Tag: gingerbread

The Safest and the Bestest House

Stewart was determined to stay safe. He designed an underground fortress guarded by layers of traps and a fiendishly difficult maze. Of course there were problems with the plans, right from the start.

“How will you breathe down there?” the architect asked when Stewart showed him a modified version of part of the plans. He had a separate piece to show to an unrelated architect in another country once he perfected his newest disguise and fake ID.

Stewart snatched away the plan and looked at it. Right. Breathing was important. Not breathing wasn’t safe at all. Perhaps he could invest in a self-contained underground breathing apparatus? But air tanks could be tampered with.

Air shafts might work, but that was how all the robbers and spies got in. Well, he could set traps for them. He was good at designing traps. “I’ll be back,” he told the architect. “Maybe.”

Instead, a week later, he visited a different architect, far, far away, while dressed as a popular celebrity. Reluctantly, he handed over a modified version of part of the revised plans. The new architect looked them over.

“I don’t know, Santa,” the architect said. “Won’t these traps be dangerous for all your elves? And where will you keep the reindeer?”

“Ho ho hum,” Stewart-in-disguise said. “The elves don’t live in my house, of course.”

“This is a house?”

“Yes,” Stewart admitted reluctantly.

Why was the architect asking all of these personal questions? It was very suspicious. He considered snatching the plans and searching for recording devices.

“But how will you get in and out? It seems very inconvenient.”

“Why would I want to leave? Look how safe I would be.” And these plans didn’t even show half of the traps.

The architect laughed. “Besides delivering all those presents, of course, you may want to get food and check your mail. Pay taxes. Take out the trash.”

It all sounded terrible and completely unsafe. Stewart snatched his plans and left. On the trip home, dressed as the grim reaper so that people would keep their distance, Stewart reviewed his plans and thought about what the latest architect said. Did he need to leave the house for food?

He didn’t eat much. That shouldn’t be a problem.

Taxes? If he hid well enough, he could avoid that, but the government wouldn’t be pleased. That wasn’t safe. Besides, hiding his house meant it would be discovered the moment someone dug deep enough not knowing he was there.

Hiding might seem safer, because if they didn’t know you were there, they wouldn’t come looking. However, the traps and maze would keep everyone out. Including the mail carrier. Did he need mail? It would be nice to order in, but if he had to leave the house to get the mail, he might as well go to the store.

But were stores safe? All those people and germs and potential hazards? Maybe he needed a mail chute and a good list of places to order from. He could order in groceries. There were probably traps he could add to the mail chute that wouldn’t harm the mail, right? And he could reverse that for a garbage chute of some sort.

Stewart revised his plans, modified them to hide most of the traps, and recopied part of the revised, modified plans. He found a new architect that did video conferencing. With a little bit of programming, he presented himself as a cartoon character. He emailed the plans in an email that would delete itself five minutes after being viewed.

“Hello,” the architect said. “I don’t meet many roadrunners in my line of work. Looking at these plans, I can tell that you are concerned for your safety. Is there any particular threat you are concerned about? It may be easier to defend against something specific. It seems like you think the world is out to get you.”

Stewart thought about the last time he’d left the house. The little old woman, the little old man, the dog, the cat, the fox… everyone he met had tried to eat him. He’d had to run, run as fast as he could to get to safety. “The world is out to get me,” he said.

“Well, you would be safe from the world in a house like this,” the architect replied.

“Good,” Stewart said. It was time to start building.

Gingerbread Peril

Once there was a little old woman who was baking a tray of lovely gingerbread aliens. After they cooled, she piped icing onto each little alien, making sure that they had three eyes and ten limbs and rainbow freckles. Just as she finished the last freckle on the last alien, the whole tray of cookies sat up, jumped out of the pan, and slid down the legs of the table.

The little old woman stood up so quickly that her chair fell down behind her with a thud. Unfortunately, the aliens were already at the front door. They slipped through the mail slot one by one before she could catch them.

