Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Spring 2016 Results




Don't Eat the Cookies

Copyright © Michelle Rule 2016


"I'll be over at ten," my mother-in-law chides before hanging up the phone.

I carefully backtrack through the conversation, in my mind, trying to work out if something I said might have been confused for an invitation; I'm stumped but that doesn't change anything because in thirty minutes she will be standing at my front door with a judgey expression firmly planted on her face.

I look around the living room in despair. If I had more time it wouldn't be a hopeless situation but in thirty minutes I will barely be able to collect the knickers scattered across the floor like confetti or the various assortment of drinking glasses overturned in the kitchen, which are not the aftermath of some wild party, but rather the aftermath of a morning home with a three-year-old toddler.

"Gabby," I call to her.

Silence.

"Gabby," I call urgently as I wander through the house following her latest path of destruction, until I reach her bedroom where I find her curled up asleep.

She's asleep? She's asleep! It's like stumbling upon the Holy Grail.

Without her distraction I might have a chance of getting things tidied up before my mother-in-law arrives. Feeling optimistic, I grab an empty washing basket and quickly collect some floor debris as I make my way back to the living room.

I am hiding toys underneath the couch when it suddenly occurs to me that the only foods I have to offer for morning tea are apples and cheese sticks. UnlessÖ

I open the freezer and stare at the tub of cookie dough I bought a few weeks ago at a fundraising stall. I've never used ready-made cookie dough before but it can't be that hard. The tub tells me that the cookies take approximately fifteen minutes to make. They should be ready in time! I start reading the instructions.

Turn on the oven, check.

Line the baking trays with paper, check!

I roll one little ball of dough victoriously.

My mother-in-law won't know that I cheated and for once, maybe, I have a chance of looking like I have things under control.

"Mummy, wipe my bottom!"

Thatís not in the instructions on the tub but nonetheless it canít really be ignored, so I leave the little cookie ball as it is and go wipe a little bottom instead.

Gabby is clearly awake now, as I see toilet paper strewn everywhere. There is water on the floor too (at least I hope its water). I clear up the toilet paper and I mop with disinfectant, in case it was something other than water on the floor, then I go back to rolling the little balls.

Two more done; this is easy.

I am so engrossed in the task at hand that it takes me longer than normal to realise that I can hear the sound of water running from a tap. I sprint to the bathroom to see Gabby standing on a stool trying to wash her hands. I am grateful that my germ lectures are paying off; however, I sigh as I see the sink is flooded, the floor is wet and the cold water tap is on full-pelt.

I help her wash her hands and then I wipe over the bench and the floor, followed swiftly by turning on the television. I hope this will keep her entertained long enough for me to get the trays in to the oven. I'll have to remember to turn the television off before my mother-in-law arrives though; she thinks it rots brains but I don't believe her. I watched heaps of television when I was growing up and my brain is just fine. Or it was; before I had a toddler.

I roll the rest of the balls, and they are looking good. Move over Betty Crocker; there's a new baking queen in town!

I put the tray in the oven.

"Mummy, get me the ninja turtles mask and sword!" Gabby squeals as she jumps around me, flailing pretend nun-chucks, imitating the cartoon that she is watching.

"Ask nicely Gabby," I remind her.

"Please mummy, get me the ninja turtles mask and sword NOW."

I reason to myself that she did use the word please, so I traipse to the costume box and find the sword and mask. My older son has all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle masks. He won't like her playing with any of them but he's at school right now and not here to argue it, so I bring back the orange mask and the sword.

"Nooooo! I want the red one," she insists.

"Then you can get it yourself," I moan as she toddles off towards her brother's open bedroom door.

I can hear muffled crying so I follow her to see that she has dumped his box of dress up costumes all over the floor but she still can't find the red mask.

"Is this it?" I ask her, picking up the first red thing that I can see.

I think a colour blind monkey could have found it, given where it was located, yet somehow it eluded Gabby. She grabs it off me enthusiastically as she wipes away her crocodile tears, and runs back to the television.

I start putting the other costumes back in the box when I am sure I can smell something burning.

The cookies!

I run to the oven and see that one half of the tray contains cookies that are quite a dark brown and not completely burnt, but the other half has cookies that resemble charcoal. They look nothing like the picture on the side of the cookie dough tub that I am gazing wistfully at. I silently curse the company that made this dough and printed that picture on the tub to make me feel so completely inadequate at baking. I might have gotten too confident too soon; I'm sorry Betty Crocker.

Of the ten cookies, five are completely burnt. I collect the remaining five cookies and arrange them nicely on a serving platter as there is a knock on the door.

I turn off the television as Gabby charges for the door and she drops the ninja accessories just in time.

"Nanna," she squeals as she runs to give her a hug.

The water in the kettle starts to boil as Gabby climbs up the chair next to the kitchen bench.

"Mummy, can I have a cookie?" she asks sweetly.

She is talking to her Nanna as I set plates at the dining room table. As soon as a cookie is placed on a plate Gabby appears and she greedily takes a bite.

"Yuck, mummy."

She scrunches up her nose and sticks out her tongue. I've seen that look once before when I tried to hide broccoli in pasta sauce. But I don't think that's it; the cookie dough didn't have broccoli listed as an ingredient.

I grab one of the cookies and take a bite.

Uh-oh, Gabby is right. They are yuck! They were a bit overcooked, I admit, but now they have cooled down they have hardened to resemble rocks and have a slightly smoky flavour which I am sure was not intended in the recipe.

"Don't eat the cookies," I warn as my mother-in-law reaches for one.

"Not to worry, love. I am sure they're not that bad," she says as she eats the cookie despite the warning.

I see the judgey look on her face for the brief moment; before she hides it with another expression and then smiles through gritted teeth.

With a sigh, I start arranging a plate of apples and cheese sticks.

***

I forget about the cookies until much later in the day, when I see my husband open the container and put a cookie to his mouth.

I shout "Donít eat the cookies," but I am not fast enough; he has taken a bite.

"Did you try to hide broccoli in them?" he asks, laughing, as he throws the rest in the bin.