Almost awake, I was scrolling through an article online this morning from a source in which I trust when an advertisement down at the bottom caught my eye:

“Celebrated Freedom Cakes, Inc.  Manufacturer seeks new products.  High profile informational seminar.  

I had never heard of such Freedom Cakes before, obviously they were some fashion of cake.  These taste buds of mine have always been rather demanding as far as confections are concerned, and since some time had managed to lend itself to me, I figured why the hell not go and see what this “informational” fuss about Freedom Cakes was all about.

It took place in a rather obnoxious casino ballroom, and, all the while, Kool-aid and cakes were being served by the fistfuls.  The cakes, of course, were Freedom Cakes.  I tried both, but I can’t say that I liked them very much.  The crust had a sticky sweet staleness about it, and the cake inside was way too damn dry.  The Kool-aid, I spit out, too much artificial sweetener for my taste.  I found it hard to believe that anyone could enjoy treats such as these.

Still, everyone gathering for the fuss was around my age, some older, others even younger.  I was given a ticket with a number 777, so that meant that at least 222 came after me, which meant there was upwards of a thousand people in attendance for this fuss.  Pretty damn impressive for cakes if you ask me.  

Sitting next to me was a girl around her own age, with bright blue eyes.  She was as pretty as pretty could be with a personality just as sweet.

“Say, have you tried one of those Freedom things?” I asked her.  

“Of course,” she said with an anxious giggle. “Everybody has. They’re world famous.”

“Yeah, but they’re not any—“ I mentioned to say, when she kicked me in the shin.  Everyone around us threw nasty glances in my direction.  The mood quickly turned hostile, and barely did I, but I did—I pulled through it with my best Charlie Brown maneuver.

“Are you nuts?” The girl whispered to me a short time afterward.  “Coming to a place like this and bad-mouthing Freedom Cakes?  The Freedom Crows could hear about this and get you, you know?”

“Yes, I am nuts—and the Freedom Crows!” I exclaimed. “What the hell are —?

“Shhh!” The woman shushed me, trying for my shin again.  The fuss was soon to be underway. 

The President of Freedom Cakes, Inc. opened up the whole shit and shebang with a brief history about Freedom Cakes.  It was one of those dubious so-called “factual” accounts about how so and so and someone else way back in the 7th century whipped up some flour, sugar, and egg to make the very first Freedom Cake ever known to man.  He went so far as to claim that there was a poem written about Freedom Cakes, first sung in the war of whatchamacallit.  I almost laughed out loud at that one, but everybody around me was drunk off the Kool-aid, so I stopped myself from causing a scene.  

The president blew smoke up everyone’s ass for almost two hours on end.  It had grown quite mind-numbing from the beginning, outright boring if you ask me.  All he could say was that Freedom Cakes were a confectionery delight with a very stable foundation and tradition behind them, which he could’ve said in just as many words.

Next, the managing director graced the stage to explain the call for brand new Freedom Cake products.  Freedom Cakes were a great national confection boasting a well preserved history, he said, but even such an outstanding product such as Freedom Cakes needed new blood injected into them from time to time. To go on growing stronger and developing in fresh and flavorful ways logically suited to each new age.  

This may have sounded all hunky dory, but basically he was just admitting that the taste of Freedom Cakes had become to old-fashioned now and sales were at an all time low, so they needed new ideas.  He could of said that in so many words also.

On my way out I went out of the way to get a copy for the rules of submission.  You had to make a genuine confection using most, if not all, of the ingredients that make up the famous Freedom Cake, and deliver it by hand to the company in one month.  No extensions.  Top prize: A lifelong spot on the board of Freedom Cakes, Inc, or one million bucks, winner’s choice.

As I touched on earlier, I can be rather demanding where confections are concerned.  And I can make just about anything myself, in just about any style: love spun lemonade donuts, cream puffs, banana creme pie, and once even a huckleberry sticky roll.  The lemonade donuts though, always my go to.  It would be easy for me to create a contemporary concoction for Freedom Cakes in a months time. 