She threw open the front door and ran down the first three steps in her slippers. The gingerbread aliens had all disappeared. “Come back,” she called to her empty front yard. “I need you for the bake sale. The choir needs new robes.”

But the gingerbread aliens did not come back. They hid under the rose bush until she went back inside. Then they crept around the edge of the yard and through the picket fence. The first alien frosted was the oldest of the group, so he was in charge and led the way.

They passed a yard with a wire fence. Behind the fence, a big black dog barked loudly. “Come here, little cookies,” he said. “I am hungry, and I think it’s been a million years since I last ate.”

“What good would that do us?” the oldest alien asked.

“What else are cookies good for?”

The gingerbread aliens all scowled with all three of their eyes. The dog took a step back. The aliens kept walking. “We are not here for bake sales or feeding dogs,” the oldest cookie said as they left.

“Then why are you here?” the dog asked. But the gingerbread aliens were all gone. “Come back,” he called. “I’m so hungry. Come back!”

But the aliens did not come back. They kept walking.

The oldest alien led them to a stream. A fox was sunning himself on the bank. He stood up as they arrived. “Do you need a ride across the stream? I could carry you on my back.”

The gingerbread aliens conferred in a murmur. “What is the cost?” the oldest cookie asked at last.

The fox smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. “I would only eat a few of you. Maybe five or six.”

“No.” The cookies turned and started walking alongside the stream.

“What else are cookies good for?” the fox called after them. But the gingerbread aliens were gone. The fox laid back down with a huff and fell asleep.

The cookies eventually reached a bridge. At this point, their many feet were crumbly and their icing was sticky. “Just a little further,” the oldest said.

But, as they reached a bridge, out jumped a troll. “Anyone who crosses my bridge must pay a toll,” he said.

“We won’t allow you to eat any of us,” the oldest gingerbread alien said. All the cookies glared fiercely.

“Trolls don’t eat sugar. That’s poison to us. I want gold or meat.”

The oldest cookie pointed further down the bank in the opposite direction. “Like that?”

The troll turned. He squinted. “Like what?” But when he turned back around, the gingerbread aliens were gone. “Come back. You didn’t pay the toll,” he bellowed. But the cookies did not come back.

They were already across the bridge and walking through the meadow on the other side. They darted towards a metal lump leaning against the fence on the far side of the meadow. It looked a bit like two large cake pans stuck together.

As the cookies approached the lumpy metal thing, they disappeared one by one, oldest to youngest. And then the lumpy metal thing rose in the air and disappeared.

Two doughnuts were inside already and began passing around paperwork. “How did it go? Did everyone make it back?”

The oldest gingerbread alien sighed. “Yes, but I would recommend scrapping the randomizer. It’s far too risky. I don’t think the camouflage potential is worth the risk. How long until this wears off?”

“Tomorrow somebody is going to have a batch of cookies back. And two doughnuts.”

The gingerbread alien sighed. “Well, maybe she’ll have something for her bake sale after all. I’m just glad it won’t be us. Cookies lead a hard life. Everyone wants to eat them.”

“Sure,” the doughnut said. “What else are cookies good for?”

The Wicked Baker of the North

Martha was a marvelous baker, of course. Everyone in her little town knew she would grow up to be a baking prodigy by the time she was five and selling masterful macrons at a roadside stand when the other children were selling lemonade. Her petit fours were winning competitions just a year later, and Martha dreamed of someday baking for kings and presidents before retiring to write a bestselling cookbook and starting a legendary culinary academy.

Unfortunately, when she finally opened her own bakery, business was slow. People in town did their own baking, unless it was for an important occasion. And when those occasions arrived, they all wanted a nice, big vanilla cake with buttercream frosting and some kind of filling.

