“This was it. I could practically taste the sweet victory. My sister and I were just about to set a new record for the largest cookie ever. How, you ask?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I’d love to explain.” The strange boy continued as if I hadn’t said a thing. Or rather, as if I had said a different thing. “Of course, baking a huge cookie was tricky because the oven wasn’t big enough, and it took so long to mix up all the dough that it was hard to make sure the first batch was still good by the time the fiftieth one was ready to join the group. Plus my sister and I were doing this all on our own, so it took even longer. Anyway, we didn’t have an oven, but we were working on a way to bake it outside using the sun as our oven.”
“That’s absurd. You would at the very least need a pan big enough and ideally you should preheat it. But by the time you got the dough onto the pan, assuming the sun’s heat was hot enough here, the first part would be cooked or the pan would cool.” Despite myself, I leaned closer. While the plan the kid supposedly had seemed inconceivable, the idea itself made a good story. Perhaps I could write a better version sometime and publish it.
“Well,” he stammered, “well, maybe so, but-” He took a deep breath. “Anyway, our parents were getting a bit annoyed because of how devoted we were to the cookie and how often we forgot to do our chores, so they decided to force us to join them on some picnic in the woods. It was so unsanitary; there was no way we could keep working. So my sister and I grudgingly left our dough at home. Our father was not so happy with our attitudes, but we had been pulled away in the middle of our art project, so it was his fault. Anyway, he kept pointing out landmarks, and our mother said that we were so bad at navigation that we should have left a trail of stones to follow home. Margaret, that’s my sister, pointed out that our parents could guide us home.
“We arrived at the picnic spot and began to eat. Margaret and I just wanted to eat and go back to our cookie dough, but our parents took forever and seemed to want to talk to us. Mom complained about how we were baking them out of house and home, but I pointed out that we technically hadn’t done any baking yet. Our mother got annoyed at that, and our father was annoyed that we weren’t excited to spend time with them. But we’re not kids anymore, you know?”
He was definitely still a child, but I nodded and he continued.
“Plus, Margaret and I were tired. We spent most nights up making more dough, so we kind of fell asleep, and turns out that was the last straw. When I woke up, it was dark out, and our parents were nowhere to be seen. I woke my sister, and we called out for a bit, but then I saw some bread on the ground, but the woods animals must have eaten the rest. When I pointed out that there had once been a path home, Margaret started crying, so I told her I remembered the way home, but I really didn’t. Still, she followed me, so I walked confidently towards whichever direction I chose.”
“How did you pick a direction? Did it work?” Not that I believed his tale, but like I said, it would make a good story.
“I just started by following the bread crumbs until they vanished, and then I turned a few times just to make it more believable.”
“So, you led your sister confidently in circles.” I held back a laugh. His poor sister might have trust issues because of that. If his story was true.
“Anyway,” he picked up the story again, “we were walking all night, and as the sun came up we saw something in front of us that made us pretty sure we had fallen asleep again. We hadn’t made enough cookie dough to make a cookie bigger than the house that sat in the spotlight of the sun. It was mocking us.
“Of course we had to find out if it was real, so we walked up to it and tasted it. We only took small pieces, because we didn’t want to cheat by destroying the competing art work, but after only a small bite or the best gingerbread I had ever tasted, a woman burst out of the cookie waving a rolling pin at us.
“She shouted at us like we were hooligans and not connoisseurs and fellow cookie artists. ‘Get your filthy hands off of my cookie house!’
“We tried to explain that we were admiring her artwork, and she tried to chase us away. We almost gave up and left when we learned that her cookie was her house and she had no plans of showing it to the people who keep track of the records, but then we realized something.
“‘Can we borrow your oven?’ Margaret asked, very politely I might add, but the woman wouldn’t hear of it.
“‘Get your own and leave me in peace.’
“So we did. We left her in peace and kept her oven. I don’t understand why we’re suddenly being charged with murder. Don’t you know that if you build a house made of cookies you are asking to have other cookie aficionados come knocking? The least you could do is loan them your oven. If you refuse that though, isn’t it kind of expected that they might get annoyed enough to accidentally knock you into your oven?”
I sat back with a grin. I had been right to visit the local jail to cure my writer’s block. But now that I was so invested in the story I had one more question.
“And Margaret, what happened to her? Why isn't she here?”
“Oh, some dude named Robin broke her out of here on the condition that she change her name to Marian.”