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Fiction People of Color Happy

 Step 1: The Selection and Harvest of the Cocoa Pods


Although Jean-Paul had received several invitations from Brussels to Zurich, he decided to apprentice with one of the chocolatiers in Paris. Parisians had a particular passion for all things chocolate, even prescribing it from their pharmacies in the 18th century. Whether chocolate had any medicinal properties or not, Jean-Paul was wholly vested in learning its secrets. 

He arose early and stayed late in the training kitchen, filling hundreds of fine chocolate spheres with concoctions of salted caramel, tangerine, passion fruit, pear, or hazelnut. He worked quietly and quickly, earning him the praise he deeply desired. When the chocolatier singled out his work as an exemplar, Jean-Paul beamed. 

His superior work at the Lenôtre Quai Henri IV School of Culinary Arts had all but cemented his prestigious apprenticeship. His previous instructors had written him glowing letters of recommendation. Jean-Paul has the soul of a pâtissier. Jean-Paul’s creativity almost matches his dedication. Jean-Paul has a brilliant future ahead of him as a master chocolatier. 

Of course, working in kitchens had been in his blood. His immigrant father had washed most of the dishes in Paris. At school, Jean-Paul had bragged about his father being a steward until he knew that was a fancy word for dishwasher. Then he quit talking about his father altogether, resentful of their squalid flat in Grigny and the little money there was for clothes or the latest iPhone. His father didn’t feel the need to apologize for their living conditions, as poor African immigrants had few places to settle near Paris. 

Invariably, his father would return late at night with chapped hands and sore feet, bringing home a small bag of M&M’s for his son, purchased from a vending machine on the Métro station platform. 

Jean-Paul would awake in the middle of the night and silently eat them, one by one. 



Step 2: The Fermenting and Drying of the Cocoa Beans


His mother had left them both. 

Fourteen-year-old young men need their mothers as much as four-year-old boys, and his mother had decided to abscond with a light-skinned North African, breaking his father’s heart. 

Jean-Paul’s father almost quit speaking, sleeping more during the day, waking to cough blood into his hands when the winters were especially cruel. But regardless of his health or the weather, his father went to work every night of the week. 

“Why are you gone so much?” Jean-Paul once asked him, watching the stooped figure lace up his thick-soled black kitchen boots.

“I like to work,” his father protested. 

But Jean-Paul was lonely at home, easily completing his schoolwork and dutifully finishing his household chores. 

One night he set out for the street corner and met up with some older boys, happily joining in with their drinking and smoking.

At two in the morning, Jean-Paul watched his father trudge home from the Métro, carrying an old umbrella. His father peered at him from across the street, doing a double take before realizing it was his son. When he did, he slowly shook his head. He hadn’t broken his stride in the brief exchange, but Jean-Paul saw his shoulders slump. 

Jean-Paul silently put down the half-drunk bottle of beer and scurried home. As he unlocked the front door, he saw his father’s work shoes drying by the radiator. They were worn and wet from the dish room's sprayers. A piece of arugula was lodged in the laces. Jean-Paul reached down to retrieve it. 

On his way into their own little kitchen to throw the leaf away, he found on the counter, as usual, a little brown bag of candy-coated chocolates. 

Fourteen year old Jean-Paul inexplicably started to cry as he ate the M&M’s, one by one. 



Step 3: The Roasting and Refining


“How much is the culinary school?” his father asked. 

“€49 200,” Jean-Paul quietly replied, while opening the bag of M&M’s his father had brought home for him. 

His father looked pained at the astronomical sum.

“I have saved some money, and I can apply for scholarships. Even if I have to take out loans, it will be worth it. I will train with titled chefs! Once I get an internship, I will have my choice of establishments to work in. All throughout Europe!”

“Are you sure you want to work in a restaurant? The hours are long and the pay is low. The managers will yell at you for things you cannot control.”

“I want to work in the kitchens like you,” Jean-Paul insisted.

“I wanted you to be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant. You are too good to work in the kitchens.”

“You work in the kitchens. Are you not good as well?”

“I do what I can so you can do better. The school, is it far away?”

“To the south of Paris. I can take the bus to Rungis.”

“That’s two hours one way!” his father lamented. 

“It can’t be helped. That is where all the best culinary schools are—and the largest market for gastronomy suppliers. Just think of the connections I’ll make!”

His father paced for a bit. 

“We can move closer to your school,” his father suggested, adding the burden of a longer commute for himself. “It will make it easier for you.”