Exactly one month later I lightly fried up about five dozen donuts with love.  I had glazed them all with the good old red, white, and blue icing.  The cherry on top, I thought.  “Brand new Freedom Cakes coming through,” I said, speaking with confidence as I strolled through the lobby of Freedom Cakes, Inc.

“They look amazing,” said the girl at the counter.  The same one from the fuss I noticed.  “Donuts, too.  Nice touch.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “Say, I remember you, from the seminar.  I assume that you work here?”

“Yes sir. I’m, unfortunately, an intern.” 

“Here, try some donuts.” I offered without considering.

After a taste, she looked up and with a slight roll of her eyes said, “these might be the sweetest confections I’ve had the pleasure of tasting”

“You think so?  I just used a little bit of love, that’s all,” I said.  “Hell, they might just burn the whole place down,” I winked on my way out.

 


 

Exactly one month later I received a call from Freedom Cakes Inc., asking me to join them for a light lunch the following day.  Their place, noon sharp.  I went there dressed as best I could, in a tie and all, and was met in the reception area by the logistics director.  The girl from the fuss, unaware I was there, went the opposite direction as I entered the room.  

“The new Freedom Cake you submitted has been very well received by the administrative staff,” the director said.  “Especially with the younger members of the team.”  

“That’s good to hear?” I said surprised. 

“On the other side, however, there are those among us older employees who—how shall I mention this?—who say that the creation you have made is nowhere near the realm of Freedom Cakes.  It is true, your little recipe, sir, has caused quite the stir.  

“Do tell more,” I said, wondering what his play was.  

“And so, with that being said, the board of directors has decided to make the difficult decision to leave this little misunderstanding up to their Majesties the Freedom Crows.

“The Freedom Crows!” I exclaimed.  “Who are these Freedom Crows?”

The director gave me a distorted look, “Do you mean to tell me you entered this competition without any knowledge of the Freedom Crows?”

“Sorry sir, but I’ve led a rather sheltered life as far as the mass-producing of confections are concerned.”

“This is outrageous, horrendous,” he said.  “If you don’t know about the Crows, then what…” he stopped himself. “Oh well, pay no mind. Please follow me.”

I followed him out of the room, down the stairs, around the hall, when we came upon an elevator.  We took that to the thirteenth floor, down another hall, until we came to an iron door.  The director pushed a buzzer, a heavyset man in black appeared.  Once he had confirmed the director’s credentials, he opened the massive door.  Security inside was a tight as a Kid Rock concert out of meth on a Monday night.

“Their Majesties the Freedom Crows live in here,” said the director. “They are an extremely rare family of Crows.  For centuries on end, they have feasted only on Freedom Cakes to stay alive.” 

No other explanation was necessary.  The shit had literally hit the fan.  Bird shit was everywhere.  There were over a hundred plus crows in this cagey cavernous room, which was more like a birdcage with forty foot ceilings, and wires everywhere, stretching from wall to wall.  Oddly enough, there were boxes of antique fireworks everywhere. The Crows were perched in space-impeding rows on every inch of wire.  They were abnormally bigger than your normal crow, a good four feet in length some of them.  Even the much smaller ones came in at a couple feet long.  They were missing their eyes, every last one of them.  Where their eyes should’ve been, there was, instead, actual lard, globs of white fat.  Most of their bodies were swollen to the point of no return.  

When the crows heard us meandering about, they started flapping their wings and cawing angrily.  Boisterous sons of bitches, I thought.  At first, it sounded like nothing more than a bunch of formless roar, but as my ears adjusted to it all, I realized they were cawing, “Freedom! Freedom!” They were horrendous creatures to behold.  

From a box within his possession, the director went about scattering Freedom Cakes all over the cage, in response to which all hundred plus birds leapt down for just a crumble of cake, a Freedom Cake, to speak with preciseness.  In their unhindered fever to get a little slice of Freedom, the Crows began to peck at each others eyes. Then feet. In that order.  No wonder they all went blind, they couldn’t control themselves.

