Arsenic and the Christmas cake


It is Monday morning. I am telling my co-workers about how my daughter's New Zealander partner has decided to travel home for the holidays. I endorse the trip, hoping that his mother is a supporter of family reunification and will keep him home around her. I wish he stayed, I pray each day. However, about a week ago the spirit of Christmas gained the upper hand inside me and I decided to bake them some biscuits for the trip. I purchased the tin box for packaging last week. It fits the occasion, with stars and little spheres and pine branches, a pretty corny piece. It's OK, it will do, what counts really is what's inside, I concluded. Even at the store when I bought it I had misgivings regarding the box but I could not put my finger on the reason. But by Sunday evening it became all clear. I dedicated a whole day to baking those biscuits. I set about it early in the morning. I decided to make some honey biscuits. Proven old family recipe, no big challenge even to me. I mixed three times the amount, the kitchen was a sticky mess, the whole apartment filled up with a sweet cinnamony flavour. The extra amount of biscuits hardly filled half of the box. What a let-down it was for me. A whole day's work was devalued. It's not enough, I cannot give it to them like this, even if I don't like it. I mean the young man. Anyway, I thought I'd cook some vanilla crescents, just to unwind, towards midnight. No big deal. My determination was followed by action. I put the crescents into the box in the morning. Nothing happened.
... a bottomless box, my suspicion turned into conviction. I should bake something more, but what? And that's when my co-workers popped into my mind. Each with large families, battle-hardened veterans of the kitchen. So many Gordon Ramsays, it must be easy for them to share with me a simple but copious biscuit recipe.
"But simple it must be! I have no time! He's leaving in two days, thank God" said I. All right, all right, they say, interrupting each other, pouring out their ideas. I choose the one that appears to be the simplest one and they list the ingredients. Hardly into it I feel that this isn't going to be the one, not even if my life depended on it. But it doesn't, this young man is only a potential son-in-law. And I hope he will be a real one just like my lottery jackpot. And as they, interrupting each other, give me a detailed account of how simple it is, children's play really, to make this biscuit, I stare at that piece of paper and, as though chickening out, I shout.
"Stop! Something's missing there!"
"What?" - they ask, frightened, and look at the list one by one and then together again.
"No, nothing's missing!" - says Ági, the owner of the recipe, reassured.
"Yes, it is!" - I say, curtly.
"Then, what?" - she asks, a little indignantly.
"The arsenic!" - I answer, resolutely. "How much do I have to put into it?" - I ask laughing. They're laughing too. So the young man did not become a son-in-law, just like I never hit that jackpot. When we still worked together, Ági sometimes asked me about the New Zealander son-in-law. Nothing much, I used to answer.

A few days ago we exchanged some messages on Facebook. About her daughter and her daughter's spouse. She said she has been sorry lately for not asking me about the quantity of that arsenic.

I'd told her something was missing from that recipe!

diligent angels, as do my coworkers
diligent angels, as do my coworkers