Martha liked cake, but she wanted to create crusty croissants, buttery brioche, and sugar-dusted scones. When the grocery store opened a bakery and started selling cheap baked goods that tasted mostly of flour, her customer base was cut in half. Things had reached a crisis point.

Something needed to change. But what could she do? If only she could move to a bigger city where more people might appreciate a well-crafted croquembouche or an elegant eclair. Yet, in order to move, she needed funds, and money was in short supply.

Martha would not accept defeat. She had known since she was three years old that she would grow up to be a world famous baker. Those strange dreams of dancing sugarplums had to mean something, after all.

And so, she cooked up an amazing plan. She would do some sort of newsworthy publicity stunt. People would come to her bakery to see whatever it was and spend money. Once she had enough money, she would move her bakery to somewhere much more bakery-friendly and live happily ever after.

All she needed was that publicity stunt. One day, while she was biting the head off of an unsold giant gingerbread man, the idea came to her. She could build a life-size gingerbread house, one big enough to live in. If she lived in it for a week or two, surely that would break some kind of record, and the world would beat a path to her door.

Now that she had a plan, all of Martha’s considerable focus was directed to building a gingerbread house, one cookie brick at a time. She went all out with frosting décor and giant gumdrop furniture. It was the house of her dreams, if she’d been dreaming of cookie houses instead of dancing sugarplums.

The townsfolk watched in wonder, uncertain whether Martha had finally gone crazy. A kind looking woman walked up one day to warn her that cookie houses weren’t very practical. A well-meaning doctor asked if she’d been feeling overwhelmed or stressed lately.

Martha persevered. She had a plan. And when the house was nearly complete, she alerted the newspapers in all the big cities and sent invitations to every celebrity she could think of. This was going to be big. She baked superb snicker doodles and beautiful baklava in anticipation of the crowds.

The night before she was going to move into the completed gingerbread house, she was in her bakery working late. The moon was full, and the kitchen windows overlooked the nearby forest that towered over the cookie house at the edge of the bakery lawn. It was picturesque.

Or, it would have been, if not for the mob of small children devouring the gingerbread house by moonlight. Martha thought that werewolves or vampires or zombies would have been preferable. People were willing to travel long distances to hunt for supernatural monsters, and that might be an even better publicity stunt. The gumdrop bed wasn’t very comfortable, after all.

But no one would travel any distance to see a gang of kids with a sweet tooth. Those were not rare at all. Martha stood up straight and reached into the nearby closet. She would not stand by and watch her amazing plan get gobbled up.

She burst out of the door shrieking and waving a broom. The children screamed and scattered, running away as fast as they could. The damage wasn’t easy to repair, and the house was still unlivable when the reporters and celebrities arrived. Her tales of ravenous hordes of children were met with confusion.

“But where are the children now? I would have expected an army of children with such delicious delights on offer.” The reporter gestured to the table of sweet samples Martha had prepared for her guests.

“They’re probably afraid I’ll bake them in my giant commercial-grade ovens,” she joked. The reporters all nodded and wrote her response. “That was a joke,” she pointed out. “I’m not a wicked witch. Maybe just a wicked baker.”

Everyone looked at the table of tasty-looking treats. “Are they poisoned?” A famous author asked, sounding oddly hopeful.

“Of course not, who do you think I am?” Martha asked angrily.

She found out soon enough. The tale was twisted and told out of context. Some local children named Hansel and Gretel told some outrageous fairy tale to the reporters after her interview. They called her the Wicked Baker of the North.

The locals steered clear of her bakery after that. Luckily, out-of town visitors swarmed the bakery, hoping for glimpses of the witch. Martha pretended to be her assistant and told everyone they’d just missed her.

Within a year, she was able to close her bakery and move to a larger town under a new name. There she proficiently peddled profiteroles and never looked back. In fact, whenever she saw Hansel and Gretel’s tell-all tale in bookstores, she hid the books behind a nice cookbook and pretended she hadn’t seen them. She lived happily ever after.