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Musing: Just Deserts
To celebrate their fifty years of marriage, Earl surprised Wanda with a weekend trip to the big city. They visited the museums, enjoyed the sights, and ate dinner at a fancy restaurant. After he finished his meal, Earl leaned back in his chair. “Wonder what they have for dessert?”
Wanda chuckled. “I’m sure it’s delicious, but I’m too full to eat more right now.”
Earl’s right eyebrow rose. “Am I hearing you right? I can’t remember the last time we didn’t have dessert after supper. You are the queen of desserts.”
“Silly man, I didn’t say I didn’t want dessert tonight. I said I was too full right now.”
Earl leaned forward with his elbows planted on the table. “Then what’s the plan?”
“The hotel had some nice-looking desserts. Let’s head back there and I will pick something great for us.”
Earl paid their bill, and they exited the restaurant. Once outside, he raised his hand to hail a cab, but Wanda stopped him. “Let’s walk back instead. We need to work this enormous meal off.”
Earl pointed at the gathering clouds over the skyscrapers. “Do you think the rain will hold off?”
Wanda hooked her hand around his elbow and smiled. “Maybe, but who cares if we don’t? I’m enjoying our time and want to have a glorious adventure to tell everyone about when we go home.”
They strolled along the sidewalk like a pair of young lovebirds. Hand in hand, they looked in the shop windows at the fancy displays. With conspiratorial whispers, they talked about the people swarming about them on the sidewalk. Their conversations floated between everything and nothing, the way things do between two people who know each other so well.
Engrossed in their fun, they hadn’t noticed the changing weather. The clouds thickened, and the light faded. The storm threatened. They picked up the pace, but the first big drops splattered on the sidewalk while they were still a block away from safety. As the rain turned into a steady downpour, Earl removed his jacket and draped it over Wanda’s head.
They reached the entrance to the hotel and slipped through the doors, laughing as they entered the lobby. Earl’s clothes were soaked through and he dripped onto the marble floor. Wanda had fared better, but not by much.
To their surprise, dozens of people in elaborate costumes crowded the room. Witches and wizards, vampires and werewolves, princesses and princes. A knight stood near the corner in shiny armor. A robot stiffly walked by, its chest covered in blinking lights. Earl stopped a young man dressed as Robin Hood and asked, “What’s going on?”
Robin grinned and answered, “A costume contest. First prize is a thousand dollars. Isn’t it fun?”
“That sounds exciting. They do it here in the lobby?”
“Oh, no, in the restaurant, but it’s so packed in there you can barely get in. I don’t think they expected anywhere near this number of people to show up. I heard they even ran out of food.”
As Robin bounded away, Earl turned to Wanda. “Sounds like we may not be able to get any of their desserts. We could go find a coffee shop or something, but the rain is awful. I really need to change out of these wet clothes. What are we going to do?”
“No problem,” a voice boomed. A six-foot tall Viking strode toward them. A horned helmet added to his height. Muscled arms extended from his sleeveless leather vest. A long cape draped over his broad shoulders. “I work at the bakery right across the street. I’ll take you over there and you can have whatever you want. On the house. Guess you could say our treats are my treat.”
Earl appreciated the poor joke, but he wasn’t so sure about venturing out. Looking through the hotel glass doors, he could barely see the neon sign from the bakery through the driving rain. “I don’t know. I’m already pretty soaked.”
The Viking unfastened the cape from around his neck and swung it around with a flourish. “You can use this to keep dry, though I’m not sure it’s big enough for both of you.”
Wanda turned to Earl and patted his arm. “Tell you what, dear. I know you’re tired from the long day. You go up to the room and get out of your wet clothes. I’ll go with our Viking friend, get us something good to eat, and be right back.”
Earl sized up the young man and decided he looked trustworthy enough. “If you’re sure…”
“I’m sure. Think of it as the adventure I want to tell everyone about.”
Earl worked his way through the crowd of merrymakers to the elevators in the lobby’s rear. Wanda headed to the front door with her Viking escort. When they reached the front door, he held out the cape for her to hold over herself. She watched the pouring rain and turned to him. “But what about you? I’m so slow that you’ll be soaked before we even cross the road.”
He thought about it for a moment and then smiled. “Simple solution. I’m young and strong, so I’ll carry you on my back.”
Wanda giggled. “On your back? That’s crazy.”
“It’s all part of that adventure you told your husband about. We’ll get to the store, get your dessert, and be back in no time.”
Laughing at the craziness, Wanda climbed onto his back. She draped the cape over her head and hooked it onto the Viking horns before wrapping her arms around his neck. The young man darted out the front door, across the street, and into the store on the other side.
Once they were safely inside, she moved to get down, but he stopped her. “You’re as light as a feather. Let me show you around.” He carried her around the store, pointing out the various cakes, pies, cupcakes, and other delicacies. The choices overwhelmed her, but she finally made her selections. He boxed up her treats with supplies from behind the counter. When she reached for her money, he refused to let her pay. “It’s on the house,” he exclaimed.
She tucked her box under her arms and stretched the cape over her head again. They exited the bakery and quickly made their way back across the street and into the hotel lobby. Only then did he let her slide off his back. With her feet on the ground, she gathered his cape and handed it to him. “Thank you, young man. That was exhilarating. What is your name?”
He smiled and replied, “Just think of me as your personal Viking.”
Before she could protest, he disappeared into the throng of revelers.
