A Cake Made Of Plaster

(this first part written by Nicole)

I discovered that you can shave much time off the drive to J. Flats if only you disobey the posted speed limit. Instead of arriving in two hours, i think i can make it in an hour and a half, an hour forty five.
When you pull onto the street that will lead you to Carrot, you will find that it is unpaved, and so the average driver goes slower, feeling every rock beneath his tires and enjoying the landscape, making every turn safely and avoiding other cars. However, if you are impatient and you look at your directions sometime and say “Wait a minute, if i’m going fifteen miles and the speed limit says 15 mph, then that means… god damnit. I can’t drive this slow for a goddamn hour! Forget it. “

And so, i drive 45 miles per hour on my way to visit her, and fancy myself a local now. Someone who can drive too fast and still not careen off the cliffs somehow when turning. I calculate how many trees are there to break my fall in case my volvo doesn’t handle quite like the ATV i’m driving it as.

I arrived right on time, at 6:45, and layed on the picnic table to wait for Krot. I read a book and wondered if she would think i had crossed the line from cute to insane for wearing an impractical polyester cocktail dress for the hour long hike in.

———–carrot takes the blog back———-

When i got to the trailhead, I didn’t even recognize Nicole. Because I had never seen her laying on her back on a picnic table. But then I was glad it was her. Because there was no one else in the parking lot. Nicole was wearing a really cute dress, that had a little keyhole right on her cleavage. She’d worn it to the mechanic that morning. She’d also made them cookies, but wasn’t impressed with their bedside manner, and kept them in her backpack.

I like having Nicole at camp. It’s like Camp Nicole. Speaking of camp, my “manager” told me that my cooking was “Chunky Rustic Camp Style”. When I pressed her for examples, the only thing she could come up with was that once I’d cut the tomatoes too big in the pico de gallo. My “manager” also likes to open bags at the bottom. As in, a giant bag of costco baby carrots, with a releasable zip-loc at the top- ripped open at the bottom, by my manager. Yesterday morning Nicole went to fill the giant percolator for coffee, and ended up emptying the foil coffee bag onto the floor. The reason? R (manager) had opened the bag at the bottom. Silly Nicole, thought it opened at the top!

Nicole hung out with me in the kitchen on thursday, while I made vegetarian shepherd’s pie for 35 ungrateful sons of bitches, a bunch of dude-brahs taking their wilderness first responder course. These people’s staple food is pizza. Pizza. The People of the Pizza. I realized this today when I was washing dishes. They didn’t want shepherd’s pie and brussel sprouts and winter squash. They wanted Wheat and Cheese. Whatever.

So friday I made them pizza. One of the dude-brahs saw me rolling out the dough and asked, Hey, what’s for dinner? Is that pizza?

“Nope,” I said. “Only vegetarian gruel for you. I’m going to puree this after it’s done and add lentils.”

Of course, all the guys shit themselves when they came in for dinner and saw that it was, in fact, pizza.

“Whoah! Pizza! Yeah!”

This job makes me hate people.

But it makes me like myself. A lot. Because I eat really good food, and so do all my friends. And I can’t help but be annoyed with people who have such a shallow relationship with their food.

And the classism, that bugs me too. Kitchen workers are pretty undervalued. Like, hey mom, thanks for the cookies! Great cookies! (makes face at friends).

Nicole is vegan, so we made her a vegan pizza. There was some fake sausage in the fridge, and she used it to sculpt a likeness of her dog, wishbone, which we baked in the center of the pizza. No one wanted to eat the dog at dinner, and in the end it was fed to another dog, which seemed appropriate. The dog was a stray, that we had tied to the front steps with some climbing rope. When I heard over the radio that they had found a stray, I hoped in my heart of hearts that it was a chihuahua, and not some sort of lab. I don’t like labs very much. They brought the dog back to camp and it wasn’t a lab, but some other, more expensive breed, that looks like a lab. The dog howled for a while. Nicole was upstairs taking a nap in my bunkbed and thought it was me, making those howling sounds. Sometimes I like to make howling sounds to impersonate the dog I had for six months last year. But it wasn’t me. I was too busy rolling out pizza dough to make howling sounds.

I like my bunkbed. I like to sleep in it with Nicole, even though a child-sized bunkbed is much too small for two adults. Thank god for those little wooden railings, or I would have fallen off about twenty five times already. When I wake up to pee I sometimes don’t remember that they’re there, and try to “catch” myself from falling, like when you’re falling asleep and you jerk, because you think you’re falling off a chair, or something.

