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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Michael K on January 29, 2008
"This is how it really happened. I kid you not."

Apple Pie A La Mode

Every year at the county fair, Carl's apple pies always took the prize in the famed County Pastry Competition. His pies always maintained the perfect blend of sweetness and tart bite, and the crusts were flaky and golden. A culinary triumph every time.

His cousin Paul, though not by nature a jealous man, found himself again and again thwarted and frustrated by his cousin's success, for no matter how hard he tried, Paul could never earn better than second prize with his own culinary treats.

"Better luck next year," Cousin Carl would always say, but Paul correctly interpreted the smugly satisfied expression on his face to mean: Neener, Neener, you'll never be as good as me!

And though Paul never showed a smugly satisfied expression outwardly, on the inside there was just a hint of smugness, for Paul knew something Carl did not: after they were both dead and gone, people would long remember Paul's pies, while Carl's would fade complete from memory.

In the meantime, every year at the county fair he smiled politely as he shook his cousin's hand, and tried not to wear down his teeth with the grinding that came so naturally whenever he was around Cousin Carl.

While he waited for his fifteen minutes of fame, Paul worked as the in-residence chef for one of the rich-and-famous families of his town, and his master never had reason to complain that his pies were second-rate. In fact, his master insisted that every night Paul bring him, just before bedtime, one slice of piping hot, fresh apple pie.

It was quarter to midnight on that fateful night in late April, when everything changed. Paul had just taken his pie from the oven, and cut one slice to take to his master, when there came a knock on the door.

Startled, Paul set down the pie on its cart, set down the pastry knife, and went to the door. The man who stood outside was wearing a dark overcoat, and his hat was pressed down onto his head with the brim tipped forward, so his face was hidden in shadows. In his hands he held out a round container, which he thrust forward for Paul to take.

As Paul touched the container, the icy coldness of its sides drew a sharp breath of surprise from him. But the man didn't need to tell him what was in the container; he already knew. As the icy chill made its way up his arms and down his spine, Paul shuddered and thought: Vanilla ice cream!

The man at the door spoke two words, in a gruff, unrecognizeable voice. "Two scoops," he said, before vanishing into the midnight gloom.

Paul set the container on the cart next to the pie and wheeled it to his master's office. He knocked on the door, then entered. His master sat at his desk, writing letters. "Thank you, Paul," he said without looking up, "you may go now."

"Sir," Paul said. It wasn't the obsequious "yes sir" of a servant about to fade into the background after performing his duty; it was the insistent, determined statement of a man who must be attended to, for there is important business at hand.

As he said that word, his master's back went straight and rigid; his body had all the alertness of cat ready to pounce, all the tension of a soldier who has heard the first volley of the battle. Slowly he turned and looked at his chef.

Paul said, "I have a special treat for you tonight."

His master said, with a voice so hushed it was almost a whisper, "Vanilla ice cream."

"Yes sir." Paul opened the container, and with a large metal scoop he dished out a scoopful of the creamy dessert and placed it on the pie.

His master, his gaze never wavering from Paul's action, held his breath in anticipation. Waiting. Watching.

Paul returned the scoop to the container and brought forth a second mound of ice cream, which he placed next to the first.

At last his master breathed, though now he looked at the pie as though it had been poisoned. After a moment of eerie silence, he nodded and said, "Thank you Paul. You may go now."

Paul returned to the kitchen and began washing dishes. He wore a peaceful, contented smile on his face. Soon the lights would come on all around town, soon soldiers would be pouring out of their homes and into the streets, weapons ready, anticipating a surprise invasion from the sea.

Though Paul would not be part of the upcoming battle, he was content, for he had already played his part; the secret code he delivered had brought the warning that would make victory possible.

More importantly, he had finally delivered the death-blow to Cousin Carl's smug superiority. Centuries from now, when the world had completely forgotten Cousin Carl's tasty confections, people would continue to talk about - perhaps even write poems about - the midnight pies of Paul Revere.

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