Next, the director took something vaguely similar to Freedom Cakes from an entirely different box, and scattered those across the cage.  “Watch this,” he said to me.  “This is a recipe that was eliminated from the competition.  

The birds spun down as they had earlier, but as soon as they realized the cakes were nothing like their one and only Freedom Cake, they spit them in the vicinity of us, riling up a stirring ruckus.

Freedom!

Freedom!

Freedom!

The cries and cawing echoed throughout the covered cage until my ears felt like they were going to bleed.  

“You see, they will only eat the most delightful confection ever known to man, the Freedom Cake,” yelled the director over their cries.  “They never buy the imitation.”

Freedom!

Freedom!

Freedom!

“Now let’s try your recipe.  Let’s try it with your creation of donuts.  If they eat them, you win.  If not, you lose.”

“What happens if I lose?”

“One never knows until that time comes,” he said listless, yet wise beyond his years.

Shit, something told me this wasn’t going to go as I planned.  Was I scared, or not?  And why the hell were they letting a bunch of miserable blind birds decide the results of such a high profile confectionery competition? Unaware of my misgivings, the director vigorously scattered my attempt at Freedom Cakes all over the damn cage.  

Again the crows pounced. And, well, that was when all hell broke loose.

Some of the crows ate my donuts up with gusto, but other spit them out and screamed, “Freedom! Freedom!”  And still, the others who had yet to taste a crumble of my confectionery dream, well, they went into a frenzy and started pecking at the throats of the birds that were eating my creation.  Blood flew everywhere.  One even spontaneously combusted.  One crow pounced on a piece that another spit out, but yet, a bigger one landed on him, and with a cry of “Freedom!” ripped the other one’s beak off.  From there on out, a total windfall, the cage collapsing.  Blood calling forth for more blood, rage leading to more rage.  And to think this was all happening over my own creative confection, but to these birds, Freedom Cakes were theirs, and theirs alone.  Whether a cake was a so-called Freedom Cake, or not, was, in fact, a matter of life and death to them.

“Now look what you’ve done!” screamed the director.

“Me?” I shouted back.  “You just threw the cakes in front of them like that all of a sudden.  The stimuli was way too strong, next time try easing them in.  After all, those donuts I made with Heaven in mind.

“What?” He asked confused. 

A crow flying drunk on love, flew into one of those candelabra things, which brought about flames as it hit the ground.  It was, no doubt, time for me to get the hell out of there.

Using my best Charlie Brown maneuver, I quietly found my way to the exit, took the elevator down, and ding, opened the elevator.  “Oh, my fate, what have you here?” I startlingly ask the girl from the fuss.

“Hey you,” she said. “How’d it go up there?”

Before I could speak I had to think. I hated to run away from a possible million bucks in prize money, but I wanted not a damn thing to do with those crazy birds, and I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life shoving artificial sugar up their pompous asses.  And besides, it’s never been about the money. Those damn birds knew fuck-all about confections as far as I was concerned.

“Lovely,” I said.  

“Hey, you want to go grab a glass of lemonade.  It’s a scorcher out there.  Maybe cool down for a minute”  I asked with a hurried politeness.

“Sure, I’ve got some time to kill.”  

As we were sipping our lemonade while leisurely strolling through the park, the fire trucks started showing up in droves.

“Oh shit!” She said noticing the flames from what now appeared to be a cage on top of a building.

“What the hell happened up there?” she asked.

“The powers that be couldn’t come to a decision as far as love was concerned,” I said.  “But none of that matters anymore.  Just the freedom of this moment and getting to know you does.  That’s the simple truth to this story.   How’s your lemonade?”

“It’s got the perfect amount of sweetness, it’s quite lovely I must say.”

As fireworks surprisingly started to fill the daytime sky, I thought to myself while she sipped on her lemonade, so very content and happy, that even in the depths of hell, I found the simplicity of Heaven in a moment.  That’s the simple truth of why, these confections I will forever create.

“So tell me ma’am, what sort of creative confections do you fancy?”

Yes indeed, love was in the air.

To Be Continued…

-Ryan Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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