“Thank you,” Jean-Paul said.

“Don’t worry, my son. We will find a way.”

With that, his father helped himself to the small bag of M&M’s. He tossed the small candies—one right after another—high into the air, catching them in his open mouth. 

Jean-Paul laughed like a child.



Step 4: The Tempering and Molding 

“Are you ready, père?” Jean-Paul asked.

His father struggled with his tie, finally throwing up his hands in frustration. When did a dishwasher ever need to tie a Windsor knot?

“Let me help you,” Jean-Paul said, putting down his suit coat and attending to his father, whose arthritic hands continued to give him trouble.

“I shouldn’t have come. I am going to embarrass you.”

“I will not accept my awards without my father in the room.”

“What did you win for exactly?” asked his father, allowing his son to straighten his tie and collar. 

“I won the Silver Pod Award for my salted almond Madagascar chocolate, and I also won the Platinum BonBon Award for my Maracaibo chocolate with cranberry caramel.”

“That sounds a little fancy for your father,” he said wryly.

“That’s why I made you these,” Jean-Paul said, offering him a little bag. 

Inside were homemade M&M’s, expertly coated in candy, filled with the best milk chocolate a Parisian master chocolatier could craft. 

And his father ate them all, one by one. 




February 16, 2022 02:34

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40 comments

Jonathan Blaauw
10:13 Feb 17, 2022

Oh Deidra, that was incredible! What a beautiful story! You can tickle the funny bone, we know this, but you're just as good at tugging on the heartstrings. A literary surgeon at the top of their game is what you are. That was really sweet and special.

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15:52 Feb 17, 2022

Mr. Blaauw! Wonderful to see you again. Thanks for taking time to read my latest offering. This writing hobby of mine is endlessly diverting, with a lifetime of improvement ahead. Looking forward to reading you and seeing your work on Globe Soup :) Russell is putting together a site for authors who want to read their own stories for posterity. https://bluemarblestorytellers.com/index.php/promo/ Maybe a good place for "The Spectacle(s)"?

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Suma Jayachandar
03:36 Feb 16, 2022

" I will not accept my awards without my father in my room," I was mentally bawling by the time I reached this point. Hope I can trigger laughter and tears as effortlessly as you do, some day.

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20:38 Feb 16, 2022

Hope the laughter and tears are in the right spots -- I'd hate to elicit that unintentionally :) haha Thanks for your wonderful support.

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03:05 Feb 16, 2022

The depth of love you build in so effortlessly is the hallmark of a truly great writer. I love to read you.

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20:38 Feb 16, 2022

Appreciate the love more than you know. It keeps me going :)

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23:13 Feb 27, 2022

VERY nice story

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16:53 Feb 28, 2022

Woo hoo! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the read. :)

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11:52 Feb 25, 2022

Deidra, this was beautiful. I love the crossover between the development of chocolate and the development of their relationship. You did an exquisite job 👏👏👏

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15:20 Feb 25, 2022

Totally accidental. It didn't occur to me that was happening until you pointed it out. :) I think you're a better reviewer than I am a writer :)

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17:30 Feb 25, 2022

That’s so funny 😆 but hey, it’s there! And it’s a great asset to your work!

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05:22 Feb 25, 2022

Im jealous of your ability to write amazing stories every week.

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09:38 Feb 25, 2022

Oh some of my stories are pretty dumb and silly, but the most important thing is that we write — every week! It’s the only way to improve. It’s the only way to find great characters we didn’t know exist. 🤠

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06:32 Feb 26, 2022

I write something for every prompt, but most I hate and stop writing them. Im hoping they will line up with a future prompt and I can start on them again, maybe make them better.

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Kevin Broccoli
19:00 Feb 24, 2022

I loved this!!! One of my favorites of yours.

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19:12 Feb 24, 2022

I have no idea where this came from. Fun to write. Fun to research.

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Sharon Hancock
03:00 Feb 22, 2022

😻Love the way you structured this story! Well done

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12:07 Feb 22, 2022

I love the way you comment! :) Thanks for the kudos.

