I had realized at 10:30 p.m. last night that it was Frank's birthday today. I had just worked a long day, caught a new case and covered for Meldrick at the bar while he went to his great aunt and uncle's 65th wedding anniversary. The last thing I needed was an evening of confectionery, but when I got home, there it was...on my calendar with a bright red circle around it. Frank's birthday.
A quick survey of the cupboard revealed adequate supplies of sugar, flower, butter and eggs. I began pouring and stirring, flour streaked across my forehead as I wiped away the sweat from the exertion. I should have taken that hand mixer when my mom offered it.
I pulled out the pan and poured the cake into it. A lovely yellow cake. I would mix up some fudge frosting and... I looked in the cupboard. Now, why would a single man who subsists on hummus and frozen pizza have baking chocolate in his cupboard on a Tuesday night?
I looked in the refrigerator. Chocolate syrup. That would have to work, wouldn't it? It was chocolate, it made sense. I pulled out more butter and sugar and began to whip it with my wire whisk. About six strokes in it snapped in my hand. Literally. Bounced across the kitchen and into a pile of dust bunnies in the corner.
I sighed, picked up the remnants of the whisk and threw it away. Hopefully a wooden spoon would have the same results. As I began the kitchen began to fill with a pleasant odor. Frosting or not, this was going to be a beautiful cake!
The timer dinged and I pulled it from the oven. Delicious. It had risen nicely and was a beautiful golden brown color. I set it on the counter to cool and turned my attention back to the frosting. The butter remained quite lumpy and now the syrup had made it run. It wasn't going to be frosting so much as icing.
I sat down to watch the news while the cake cooled. After 35 minutes of mayhem I decided it had to be ready for the frosting/icing. I ran a knife around the edge of the cake, loosening it like I had seen my mom do with her layer cakes. I pulled out my Plexiglas cutting board to use for the large flat cake. Carefully I flipped it over. I tapped the bottom of the pan and waited. Nothing happened. I shook it slightly. Slowly I could feel the cake giving way from the pan. Giving and giving. It felt a bit off. I carefully turned the pan over to find...a pile of crumbs. The cake had split into at least 49 different pieces.
"Fuck!" I called out as I threw the pan with the remaining one third of the cake against the wall. Now the cockroaches would really have something for a treat.
I walked over to survey the remnants of my beautiful cake. There would be no ceremonial candle lighting in the coffee room. No singing of the traditional birthday song. I might as well pick up a bagel from the Daily Grind and hand that to him. I picked at the pieces, sticking one in my mouth. It was even pretty good.
I looked at the one unmarred corner and carefully cut away at it. At least I could offer Frank a piece of birthday cake. I smeared the icing over it, tearing up the top of the cake slightly. At this point I didn't really care what it looked like. I just wanted it over so I could go to bed.
Did I really think a night's sleep...good or bad...was going to help this cursed project? It had been doomed from the outset and I should have realized that. I walked into the squadroom this morning acting all cheerful and bright, slapped that little wrapped box down on my partner's desk. He looked at me like I had just chopped off my little finger and presented it to him.
"What's this Bayliss?" he asked, nearly turning me to stone with his blistering glare.
"It's a gift Frank. It's your birthday and I brought you a gift," I responded.
"A gift. A gift from Bayliss," he responded, rolling each word around in his mouth before spitting them out. He pulled at the ribbon I had salvaged off a Christmas gift I had forgotten to drop off at the landlord's the year before. He slid the rest of the ribbon off the box and slipped his finger under the edge of the box, pulling it up slowly.
I leaned forward to catch the expression on his face. What I got was a whole lot of lip. Literally and figuratively.
"Cake?" he asked. I nodded.
"You buy this, Bayliss?" I shook my head.
"You eat the rest?" I shook my head again.
"You baked a cake, you brought me a piece. I...well, Bayliss, you never fail to surprise me," he responded, that classic sardonic tone washing over me. I snatched the box back from him.
"If you don't want the cake, then you don't have to eat it. I'm sure Lewis or Kellerman will have no problem with it," I replied.
He grabbed the box back from me. "No, it's my little piece of cake. I'm sure as hell not sharing it."
I stormed over to my desk and sat down, watching as Frank examined the cake again. He poked at it, sniffed it, stuck his finger in the frosting and licked it. Disgust would be the term to describe the look on his face. He stuck his finger in it again and ate a little of the cake, shaking his head. Then he closed up the box and stuck it in his desk drawer. I sat there for a minute and then got up and headed into Gee's office.
"I think I might have food poisoning, Gee," I started. "Frank took me to get clams yesterday and well..."
He waved me off without a word, turning back to his paperwork. I walked out, grabbed my coat and left, not a word to Frank.
Of course I spent the rest of the day sitting in my recliner pouting. What else did I expect? Frank never respected me, never gave me credit for a damned thing. Why would he now?
My trip through self-pityland was interrupted by the phone.
"Bayliss," I answered.
"Tim," Mary started. "I just wanted to tell you that I thought what you did was so nice. I know Frank has a hard time saying it, but he really appreciated it. I don't know if anyone has ever baked for him, I know that the bakery counter at Giant has a standing order from me each year. He was...he was really touched and I'm not sure he said that to you."
"Well..." I stammered. I wasn't quite sure what to say. Frank was so damned...arrogant and hard and...I love him.
"Well, anyway, in case he doesn't say it, thank you, Tim."
I hung up the phone and went back to my chair. I'll definitely do it again next year, but I'm getting the hand mixer and I think I'll try a vanilla frosting instead.