by Vylar Kaftan
When Mrs. Wallace looked through her oven door, the gingerbread man woke up. He stretched a bit--still doughy, just as she'd placed him in the tray. She watched him yawn, stand up, and walk to the edge of the cookie sheet. He fiddled with the area where his lowest button would be, and a stream of maple syrup poured out. She averted her eyes, not wanting to invade his privacy. She consulted her cookbook. 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Nothing about the cookies standing up.
The smell of gingerbread wafted through the small kitchen, across the pictures of her grandkids and the newly-hung pine wreath. Mrs. Wallace tried to remember if she'd added anything different to the dough. Butter, flour, molasses--the usual. With curiosity, she peered through the window again. The gingerbread man had woken the girl cookie next to him. "Oh, how sweet," Mrs. Wallace said out loud. "They're playing Garden of Eden." It was easy to imagine the soft cookies as innocent lovers. She watched as the cookies kissed. Then the boy cookie stood behind the girl cookie in an extremely non-Baptist manner. "Oh, my!" exclaimed Mrs. Wallace. She blushed and went to tidy up the sink.
When she returned, the rest of the gingerbread people had woken. They were hunting a gingerbread mammoth across the cookie sheet. Some of them had primitive buttons at their waists. Their flesh had firmed into a pale golden brown. "Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Wallace, delighted by the sight.
A glance at the clock reminded her that Call to Prayer would come on the television shortly. She switched it on, but continued to watch the gingerbread people. They were wonderful entertainment. They had just started to build shelters, which pleased Mrs. Wallace because they took their private relations indoors. She was quite glad she'd made both boy and girl cookies. She didn't like the idea of a cookie Sodom.
The cookies were browning nicely now, and smelled delicious. The gingerbread people constructed more elaborate homes, each fancier than the last, with peppermint wheels and lemon drop décor. They built peanut-brittle cars, tiny airplanes with cinnamon-stick rudders, and a beautiful church right in front of the glass window. Behind Mrs. Wallace, the TV droned on: "In our efforts to speak with God, the prayers of millions are..."
The timer beeped. Mrs. Wallace ignored it. She was fascinated by events in the front of the oven, next to the church. The gingerbread people were scratching something into the cookie sheet. They'd already developed some form of written communication--she'd seen them passing notes around--but this was clearly an A. The gingerbread people argued about it, then pointed at the side of the cookie sheet that was printed with the brand name. Mrs. Wallace's heart beat faster.
Behind her, the TV said, "But does God answer?" Mrs. Wallace paid no attention. The gingerbread people had built spaceships, and they launched one. It crashed against the glass and broke into pieces. The oven door rattled. The pieces fell and burned. The kitchen smelled like smoke. Gingerbread people marched through the streets, with slogans on posters in their own language. Other people built another shuttle. Cookies shoved each other off the edge of the sheet, onto the wreck at the bottom of the oven. A single man climbed onto the church's steeple and scratched a letter into the glass, right in front of Mrs. Wallace. A?
Frightened, Mrs. Wallace pressed a dishcloth against the glass. With her free hand she reached into the kitchen drawer and pulled out some duct tape. Coughing in the smoke, she wrapped the tape around the oven door handle and sealed it shut. The smoke detector wailed, and she shook it to make the batteries fall out. She opened all the windows in the kitchen to clear the air.
She settled in to watch The Price is Right. When the show
was over, she unwrapped the duct tape and peeked into the oven. The
warped cookie sheet was covered with black ash. Feeling safer, though
guilty, she turned on the self-clean cycle. Then she went into the
dining room to make Christmas ornaments from pinecones.
Vylar Kaftan's work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Lenox Avenue, and Vestal Review. She attended Clarion West in 2004, and currently volunteers as a mentor for young writers through the Absynthe Muse program. She lives in northern California. Her hobbies include making jewelry, preparing for a major earthquake, and discussing philosophy with the neighbor's cat. The cat has mixed feelings about this process. Visit her website at www.vylarkaftan.net.
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"Through the Cooking Glass" © 2006 Vylar Kaftan.
Used by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2006 Karen A. Romanko.