Sunday, December 15, 2013

54. A Christmas Gift

Christmas was coming and I wanted to get my best friend, Josh, a special gift. He'd had a bad year. His Mom, diagnosed with cancer, had suffered through some tough medical treatments. She was supposed to be OK eventually but it was hard on her and everyone in their family. Josh tried to act as if everything was fine. He didn't complain and he joked with us as usual but his eyes were sad.
As a 14 year old kid I knew I couldn't solve any of his problems but it"d would be great if I could make his eyes smile again.

“Sam, stop daydreaming and take out the garbage.” Mom's voice jerked me back to our sunny, blue and white kitchen. I groaned but got up to finish my chores. I knew I was a lucky kid to have a healthy family, but it was hard to keep my mind on what I was supposed to do.

I took the black plastic bag out to our snow covered trash bin, my mind running through possible gifts. Electronic games were good, but my budget didn't stretch that far. I suppose I could get him a new CD but that seemed lame. The dog next door was barking his head off. I guess the neighbors forgot to let him back in after his morning run. Hey, what about that? A dog. Who wouldn't be happy to get a puppy for Christmas? I rushed back into the house to tell Mom.

“A puppy? Ohhh, Sam, I don't know.”

“C'mon, Mom. It'd make everyone smile, not just Josh.” I thought my mother would agree that a spunky, little dog would be a great gift. But she pointed out the flaws in my plan.

“Yes, everyone would love the dog, but who'd end up having to take care of it? Josh and his sister and Dad are away all day. His Mom is home but I don't think she has much energy left after dealing with chemo. A puppy has to be trained.”

“Well, then, I'd get an older dog. One who'd be slow and didn't need to be trained.”

Mom put her arms around me. I was too old for hugs but she kept giving them to me. “Sam, it's a great idea, but a family should pick out a pet for themselves.”

I grunted, “OK. I'll think of something else.”

“I'm sure Josh will be happy with whatever you give him.” She patted my head. She actually patted me on the head like a baby kid. Geesh.

I slumped off to watch TV. Not much was on. Sometimes the cooking show could be funny. Especially when things went wrong. Today it was about Christmas cookies. And that's when I had a terrific brainstorm.

I would make Josh a humongous cookie. Everybody loved cookies. I had never baked before, but how hard could it be. My mom, grandma and aunts baked all the time.

I found the show's “Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe” on their web site. The recipe said it would make two dozen--enough for a blockbuster giant one. Three days before Christmas I rode my bike to Kroger's and bought all the stuff we didn't have at home. The streets were a little icy but I kept my balance OK with the bag slung over the handlebars.

Mom was at her weekly yoga class so I had the kitchen to myself. I dumped everything into a big bowl and plugged in the beater. It was like a bucking bronco. Bits of dough flew out all over. I fumbled around but got the speed turned down.

I poured the batter onto a large, round cake pan I had greased according to the directions. It looked lumpy, but it would be perfect once baked in the 350 degree oven. I slid the pan in and set the timer for 15 minutes. It didn't seem very long, but I would test it like I'd seen my mom test cakes. When the timer buzzed I stuck a toothpick in and it came out pretty clean. Hmm, I guess it was done.

I put the hot cake pan on a burner grate from the cooktop to cool off. Then I had a problem. How was I going to get it out of the pan and onto a plate? I hadn't thought ahead about what I was going to carry it on. Our paper plates were too small. I had to take four of them, cut off one edge and tape them together to make a big enough plate for the giant cookie. It was sort of floppy but it'd work.

I put my hand on top the cookie as I flipped it onto the improvised plate. Perfection. It fell out easily. I guess the grease worked. I stood for a minute, wallowing in the successful feeling of an accomplished plan.

I took a red bow from the sack my mother kept in her gift wrapping drawer and stuck it on the cookie. Then I realized I had another problem. How was I going to get the cookie over to Josh. I had planned to ride my bike but no way could I balance the cookie while I pedaled. I would have to walk. It wasn't too far, only about six blocks.
I zipped my jacket and carefully picked up the cookie plate. I couldn't wait to see Josh's face when he saw my gift. Everything was fine until I got to his sidewalk. I guess he hadn't done his chores. The walk hadn't been cleared. I took one step on it and skidded like a clown trying to balance the floppy paper plates. My feet went out and I went down, my face landing in my masterpiece.

Josh opened the door and burst out laughing.

“What's so funny?” I muttered. I wanted him to be happy but not by laughing at me.

“You! I saw you dancing or something out there. And you're face is covered with some kind of stuff. You look like you got an outbreak of the plague. You better not come in if you're contagious.”

“Hey, this is a cookie I made with my own hands. I even walked it over here to keep it in one piece.”

“I guess that didn't work. But c'mon in.” He held the door for me. “I'm sure it's delicious. Sorry, I didn't even notice you were carrying something. Your face looks”

“I get it, no need to say anything else. Here.” I shoved the pieces at him. “It's chocolate chip.”

He started laughing again, “So that's what those brown spots are on your face.”

I scowled at him, but then I noticed that his eyes were smiling. Mission accomplished.

                                                                     The End

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