How the cookie crumbled

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How the cookie crumbled

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Oct 23, 2005 7:42 am

An elderly man lay upstairs in bed in his home of many years. He was alone on his deathbed, and he knew the end was not far away.

But – something else was hanging in the air too. Where he lay he could smell chocolate chip cookies baking. Oh, how fragrant the aroma was! How wonderful the scent! His mouth watered and his nostrils dilated. He took several long, slow breaths and sucked the air deep into his lungs.

This unaccustomed inhalation brought on a severe and racking coughing spasm which seemed to carry on forever. But as his fit eventually subsided, the old man knew one thing for sure. He absolutely had to have one last cookie before he expired! His eyes settled on the so-familiar grimy olive drab walls of his sparsely-furnished bedroom. This gloomy chamber was so stark, dark and forbidding that whenever he looked at it a feeling of vertigo passed over him, as though he was being pulled into the abyss of a deep ocean trench. He closed his eyes again. Eventually, and with much effort, he forced himself up onto one elbow. With a great heave he rolled over and tumbled from his bed. As he did so, he banged his shoulder hard on the iron bed frame, and he gasped hoarsely at the unexpected blow. He staggered heavily with stooped gait to the landing, and sank to his cracking knees at the head of the staircase, where he clutched at the rail as though his life depended on it.

He shut his eyes once more. How tired he felt! Even this short distance had exhausted him. Perhaps he should get back into bed after all.

Then once again the delicious aroma of freshly-baked cookies wafted up the stairs on a current of air and exploded in his nostrils, and he resolved to continue, regardless of the effort that might be involved, even if he died in the attempt.

Pausing for a minute or two to catch his breath and let the pain in his shoulder subside, the old man reopened his eyes and slowly began to half roll, half shuffle down the steep, winding stairs. With each of the eighteen steps, a sharp jab flared in the base of his spine as he gingerly jolted his way down the staircase.

Ten terrible minutes later, he set off on the laborious trek across the unswept bare wooden floor, crawling on his gnarled, arthritic hands and knees along the long corridor which led to the kitchen where Margot had been so busy at the stove. Thank goodness he had married such a good cook, he thought. That, together with her indefatigable stamina, was one of the benefits of getting wed to someone who though thirty years his junior, was definitely of the old school.

Meanwhile, the sharp grains of sand tracked into the house by his wife’s recent visitors scoured the old man’s shrivelled palms and knees, and several times he had to pause to regain his breath. But the closer he got to the kitchen doorway, the more the rich, warm aroma from the cookies filled his nostrils, drawing him onward.

With his last remaining strength, the ancient invalid crawled over the rough quarry tiles to the table that stood in the centre of the kitchen. Margot was nowhere in sight. At the foot of the table he rocked back on his emaciated haunches with a loud sigh. Large droplets of sweat beaded his brow, and his head was pounding. His ribs could scarcely contain the throbbing of his racing heart, and he felt as though he was on the point of fainting. Even forty seconds later he could barely raise his withered arm towards the sheet of greaseproof paper on which sixty-four freshly-baked cookies were fragrantly cooling off.

The old man licked his cracked lips.

Just as his trembling fingers began to curl around a soft, warm chocolate chip cookie to pull it off the sheet and bring it to his mouth, he heard a crisp rustle behind his ear. The next moment, Margot had brought down a large wooden spoon smartly across his swollen knuckles, completely squashing the soft thing in his fist with the sudden force of her blow.

The veteran yelped and plunged his sticky hand deep into his armpit to lessen the agony.

With tears spurting from his eyes and gasping for breath, he could only wheeze the question he asked his wife: "Why - did - you - do - that?"

"Those are for after your funeral, you fool!"
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