01. 29. 2007. 12:03

No Strings Attached (short story)

"None of the hysterics and blue funk whether my water’s gonna hold out, and with the groom whispering, even at the church door, you better say no, you bra buster bitch, if you value your life. None of that, love, no! They’re standing there like a pair of lovebirds, all blatant marzipan head to foot, and the three of them weighing in at a hundred pounds if one, cross my heart and hope to die."

Trust me, love, says the gold toothed, corpulent woman to the pastry chef who’s just about to throw in the towel because this thing called the confectionary business it’s had it’s day and there’s nothing but cancer warnings and frozen pizza bars now, so trust me love, throwing in the towel is not the answer, the answer lies in wedding cakes. There’s more weddings than humps on a camel’s back. It’s more than your eardrums can take, the way they honk their happiness all over town come Saturday p.m., and happiness, it’s like the red rose of Jericho, it ain’t worth shit without a cake, pastry chef old buddy, you can trust me on that, whether you throw it in or not.

Take my daughter’s cake, for instance. That cake was so big it wouldn’t fit inside the cable TV! The men showed up, gave it the once over, then they said sorry, we can’t manage. That’s what they said.

No problem, we’ll cut it down to size!

Before the wedding? Are you mental, or what? I’d rather have an arm cut off, and you the bridegroom’s mother!

At which they shrugged, make up your mind, then walked off. But don’t you worry, we weren’t born yesterday. We got it recorded for posterity on video tape, private like, and on Heroes' Square, no less, the truck coming with the cake and the box taller than the god of the Magyars or whatnot standing there with that skate board on the square. It was concocted by a certain Tremblay from Rákosszentmihály, a pastry chef plus carpenter, and not for free neither, love, trust me on that. But the price was no option.

A king’s ransom it was.

But who cares. I told my husband right away that my weak throat, he could force all of life’s bitterness down it, but once she gets hitched, our Hortensia’s gonna have a wedding cake the size of the Pope’s, or whatnot. And it’s gonna be over my dead body, if that’s what it’s gonna be, but I’m not taking no for an answer, and my husband says he’s not surprised, why would I relent now when I never relented before, so he’s not about to pick hairs with me.

And a good thing, too, love, I say, if you know what’s good for you. We had nothing, not so much as a shitty mignon or cupcake, seeing how I was in a state of advancement, but I won’t have my daughter end up like her poor knocked up mother that this larded pig didn’t hardly want to make an honest woman of. I’m referring to the perpetrator, my husband, of course! If it weren’t for my two brothers that had a talk with his head, I’m telling you like it is, he wouldn’t have done it at all, and even so it was like pulling teeth, whereas I wasn’t a sight less of a looker than Hortensia Ammonia.

It wasn’t au courant back then, giving a double name like that to a baby. The first was my initiative, the product of advanced planning, the second my husband’s, but only because my brother gave him fair warning there and then in the ward to supply a name unless, of course, he’d rather have that box of orchids stuffed down his throat, at which he thought better of it, took in the scene with his eye, and said, Ammonia, and they made a record of it.

And twenty years came and went like that and well what can I say? It was the way it was, no better nor worse than anybody else in the real world. Anyway, I said to him, look. Seeing how that son-in-law boy of ours won such a lovely honeymoon, we gotta do our share, stand by our obligations, as it were, and match that honeymoon with a wedding cake, penny for penny. I mean the Canary Islands.

He won it on a TV quiz show, he’s that clever! It was called Use Your Head and the contestants had to race through a mountain of Coke caps knee deep without letting the Coke crate fall off their head. Pretty impressive. You should try it sometime, and no shit. Anyway, he held his ground and won a real bona fide honeymoon with a fix there and back date, even though it meant moving up the wedding. But at least it wasn’t because of getting knocked up but because of him winning, and that’s one hell of a difference, love!

