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.

Just Kidding Around

Do you know anybody who can regularly make people squirm with embarrassment just by asking an innocent question? 

I do.

From a young age, a close male relative the Kid, was the kind of guy who’s keen to learn, and he followed instructions eagerly.  ‘Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions,’ I had once told him. ‘Only stupid people are too scared to ask questions, and so they guess the answers and often get them wrong.’  

He nodded his three-year-old head as if he’d gained some powerful spiritual medicine, and I was happy that had helped him grasp a basic part of learning. 

Later that day I took him to the supermarket.

In aisle 12, we were scanning the shelves when the Kid walked up to an elderly woman and asked her, ‘Why do you have a moustache?’

Horrified, I whisked him away, apologising to the woman who gazed back at me with hatred.

‘You shouldn’t ask women personal questions like that,’ I told him. He accepted this, but confusion darkened his face.

I led us into the next aisle, where a one-legged man sat in a wheelchair. My heart sank. The Kid ran up to him. ‘Why did you chop your leg off?’

I dashed forward to rescue the guy from more embarrassment, but he held a hand up. 

‘I was in a bad motorcycle accident,’ he said. ‘They cut my leg off at the hospital.’

‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘He’s only three.’

‘It’s okay,’ the guy replied, shaking his head in… well, I don’t know what.

As I shepherded the Kid away, he advised the ex-motorcyclist, ‘You should be more careful, shouldn’t you.’ I didn’t dare look back.

We had one more aisle left to visit. It was empty except for one young black guy and his white girlfriend. Of course, the Kid had a question for him.

‘Why are you so black?’ he asked the guy. The girlfriend narrowed her eyes, but the guy laughed.

‘I’ve never been asked that question before,’ he said. 

The girlfriend wasn’t so easygoing. ‘Why are you so white?’ she shot back.

The Kid shrugged. I hadn’t yet introduced him to Descartesian philosophy, so he was lost for an answer.

‘Sorry, he’s only three,’ I told them, and steered him away. Any more explanation could only make things worse.

‘That guy back there,’ the Kid said thoughtfully at the checkout, ‘I think he’s a basketballer.’

You see? If you don’t give people the correct answers, they make ’em up.