It was a Saturday night in early September when the fruit wars began. They were difficult times. Times when people ate kale un-ironically and served avocado ice cream as dessert.
My best friend Bill met Linda and I at the door. He ushered us into the house and seated us at the table. His wife, Susan, puttered around the kitchen. “Dinner in a jiff,” she said.
Bill mixed drinks. He sloshed liquids and dropped olives like atom bombs into chiseled martini glasses. My wife crossed her legs. The lacy hem of her slip caught my eye and I held her knee. Susan exited the kitchen with a lasagna. She started dishing it out.
We ate and drank happily, talking about the novel Linda had sold, heaping high praise on Susan and her lasagna, and complaining about the cost of our kids’ college these days. “My God,” Linda said. “It’s enough to make you drink,” and we all raised our glasses to that.
An hour later, in anticipation of dessert, I adjusted the napkin on my lap. My mouth watered. I fingered the tight belt around my waist, determined to make room. Dessert— a serious affair. Required at every meal. My wife’s email is filled with forwards from Betty Crocker, her apron permanently stained by chocolate.
Susan set her cake on the table. A delicious orb piled high with white whipped frosting. There was a chance it was chocolate. No, maybe red velvet, or even carrot.
When Susan cut into the cake my jaw dropped. It was fruit. Fucking fruit. Individual slabs of fat fruit slices layered to resemble a cake. I counted the rings. Cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew on repeat. And the frosting was not frosting. It was sour cream and honey whipped to resemble frosting. Plainly put, the cocktease of cakes.
“What the hell is this? I asked. Linda touched the sleeve of my shirt. Her hair fell across her face as she shushed me.
“Is something wrong, Fred?” asked Bill.
Susan lowered the knife. “It’s a new recipe.”
“It’s Weight Watchers,” Bill said. “You know we’re trying to give up sweets.”
“No. No. I don’t want to hear it,” I said. I took a tug at my drink.
“Fred,” Linda said. “Why don’t you try it before you—”
“No. Honey, no. I don’t want this shitty fruit cake.”
“Look now. Listen,” Bill said. His chest puffed out. “No one insults my wife’s cooking.”
“Cooking? That’s a joke. In what world do you slap pieces of fruit together and call it a cake?” I looked at Susan. Her lips puckered and pouted in obvious displeasure. “You should be ashamed.”
“Whoa, whoa, Fred! Leave Susan out of this.”
I stood. “Fuck you and your fucking fruit. Get your coat, honey. We’re leaving.”
Back at home, we undressed and got into bed. I removed my socks and picked the lint from between my toes. Linda sat naked beside me and rubbed lotion all over her arms. She smelled like gladiolas. “I work hard, Linda.” I said. “I give up my weekend for a dinner party and I expect a goddamn dessert.”
“She never could cook. I told Bill this from day one,” Linda said.
“You host dinner, you serve a REAL dessert. Not that turd of a cake she plated up.”
“You still shouldn’t have insulted her cooking.”
“What? C’mon. I’m the offended party here. I mean, my God, the ballsiness of that woman to test out her recipes on unsuspecting parties.”
“A real Thyestean Feast.”
“That’s a damned good one.” I reached down for her leg. The firm flesh dimpled as I squeezed it. “I knew it. I just knew they’d fall victim to fad diets. Atkins and kale chips and cabbage soup.”
“Don’t forget chia seeds.”
Linda kissed me.
“Honey?” I asked.
“Just a small one. If you don’t mind.”
She stood and reached for her robe. “Not at all.”
I watched as Linda exited the room. I stared at the fat moon through the bedroom window and it wasn’t long before the house smelled of vanilla bean and cream. I leaned back on the bed and held the curve of my stomach. It rumbled, my mouth salivated, and I grinned.