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Alex Sultan
23:12 Feb 21, 2022

Such a great structure to this story! The step-by-step for chapters is very clever. I like the relationship you've built in this story and the ending was nice. The line: “I will not accept my awards without my father in the room.” is wholesome. Well done :)

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23:48 Feb 21, 2022

Thanks, Alex. Not sure where this story came from, but very delightful to write. I couldn't stomach another romance for Valentine's Day. p u k e

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Maggie Gibbs
12:12 Feb 21, 2022

Hi Deidra! 👋🏼 I absolutely adored this story. The complicated nature of father and son… which actually isn’t all that complicated at all. It’s about love and what you do to sacrifice for your loved ones. Absolutely beautiful. Well done! Now I have to go read all of your stories (I’m new to Reedsy). 🤗

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13:19 Feb 21, 2022

Welcome aboard :) Lots of amazing writers! Thanks for the wonderful comment. I look forward to enjoying your work as well.

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Maggie Gibbs
13:22 Feb 21, 2022

Thank you so much! Looking forward to your feedback! :)

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J.C. Lovero
00:25 Feb 21, 2022

Hi Deidra, Another great piece! I liked how you added the steps before each section. As a reader, it gave me a sense of progress. Looking forward to the next one!

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23:49 Feb 21, 2022

You are very kind. Thanks for the read and the moral support -- it gets lonely in the trenches :)

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Jamie Gregory
21:12 Feb 19, 2022

This was such a sweet, touching story. I love the journey this young man is on and the relationship he has with his father. One of my favorite lines was, "His immigrant father had washed most of the dishes in Paris."

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23:26 Feb 19, 2022

Thanks, Jamie! I decided to take a break from slapstick dialogue. I wanted a non-romance for Valentine's Day and found this father and son pairing. Thanks for the lovely comment and the read :) Onward!

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Calm Shark
03:22 Feb 16, 2022

Aww...I really love this story Deidra. Im personally a fan of parent and children relationship stories because it just makes me feel happy and feel good.

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20:38 Feb 16, 2022

SHARK! Thanks for swimming by. I thought it was time for a father/son feel good story. :)

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Calm Shark
01:20 Feb 17, 2022

No problem!

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20:32 Mar 04, 2022

What a lovely story about the relationship between a man and his son. I loved how you compared stages of life to the steps of making the chocolate. Well done.

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Betsy Ells
14:03 Feb 25, 2022

Deidra, you were one of my Critique Circle selections this week. So here goes... Truly lovely story and an enjoyable read. It appears that this was already well edited which means I get to just talk about the story - yay! I have read many immigrant stories and I found this one believable and warm. The characters were well developed given the length of the story. You did a wonderful job of giving them just enough depth without leaving the reader feeling like more explanation was needed. I am definitely looking at how you did this when ...

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17:31 Feb 25, 2022

Thank you for the detailed commentary. I appreciate all of your constructive notes and compliments. Onward :)

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Fjc Montenegro
07:00 Feb 24, 2022

5/5: This is good and I like it Besides the fact that it was incredibly well-written, there are a couple of details that make me like this story. First: making Jean-Paul "resentful of their squalid flat" in the beginning and having him say "I will not accept my awards without my father" at the end is such a simple example of character growth, but it's also so well-executed and so amazingly satisfying and heart-warming, you make writing good fiction look easy. Second: The steps. The steps are such a small detail but make all the difference...

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12:23 Feb 24, 2022

You are masterful at critiquing and I appreciate all of your time and effort in helping me improve. You are absolutely right about "overkill" with the extra detail about the wet shoes. I usually trust the reader to connect the dots, and this was definitely extraneous. Perfect catch, and I support your decision if you want to be a professional editor :) Well done. Be harsh -- only way to grow!

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Phil Manders
14:17 Feb 17, 2022

Beautifully written as always. I’m going to do something I never do. (deep breath). There was a tiny part that didn’t flow for me. “He assumed his father was devastated, as Jean-Paul’s father almost quit speaking. His father slept more during the day, waking to cough blood into his hands when the winters were especially cruel.” I think it’s the word father used three times. I had to read it a couple of times. It all makes sense. Just felt like something wasn’t right. Could just be me😊

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15:38 Feb 17, 2022

Nope. You're 100% right. THANK YOU -- masterful, Phil.

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15:40 Feb 17, 2022

FIXED :) I took out the extra (and unnecessary exposition.) And this flows much better. Thank you for your sharp editing. I owe you :) Jean-Paul’s father almost quit speaking, sleeping more during the day, waking to cough blood into his hands when the winters were especially cruel.

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Phil Manders
16:13 Feb 17, 2022

Knock it off what I owe you😁

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16:40 Feb 17, 2022

If this wins, I'll send you a Starbucks gift card. :)

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