Clutching the sweets, she made her way to the elevator. As she rode up to their floor, laughter bubbled up. The entire weekend had been special, but the last half hour was magical. The elevator reached their floor, and the doors popped up open with a ding. She strolled down the hall, chuckling the entire way to their room.
Earl had changed clothes and was sitting in a chair by the windows. He couldn’t help but grin as he saw how happy Wanda was. “Was the shop nice?”
She beamed. “It was amazing. Every kind of dessert imaginable. More than I even knew existed. I wish you could have seen them, but the cape wasn’t big enough to keep us both dry. Besides, he couldn’t have carried us both.”
“Yes, I rode on that Viking’s back as he described every dessert. He wouldn’t even give me his name, so I could thank him. Can you believe it?”
“Sounds like you had the perfect adventure. Tell me all about it.”
Wanda thought for a moment until the perfect description came to her. “I’ve been through the desserts on a Norse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain.”
My apologies to Dewey Bunnell and the folk band, America, but I saw this meme on Facebook and just had to turn this into a full story. And, yes, I have told stories with Earl and Wanda before, like Don’t Wear Sunglasses to an Eclipse.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Just Deserts
How many of you saw the title of today’s story and thought you had caught me in a spelling error? Sorry, but the spelling is absolutely correct. Hang on and let me explain.
Dessert (pronounced di-ˈzərt) is that tasty sweet course served at the end of the meal and comes from the Latin servìre meaning to serve.
Desert (ˈde-zərt) is arid, barren land and comes from the Latin desertum—a thing abandoned. The same word is used as an adjective to describe a desolate place even if it is not arid or barren (desert island).
Ah, but that’s where things get interesting. Well, this word nerd thinks it’s interesting, so bear with me.
Desert (di-ˈzərt or the same way we pronounce dessert) also means to quit or leave, such as a soldier who deserts. The etymology traces back to the Latin deserere meaning to abandon or leave. Notice that deserere and desertum are related Latin words as both refer to abandonment.
Which brings us to…
Desert (also di-ˈzərt) meaning a deserved reward or punishment and comes from the Latin deservire or to serve well. Notice how that also evolved to the word deserves and you can see the common pronunciation.
So, when you think of “just deserts” as something you deserve, the connection to desert (a deserved reward) makes sense.
The funny thing is that language constantly evolves and the spelling “just desserts” is becoming increasingly accepted. A dessert is often seen as a reward for eating a meal—ask any kid who suffers through his vegetables to get his ice cream—so the argument is that just desserts has roughly the same meaning. Of course, that vegetable-hating kid might want to skip those greens and eat “just desserts.”
Rabbits, rabbits everywhere. We saw very few rabbits in Murrells Inlet, so it’s fun to be back in Asheville and see so many of them. This one was doing his best to remain still and hidden among the leaves and sprinkles of snow on the ground.
Interesting Links: Etymology Online
In the explanation about desert and dessert above, I referred to the etymology or history of the words. Understanding that language evolution helps to explain modern word meanings so most dictionaries include some historical reference. My go to online source for deeper dives, though, is Etymology Online. If you are a word nerd like me, you can get lost on a website like that. Or, worse, have their app on your phone. Guilty.
Books Read: The Dark Hours
I read 100 novels a year and share the best with you.
Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch team up to solve two unrelated cases—a pair of serial rapists and a murderer with ties to the LAPD.
March Survey: Mayonnaise
Last month’s reader survey addressed the controversial topic of mayonnaise brands. I summarized the results in depth in my monthly newsletter, but Hellmann’s being the favorite didn’t surprise me since it has the largest market share, but Miracle Whip stunned me—especially since I don’t even think of it as actual mayonnaise. The overall results are:
The reader comments are always my favorite part:
As a young person, I ate Miracle Whip (yeccch!). After moving to NC, I became a fanatic about Duke’s.
When I was growing up in the Northeast, my mom always used Hellman’s. However, once I moved to North Carolina, I found Duke’s and never looked back.
I’m a recent convert to Duke’s as it was not available in grocery stores in Pennsylvania until the past year or so. I was raised on Hellman’s.
My kids were born in NC and peer pressure caused them to become Duke’s mayo fans, but now that they live elsewhere and buy their own mayo, I have returned to the gourmet taste and texture of Hellman’s.
Those who aren’t fans of Miracle Whip:
I hate Miracle Whip and if I find out that a dish at a picnic was made with that vile product, I won’t eat it!
Absolutely NO Miracle Whip!
My favorite depends on what I am using it for. Miracle Whip for sandwiches and tuna salad but Hellmann’s for other recipes.
For me it depends on what I’m using it for or what I’m cooking, i.e., Duke’s on sausage, egg and cheese breakfast croissants but Miracle Whip on Ham and cheese on rye for lunch. I have different recipes and/or ingredients for potato salad. One I use Hellman’s or Duke’s and one used Miracle Whip.
An ending thought that sums up this topic perfectly:
This question should be part of premarital counseling, as should the butter or margarine preference.
April Survey: Book Types
Instead of something controversial like mayonnaise, April’s survey is about books. When you’re searching for your next novel to read, do you prefer a hardback, paperback, ebook, or audiobook?
To participate, click here for the survey.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
Ah, the joy of canines! Roscoe was exploring a far corner of the yard when we started to go inside the house. We asked if he wanted to come with us and this was the response.
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