For the last two nights in my little bunkbed, I’ve been dreaming that I live in a hotel. Lots of things happen during the “day” in my dreams, but at “night”, I always go back to my hotel. And sometimes I’m staying in a different room, and they’ve moved my stuff, or set it in the hall. Last night after a hard day’s dreaming I went back to my hotel room and my dad had sent me a package. My father, the stranger who lives in Alaska and used to be a private investigator, and wrote a book on carrying concealed weapons that tells you that it’s ok to shoot children, if you see them setting fire to an elementary school- this man had sent me a package, in my dream, to my dream hotel room.

I opened the package, and inside were three dresses. They were all long, and formal, and expensive. One of the dresses was made of thick black fabric, one of them was crimson, and the one I liked best was white and strapless with flowers embroidered on it. I didn’t like any of them, but the white one was the least hideous and I felt obligation to like at least one of them. Also in the box there was a wig, which I had left at his house by mistake. A horrible, horrible wig. A thick brown wig that was curled all over, and short. The kind of wig you find at goodwill, and feel terrible, because you know that someone actually wore that wig, and it is so horrible.

And then I woke up and I was not in a hotel room. I was in a narrow bunk, with a stuffed narwhal and the sound of the river.

I went downstairs and ate a piece of pineapple, and looked at the breakfast spread Sarah had put out at 7:30 a.m., after a hard night’s drinking in the funk-shack. The funk-shack is one of the old mining camp buildings, down by the creek, next to the shed where a magical wheel turns the flowing water into a zillion watts of free electricity. In the funk-shack are sunken couches and a pool table. Christmas lights are strung up. That’s where the town has parties. Only 11 people live in our town, so me make sure and invite the no-see-ums. People drink car bombs until they see double, and it seems like there are more people to talk to. In the morning everyone wakes up hungover and covered in itchy bites, from the no-see-ums. Those bastards are worse than mosquitoes.

Last night was my first night in the funk-shack. I’d just driven Nicole out through the dark woods, and turned her over to her Volvo. It was hard saying goodbye, because I want it to be Camp Nicole all the time. I like it when she sits in the kitchen and draws while I work, and we listen to Augusten Burroughs. I like it when we walk around in the woods together, and her ankle socks get wet through her orthopedic loafers.

I drove back into camp and parked the land cruiser, and headed into the funk-shack. It was dark night so I had to stumble around a bit, and I stepped on a trailing blackberry in my sandal, getting a little thorn in my toe. In the funk-shack everyone was drunk. Sarah, my co-cook, gave me a hug, because she loves me, and also because she was drunk. And because I taught her to ride trains. The new intern, Shay, was also drunk, and joined in the hug. And then I added Conner, the other new intern. Conner looks like someone that I would never, ever hug. He looks like one of the dude-brahs, all boxy and with intense stubble, wearing a football sweatshirt and flip-flops. And he’s 18. But he’s actually maybe the nicest guy in the whole world. And you know why I think that? Because this is what he said when he was drunk-

“Thanks for including me (in the hug). I want you to know that I’m your ally. I’m your ally, and I want to get to know you better.”

He was telling me that even though I was gay and maybe a man-hater, I could trust him. That he liked me and respected me.

Young people these days! How come I was never this cool!

Soon everyone in the funk-shack was too drunk to actually talk to me, because I was sober. So I went to bed. Sarah got wasted and still got up at six a.m. to make sticky buns for the ungrateful first responders. Then they all went to swim in the gemstone-colored river, while I mixed cocoa for brownies and tried to detach myself from the end of the wooden spoon.

“You’re not baking a cake,” I tell myself as I stir- “your building a house. And you’re not going to live in the house.”

Baking desserts that you can’t actually eat or taste (because of gluten allergy) is pretty surreal. It’s like I’m making art. I might as well be building a cake out of plaster. But it takes a bit of detaching. So that I don’t give in and taste the batter and inflame my whole system. It’s like making an animal out of gumdrops and toothpicks. Or playing with play-dough. It’s fun.

“And now I’ll dust the brownies with confectioners sugar,” I say, as I lift them out of the pan, not tempted to eat a single one. “I’ll lay them out symmetrically, like this. They’re so soft and fudgy!”

At dinner, I watch the people eat the brownies. I watch them greedily take three brownies to eat. I watch the stack of brownies get smaller. I lovingly cover the remaining brownies in a feather-weight sheet of cling-wrap, and set them on the kitchen shelf for lunch the next day. I clean the brownie pan.

My job is done. The brownies have moved through me, from bags of cocoa and buckets of flour straight into the stomachs of the people. I’ll take my seven dollars, thank you very much.