The Icing on the Cake

Ever notice how often teenage boys eat? Not just often, but how much? And they’ll eat anything, anytime. They must burn a lot of energy punching each other on the shoulder.

I know a couple of teenage guys, Andy and Mike. They were on their way to soccer practice when a girl staff member emerged from their local baker shop with a large cardboard box. She marched up to a skip and threw the box in. Their eyes widened. When she left, they wandered over to the skip. Andy ripped open the box.

Dozens of unsold pastries and buns stared back at them. Plenty for both of them and their families if they chose to share. They didn’t—they scoffed everything, working their way through the pile, not bothering to finish any but stripping out the delicious interiors and stuffing their faces with cream and icing.

The other guys at training spotted the smears of cream and icing over their lips, and one asked, ‘Yo?’

Andy grinned. ‘We discovered gold.’

The next night, six guys waited for the girl with the cardboard box of goodies. Six guys were four too many.

Baker Girl emerged on time, but stopped when she saw them. The lads feigned nonchalance, checking their phones, punching each other on the shoulder. She pursed her lips but carried on, dumping the box into the skip and returning to the shop.

As the lads feasted, Andy looked up and spotted Baker Girl on the corner, observing the scene. Not in a happy way.

The next day, more lads awaited her. Baker Girl acknowledged them with a brief smirk as she passed. This time she didn’t throw the entire box into the skip. She opened it, hurled the pastries into the skip onto the reeking rubbish, and strode triumphantly back past the stricken crowd, smiling like it was Christmas.

‘Aw shit,’ muttered one kid. ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’

The next day, only Andy and Mike returned. They came a little earlier because Andy had a plan. Scrounging around the back of other shops in the mall, they collected empty cardboard boxes and flattened them. They piled the flat sheets on top of all the other rubbish, covering it. This time the incoming pastries would land on clean(ish) cardboard—a sound plan.

When Baker Girl reached the skip, she shook out the loose pastries as before and returned to the shop without even acknowledging their hopeful presence. 

Andy and Mike rushed over and peered inside.

Finger buns and cinnamon scrolls greeted them. Also, apple danishes, croissants, date scones, Boston buns, and profiteroles. Every morsel sprawled over the makeshift cardboard platter. 

Untouched. Unsullied. Totally edible.

So many more delights to choose from, and they chose them all.

Five minutes later, they stopped eating. Andy dropped his unfinished bun in the skip. ‘I feel sick.’

‘Me too,’ Mike said. ‘Let’s go.’

They never returned to that rendezvous, for they had learned one of life’s bitter lessons: sometimes when you win, you lose.