirred up and baked batches of double rich brownies. Jim was tired from all the batter beating and said, “I didn’t know baking was such hard work.” Sometimes my eyeballs hurt from so much rolling.

In the morning we went shopping and began more brownies, this time from mixes (ok, I digressed). We bought more flour, eggs, the works to make pies and different kinds of cookies. I had forgotten how dizzying it is to continuously open and shut the oven door with cooking sheets as the hot air blasted out. Somehow it didn’t seem as tiring when the kids were little and we baked up a batch, there’s the clue, a batch of cookies for our work weary daddy.

Four days later, Jim had borrowed folding chairs from the neighbors and our lanai was ready for 40 some black denim bottoms. Some rather large. The refrigerator was so stacked, I could barely get out our essentials.

Jim went on the progressive dinner run while I finished clean-up and the layout of desserts. About 3:30 I heard the roar of 40 motorcycles approaching up the block. The neighbors stepped out to observe as Jim waved the loud roaring line of cyclists down our long driveway through the garage and the circle return. Remarkably, all the parked cycles fit along the driveway, angled one by one all the way neatly to the road.

I put on an apron, only worn on holidays, opened the front door and gave a hearty welcome, now that we could hear again. The women cyclists were really impressed, many of them not seen an apron or a baking pan in years. And I was not dressed in black leather nor wearing badges or metals, nor had images of skulls on my shirt. I was now Martha Harleyson.

The good mood of the riders gave me an opportunity to jest with a trivia question.  I asked the guests as they piled their plates with goodies taken from a long buffet table, “What is Harley-Davidson’s middle initial?”  I could see the road captain was about to correct me with the fact the name represented two men, but I cut him off. “That was a trick question and the answer is, a hyphen.” It was actually pleasant seeing this tall burly man roll his eyes. He walked away without a word from the brownies and toward the root beer floats that Jim was now serving.

Everyone indulged and bulged and raved over the many choices of desserts. After the cyclists had thundered away, we looked over the leftovers and saw half a pie, about a dozen cookies, and two dozen brownies. We ate the pie the next day, munched on cookies as evening snacks, but avoided those rich double chocolate brownies that were cholesterol speedballs. I put them in a tin and wondered what I should do with them.

When I lamented at the next club meeting a few nights later, someone said, “Why don’t you give them to the homeless?” At that thought, I felt greed, a strong kid-like emotion I hadn’t felt in a long time that they were mine and I wasn’t about to share them. And then, I felt ashamed, and the guilt led me to do just that. I drove to a homeless shelter with my tin of brownies.

The men sitting on the doorstep were my first attempt to unload the brownies. To the first, when I opened the tin and smiled sweetly, saying “Would you like a homemade brownie?” he stood up, snorted, and left.

The other man, too, just waved his hand in a no-way gesture. He turned away, staring at the sidewalk. I was surprised. But then, I thought, I had just come on too strong. I opened the door of the shelter and discovered it looked like a hotel lobby, but no one was at the desk. There were people sitting in the chairs, a few playing cards a table. I went down the row of chairs, showing my wares, only to be told “No thank you” by one, and just head shakes by the others. One asked, “Are there eggs in those? “  When I said yes, he refused saying he was a vegan.

Okay, I meandered over to the card table. “Gentlemen,” I said, “Could I interest you in some homemade brownies?” “Not me,” said one, “last time I took food from a stranger I was sick for a week.”  “You’re right,” said another, “you never know what’s in ‘em.”

“Well, they’re okay” I said, “Here, I’ll show you.” And with that, I placed a brownie edge into my mouth and tasted the delicious chocolate, double rich sensory spectacular brownie. My juices began flowing and that was it, I couldn’t stop. I ate the brownie slowly, with all eyes on me, and I giggled. I don’t know why. The chocolate spread inside my mouth and over my inner eyes and brain and I wouldn’t swallow, just held it all in my mouth, bulging out my cheeks. By then, they must have felt their suspicions were confirmed, as I was acting strangely as I swallowing the sticky mass.

I couldn’t close the tin. I took another, then another, and the men went back to their game, and you guessed it, all giving side-eyed looks to each other. I walked out the door, still savoring, and retreated outside and sat myself on the short wall ledge next to the homeless center. Eventually, there was only one brownie left, the last brownie. I was feeling rather nauseous, and probably looked a bit despondent, when one of the clergy stepped out of the shelter. I knew that priests, ministers, and rabbis took turns coming to the shelter as part of their community service. This one was in black robe, a clerical collar visible, and he was about to pass me when I spoke up. “Would you like this last brownie?”

“Why, yes,” he said, plucking it from the tin, giving me a smiling thank you and nod and strode away. Thank you, Lord.

copyright © 2014 Linda Curtis, botanist

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