Sunday, 8 July 2012

It's just cake

Angie, proprietress of Ms. Angry's tearoom, sat at her little wooden desk in the office behind the tearoom and added up numbers.  All of the receipts, bills, and the till-balance slips were spiked on a vicious looking nail through a corner of the desk, and as she finished one, she'd pull another off the nail and start to read it.  Sometimes the nail went through a number, but she always mentally replaced the number with 9 if it was outgoing, and 0 if it was incoming, and so far she'd not lost any serious amounts of money.  The bills seemed to being balanced by the takings, and there was a hint of profit for the week starting to show up on her notepad when the doorbell tinkled to let her know that someone had come in.
She looked up, the office was barely eight feet square and there was a frosted window in the wall opposite her chair that didn't let people look through into the kitchen.  There were no shadows, either moving around or lazing against the walls, which meant that she was probably still the only person in, and that Katja hadn't arrived yet.  She cursed softly under her breath, using words her grandmother claimed to have learned from a sailor, and got up.
The office door opened silently, and she stepped through the doorway like a shadow, closing the door behind her and moving away from it while the customer was looking at the silverware in its little recesses on the waiter-stand.
"Can I help you?" she asked, her voice pleasantly deep and resonant, a memory from her days as a second-rate opera singer.  The customer jumped, and turned to face her, his moustache arriving first and bristling wildly.  She took a step back, startled.  Then she scrutinised him, wondering if the moustache was false; the kind of disguise someone would wear to attract attention to who they weren't.  He stared back at her, pale blue eyes meeting her gaze and holding it.
"I'm told," he said, slightly haltingly as though he were translating from another language in his head, "that you do the only decent patisserie in this – damnable – little town."  Even the swearing seemed pre-thought and laboured.
"I make a few cakes, and a little pastry," said Angie.  "Nothing special, it just gives me something to do in the evening."
"I am looking for Dobostorte," said the man, but the name of the cake sounded like "Dobbosh-torter".  "Do you, perchance-aroonie, have some?"
"Perchance-aroonie?" said Angie, completely unable to stop the words escaping her mouth.
"I... I have this book," said the man, producing a little paperback from a pocket of his coat.  She noticed now that the coat was a three-quarter length garment, and realised that that was where the smell of wet wool was coming from.  "It says that that would be the right word to use under these circumstances."
Angie took the book from him and read the front cover.  One hundred and one useful English phrases for all circumstances, it read.  She opened it to a random page, and saw immediately that someone – no, several people going by the different handwritings – had annotated it.  In the middle of the page was a word she didn't recognise, and next to it a printed translation of 'mother'.  The annotations suggested 'mammy, mama and yo mama!'  She handed the book back.
"Close enough," she said, forcing a smile.  "What kind of cake did you say you wanted?  I do a lovely cream Victoria."
"Dobostorte," said the man, sounding somehow like he was sneezing in the middle of the word.
"I don't do foreign, love," she said, her smile fraying at the edges.  "What does it look like?"
"It is a chocolate litter-box with a caramel topping," said the man, his hands making gestures as though indicating a wheel of some kind.  "It is usually circucumber."
"Circular," said Angie, absently, trying to work out litter-box.  "Ah, you probably mean layer-cake, don't you?  How about a nice Black Forest Gateau?  I get the cherries in from someone foreign, you know, so they taste better.  I don't really hold with all these freezing things that happen these days."
"No," said the man, his hands still describing circles in the air.  "No, Dobostorte.  It is a very famous recipe, it is over one hundred years old!"
"Well, if it's old you want then I guess it's Summer Pudding," said Angie, who was keen to get rid of a loaf of brioche that hadn't sold.  "I can rustle you one of those up a treat!"
"No, Dobostorte."  The man was clearly obstinate, and Angie was starting to fret about not having finished the accounts for the day.  She decided to finish the conversation.
"Look love," she said, "It's only cake, right?  Just sit down and I'll get a scone and a nice Earl Grey."
"No!"  The man looked furious.  "This is an insult!  I need Dobostorte, and I need it now!"
"Right you are," said Angie, her lips pursing into a tight, thin white line.  "You can just leave now, Mister, and take your spittle with you."
With that, she turned around and disappeared back into her office, hoping that he didn't decide to steal the silverware on the way out.

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