This Bake Sale Is Over

Pack up your brownies. Seal up the tupperware. Shut the lid tight. Hide those tin foil flecks, forever.

No one touch the crumbs! Let the birds eat the crumbs.

After what has happened this afternoon, birds may fly here no more.

Birds may fly here no more.

Let the large boys solemnly fold the tables we borrowed from the parish, first laying them on their sides, then sliding down the little rings, and then pushing in the legs. Let the girls run ahead and inform the parish: the bake sale has ended several hours earlier than scheduled; we need them to open the basement under the gym, to return the tables. Let the smaller boys watch helplessly and wish they were either larger or girls.

You have failed.

You have failed miserably. This day is darker, darker than your terrible guesses of how much candy was in the jar. Darker, even, than when the Greyberry twins — the only ones whose guess was even close — were revealed as the cheating charlatans we now know them to be.

Marian, would you kindly grab the price sheet? Yes, the paper where we scratched out price after price, lowering and lowering, until we got where we are now: zero. No, Marian, do not discard it. I will hang it on our classroom’s front door so we never forget this day.

Do not wipe your tears away! I want you to taste them. Savor the salty flavor. It’s powerful, evocative, striking — unlike the tripe you brought to this sham.

And Philip — why did you bring tripe to a bake sale?!

There is nothing standing in between you and your failure. No rain, no clouds, no national tragedy to explain it all away.

I have never seen Rice Krispies like these. Never such Krispies as these.

The parish bells are ringing, children! Turn off that music, Maya, draining tinnily from your bluetooth-enabled speaker. Let us hear the bells ring. Ding dong, ding dong…

Wait. Wait! The metro train is coming… the commuters! Children! Get back here! Quickly! Unfold the tables, open the tupperware! The train is stopping! I forgot the commuters. The commuters will be here in moments, and they will be hungry from their long days of labor!

And… could it be? The pastor! Here comes the pastor, cash in hand, hungry for cookies after visiting the sick all afternoon.

And the whole parish behind him?!

Here comes the fire department, famished after a long shift at the fire. Here come the police, and all the prisoners, and all their families and friends. What have I done?

Here comes the President, and all the Presidents before him, and all the hungry people of the world. What have I done, Marian? What have I done, Philip and Niles? What have I done, the Greyberry twins?

Oh god, my tears are so salty. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Look at me, children. Don’t look away. I want you to look upon me. Don’t become me. Don’t become Mr. Gritt, Grade 7, Room 602, age 67, diabetic, Catholic, married.

Oh god, what have I done?

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