Good Old Fashioned Cookie Sabotage
by M D Flyn
Sam mixed her batter as she eyed her competitor’s back. Judith’s large hips stretched her floral dress. Her white bun belied the vigor she applied to stirring her batter at the formica counter across the church kitchen. The hum of the crowd at the church fair amplified the silence as they worked. No happy humming or companionable chatter here when there was serious business being conducted.
Judith was defending her five-year winning streak at the baking competition. Sam entered the competition, eager to make new friends. She had shocked the locals when her cookies made it to the finals in the blind tasting last week.
People milled in the old church hall, shopping, snacking, and peeking in the pass-through to check on the opponents as they worked. Dozens of cookies needed to be made fresh. Shoppers tried samples of both cookies, then later in the evening they bid for a batch to take home. The local transitional housing charity benefited from the battle.
Judith turned from her work space. Sam tucked the wisps of hair that had escaped her long braid, smoothed her apron, and hoped her youth wasn’t showing. Judith’s watery eyes pinned her opponent. “You know I’ve won this for the past five years. You shouldn’t feel too bad when you lose.”
Sam narrowed her eyes, “Who says I will lose?”
“Well, everyone knows my cookies are the best, I sell batches on the side every year. They’ve been buying them every Christmas. You’re new here. You don’t know how things are done. It’s understandable.”
Sam’s jaw clenched as returned to her counter, “I’ll just have to contain my disappointment.”
She continued to work on her snicker doodle recipe, which had won awards in her hometown. Judith was in for a rude awakening.
A thud and an “oops” from Judith were not happy sounds. The muscles in Sam’s back strung taut, she turned. Her open bag of sugar was on the floor, a pile of sparkling sugar spilling out on the linoleum tiles.
“Sorry. We’re in tight quarters here.”
Sam tried to keep the murder from showing through her eyes as she reached for the broom to clean up. “No worries, accidents happen.” She hoped this didn’t presage even nastier behavior to come.
Sam got her first batch rolled and covered in cinnamon and sugar, then popped them into her oven. She grabbed the opportunity for a coffee break. She took a quick turn around the hall, chitchatting with people and checking out the homemade gifts on sale. These church ladies were talented and there were several handcrafts she might pick up to give for the holidays.
She only had a couple minutes before she had to check her cookies in the ancient oven, so she hurried back. The first batch done, she pulled the pan out to cool. She rolled, coated, and ovened the second batch. As that batch cooled, she started on another. The plates of cookies for visitors to sample were due soon.
Judith was making progress with her hermit cookies, a local favorite. Several batches were cooling. Sam tried not to compare her snicker doodles against them. Her cookies were exceptional, with the soft spice of cinnamon and the sweet sugar, the cookie dissolving in your mouth when the texture came out right. These were a traditional New England cookie with no special ingredients, just good baking. She hoped the locals appreciated them.
As Sam finished rolling the third batch, she had an itchy feeling that something wasn’t right. Her second batch should be almost done. But the sweet aroma she expected wasn’t coming from the oven, and the cookies didn’t have that cracked coating of cinnamon sugar. She pulled them out and sniffed them.
Instead of the sweet cinnamon she expected Sam got the tang of salt. She licked a finger and dabbed it in her rolling mixture. Or… it was salt. She remembered scooping sugar straight from the bag when mixing it, this accident was no accident. Someone had sabotaged her cookies, and that someone was now pulling out another batch and getting a glaze ready to finish hers.
Sam did not know the proper etiquette when someone violated the sanctity of cookies. It should be taboo to cheat, in church, for a charity event. Fire and brimstone stuff.
Sam considered what to do. Screeching and clawing might be overreacting. She could call foul and tell one of the event coordinators. But the donation for the shelter was too important.
Sam settled on muttering garbled insults (your mama was a fraggedy aardvark) as she tossed the ruined mix and pulled a bowl down to start more batter. Her cookies didn’t need the extra step of frosting, so she might still get it all done in time.
She practiced inventing more colorful ways to curse without swearing, taking comfort in her creativity as she worked. She plated the last sample cookie just as a team of volunteers came in to fetch them. The volunteers left to circulate their treats. She went back to finishing the cookies for the auction.
While they were baking the crowd in the hall had grown. The silent auction drawing started, next was the cookie auction. People munched on appetizers and chatted about holiday plans. Families from all over came to the cookie auction every year.
Sam gathered her tattered temper and let the holiday spirit from the hall seep into her. She stopped her quiet cursing. Focusing on the families the shelter was helping, she hastened her work. Sam boxed up the last of the cookies as the drawing for the final auction prize ended.
The local police chief took the microphone and announced, “Now for the main event of our evening, the cookie auction. Every year this contest raises funds for our charity and helps us to shelter local families who find themselves without a home. We appreciate your continued support.”
The crowd clapped as Sam and Judith approached the front of the room with their cookie boxes. They placed them on the table and sat.
“We will begin with our reigning champion’s contribution. Judith’s hermit cookies are a favorite drop cookie with raisins and currants. Hopefully you got a taste before the samples ran out, I can tell you they are a tasty cookie.”
Judith gave the crowd her princess wave and smiled with too much tooth and not enough smile. The bidding began at $25 and surpassed the $300 record set the previous year. Judith’s smile was smug as her cookies sold for a final bid of $350.
“Now we have a new participant. Sam’s snicker doodles are a traditional sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar.”
Sam blushed as the crowd studied her. She clenched her hands together as the bidding began. Paddles went up in rapid succession to $400. A bidding war ensued between two well-off church members. Sam could feel the anger sizzling off of Judith and ducked her head. The contest ended when an older gentleman won her cookies with a bid of $500.
Sam bounced in her seat as the crowd clapped, happy to have raised so much money for the shelter. But she flinched as she glanced at the grim lines of Judith’s face. She now had her very own cookie nemesis.