They were taken by a horse-drawn carriage from the banquet table straight to the departing Canary flight, because that’s what they wanted. All the way from Törökbálint, no less, the carriage up front, the six Mercedes cars with the musicians and luggage coming up the rear. They rode through that lovely summer’s dawn straight as an arrow.

And when they came back from their honeymoon, brown as two of those whatchamcallits, cockatoos, my daughter said, here, mother, take it, it’s yours. We’d only eat it. What a waste. Here’s the top tier of the wedding cake. Take it in loving memory of our honeymoon! And would you believe it, it was the section with the carved memorial, I mean the statue, it was that section of the cake. You know better than anybody where the soul of a cake is located even if you are planning to throw in the towel, love.

I grew wobbly at the knees, just thinking about it.

That cake was no dime-a-dozen conveyor belt job, mind you, it was hand made down to the last nail with as many farmer’s eggs worked into it as stars in the sky. But even so, the top was par excellence the best of the lot! Just imagine, there’s this long flight of stairs, pale-red, leading up to the altar, so cute, you wanna gobble up each and every cutsie-wootsie little step separately, and its cutsie-wootsie little railing too, plus a coconut rug strews with real coconut shavings, no less! And who do you think is standing at the top? You’ll never guess! The happy couple as true to life as you and me. Not life-size, needless to say. More like thwarted dwarfs, holding hands before the altar. That’s the momentum that was captured or whatnot, and the priest too standing there dressed to the nines, regulation like.

None of the hysterics and blue funk whether my water’s gonna hold out, and with the groom whispering, even at the church door, you better say no, you bra buster bitch, if you value your life. None of that, love, no! They’re standing there like a pair of lovebirds, all blatant marzipan head to foot, and the three of them weighing in at a hundred pounds if one, cross my heart and hope to die.

And that was just the top tier, love, the tip of the iceberg, because the floor under it was also edible down to the last bite. Any of the three hundred guests can attest to that, seeing how not one of them got the runs from the cream or what have you.

We had a piano stool made specially for that cake the size of which could accommodate the biggest ass you ever saw and not flag down the sides, and the cake on top, and when the wedding guests came trooping in with us up front, the father of the groom took out a zapper and made it spin round and round like the good earth. I couldn’t take my eye off it, all night. The Creation must’ve been like that when the Good Lord sat Himself down for a rest.

And when Hortensia and Ronald went up to that cake hand in hand to cut it with a knife, it gave a beep and played the wedding march, except unfortunately its little walkman got busted after the first couple of bars, even though it cost a small fortune due to the electric eye.

A small fortune, Mr. Rigó!

But it was worth every penny! Six tiers authentic as you or me and as I said, two were edible, even, only the rest served for decoration. And do you think anybody could tell the difference? Well, they couldn’t! Come on over, I said to my husband, take a look and tell me. Which is the foam rubber plus icing and which the pure marzipan? But he couldn’t tell. He spent the whole night drinking, and the doctor having to induce vomiting twice. It’s all foam rubber, the old fart said, all of it!

Anyway, my daughter gave us that whole altar scene as a present, with no strings attached. Just keep it under glass, she said, and let in some air now and then if you don’t want them to go bad on you. So I had one of those glass houses made specially, like the one at the cemetery in Palota, electricity, ventilation, the works. Everything excepting a bench, because what would a bench be doing in a bedroom, if you know what I mean. I even asked Tremblay the pastry chef about the prospects, about how much wear and tear a marzipan like that can take. A whole lot, he said, and I should put my mind at rest, excepting moths and mice, a whole lot.

Plus it doesn’t benefit them much being nibbled at neither, so I try and restrain myself, I really do, especially with my blood sugar. But more’s the pity, a bit of the railing or a bit of the stairs do slip down now and then. Alas. But what can I do when it’s the only thing I got in life, plus how good it feels standing inside that little crypt in the cool air and sating my appetite and crying and thinking on the youth that go up the stairs, not down, and no thrombosis in the leg.

  

Translated by: Judith Sollosy

Tags: Lajos Parti Nagy